The Very-Specific-Cookbook Gift Guide 2014

I am that person. The one you know or might know that has rows of cookbooks stacked, lined, strewn, marked, dog-eared, stained, eaten up. The pages are read, words have strike-throughs, headnotes are partially underlined, sidebars are starred and my colorful Le Pen marked scribble pervades.

Therefore, I trust myself and hope you do too with what are the cookbooks to be had from the last few decades and for what specific purposes. But alas, that long list will take time. It will be a carefully curated list from my personal collection of tested cookbooks.


In the meantime, I want to tell you about what is HOT right now and what is most certainly on MY holiday wish list for cookbooks. The below books are mostly not yet owned by me but I have scoured the reviews and best-selling lists. Most are for experienced cooks, but I’ve put in a few that would work for a beginner cook too.

P.S. The categories below do not apply to me. I do want them ALL. Really.

Another P.S. I am now an Amazon Affiliate. This means that if you click on a link from my blog and end up buying my recommendation, I get a measly few cents for it (really). Why am I OK with doing this now, after all this time on the blog? Because my blog is now costing me a bit to maintain! And I want the content I give you to remain the same or better and make it easy for my readers to navigate. I will never stray from providing truthful information to my best knowledge or expertise and will never endorse a product I don’t already believe in or own. 

1.  For the person who is an experienced cook, who might enjoy actually reading cookbooks, and who might be a person that reads food books such as food memoirs: 

Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton.

This book is getting a lot of acclaim in the food writing and cookbook world. (Naturally, since not only did Hamilton put out a remarkably written, page-turning memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter, she also owns the NYC restaurant Prune). The untraditional cookbook presumably has a significant amount of technique and incredibly unique recipes and is also a very good read. It’s number one on my list for a reason! Check out this detailed review with some of the recipes linked as well!

2. For the parent who wants to feed the family real food including school lunches, snacks and dinners. For the food blog reader who enjoys reading family/mom food blogs about how to make their food life UNPROCESSED:

100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake.

This book is a best-selling cookbook already, just recently released, though with mixed reviews. The blog behind the book, titled the same, is a well-designed site of information including recipes of course and useful flowcharts and worksheets for busy families trying to feed their family real food. The family’s story is inspiring! I’m sure the book just goes one step further with even more recipes and useful information. I’d love to have it simply to re-enforce and remind me of healthy natural eating.

3. For the cook who dabbles in ethnic cooking: 

Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour.

My Paris Kitchen by David Liebovitz.

Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop. I own this one already and have cooked a few times out of it. The ma po dou fu itself was a hit amongst my Meal Share group. The book is a James Beard award winner from this last year.

4. For the vegetarian cook, the one who already owns the staple tomes such as Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and Deborah Madison books such as Vegetable Literacy:

The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page. This book is similar to its cousin, The Flavor Bible, which I own and cherish. Have an abundance of grapefruit lying around? Look it up in the uniquely indexed book and find an appropriate flavor partner. This is a create your own recipe type book, with an introduction on the science of flavor and aroma as well as chef interviews. I would recommend this book for a vegetarian cook looking for something a little different.


5. For the vegetarian cook or vegetable-lover who seeks out a more traditional recipe-laden book with gorgeous photography. OR for the cook who already perhaps owns some of the other Ottolenghi titles like Jerusalem and Plenty.

Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi.


This one is indeed different than his other books with very creative approaches to vegetables, each section laid out my METHOD of cooking, not by meal. Therefore, worthwhile having in a collection. It’s already in mine and I’ve cooked deliciousness out of it and so have the members of my Mealshare Group.

6. For the cocktail enthusiast, the one who wants to learn more about how to put together high quality ingredients for use in beverages. You could pair this book with some fancy barware or a delivery of handmade tonic for an ideal gift combination. 

Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold.


We have a couple of good cocktail and beverage books, like one my local Austinite The Tipsy Texan, which we LOVE. This book by Dave Arnold looks like a detailed analysis of everything from the shape of the ice to the extractions of flavor for syrups and shrubs in order to “craft” that perfect cocktail. We want this one.

7. For the seafood lover or anyone in love with the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest:

A Boat, A Whale, and a Walrus, by Renee Erickson with Jess Thomson.


Just the sound of these recipes make you want to buy the book. We can’t get the greatest seafood here in Austin, so I happily make seafood dishes at home. There are several non-seafood dishes of course too, with a focus on seasonal cooking and the bounty of the Pacific Northwest, a place I once called home. There is no reason I am not buying this book!

8. For the cheese lover, or the novice to cheese-making:

One-Hour Cheese, by Claudia Lucero.


This little compendium of cheese recipes is full of recipes to make fresh cheeses such as ricotta, halloumi, paneer, burratta, and more. Each cheese has photographs of every step so you know exactly what to look for! I make my own paneer already so I looked at the paneer recipe to make sure it was correct. It’s a better recipe than my own because the photographs are spot on!

9. A holiday list would be remiss without a baking book. Here are a few that are recently garnering much attention:

Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson, popular food blogger and cookbook author.

Joy the Baker

Baking Chez Moi by the lovely and talented Dorie Greenspan, author of several best-selling cookbooks.

The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Her Pie and Pastry Bible was one of the first 5 cookbooks I ever purchased back in 1998.

10. For the experienced cook who wants show-stopping results and has (or is willing to acquire) the perfect pantry of everything you can ever think of. For the person who wants to learn restaurant-quality techniques but as a home cook. This is a book very high on my wish list.

Bar Tartine by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns.


Enjoy your holiday shopping! Keep these titles in mind anytime, as cookbooks last a lifetime. My love of cookbooks won’t end and my collection will always stay with me. When my children inherit these books, they will know what our generation was cooking, who we were, what was en vogue, and what remained to stay.


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