Good food and books go together like peanut butter and jelly. Summer and surfing. Braying politicians and migraines. Belay that last. Cuz today we’re going a step further.
For today’s Fine Wine Fridays we’re sharing some favorites that combine the best in creative, delicious recipes and creative, delicious writing.
In order to make our menu, selected books must be more than just collections of recipes. They focus on food but must also include:
- Incandescent writing
- Fascinating tidbits and insights into the community, family, history, culture, and/or country they represent
- Recipes and experiences unique to the culinary setting
A Cut Above
Got your knife and fork? Good! Then pull up a chair and get ready to dive in to five sumptuous books that are a cut above your average cookbook:
Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy*, by Frances Mayes
Chockful of picturesque settings and luscious scenes, this delicious memoir introduces us to Italy via the author’s restoration of an Italian villa, Bramsole. Part autobiography, part history, part travelogue and part cookbook, Mayes treats readers to the sights, sounds, textures, and tastes of the Tuscan countryside and culture on every page, revealing their glory one paragraph at a time. Delicioso!
*Mom doesn’t have a photo of this book from her collection. Because Someone who shall remain nameless ate it when she was a puppy. Sheesh.
2. Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader, by Jan Karon
The Mitford Years is a series of fourteen novels by Jan Karon, set in the fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina. The novels are Christian-themed, and center on the life of the rector. It also includes Father Tim’s good dog, Barnabas, Cynthia, Dooley, the Lord’s Chapel faithful, and Esther Bolick’s famous orange marmalade cake!
3. The White House Cookbook – Centennial edition (1996), by Hugo Ziemann (White House Steward under Grover Cleveland) and F.L. Gillette
Part cookbook, part history. Featuring original 1890s recipes with low-fat, no-fat, quick, and great-tasting addition for the modern version. Everything from Classic Creamy Chicken Soup and Presidential Pork Loin Picante to Grilled Halibut with Citrus Sauce and Honey-Baked Squash to Chocolate Cherub Cake and Kentucky Bourbon Sauce (served warm over vanilla frozen yogurt).
Also includes original illustrations and household hints and sections on Small Points of Table Etiquette, State Dinners at the White House, Dinner Giving, Management and Direction of Dinners and Receptions, and On State Occasions at the White House.
4. Savoring Tuscany: Recipes and Reflections on Tuscan Cooking, by Lori de Mori
Savoring Tuscany leads readers on a seductive journey to family Tuscan settings including rustic tables in a Chianti farmhouse. Creamy gelato in a Florence piazza. Cannelli bean soup served in a Siena osteria. This elegant and informative work includes 135 recipes. It also reflects the Tuscan reverence for tradition in the kitchen and in everyday life.
Besides mouth-watering, authentic Tuscan recipes, the author skillfully weaves a rich tapestry of the history, culture, and landscape of this famous and beloved region!
5. Four Midwestern Sisters’ Christmas Book, by Holly Burkhalter with Kathy Lockard, Karol Crosbie, and Ruth Bosley.
This is one of those “evergreen ”holiday books, brimming with warmhearted collections of family stories, traditions, recipes, and holiday projects.
With humor and nostalgia, the book recounts cooking adventures, sledding expeditions, and the quest for the perfect present. Beloved family recipes for fruitcake, caramels, and Mom’s peanut brittle are sprinkled throughout the text, along with simple instructions for decorations, gifts, and crafts. I’ve had this book since 1996. I reach for it every year around November. Or sooner.
What would you add?