Five Favorites: Cookbook Love

Are you a list maker?

I LOVE making lists. I have loved them all my life. When I was a little girl my mom would leave me notes with a list of things I needed to do after school and I remember, even at a young age, loving checking things off as I did them.

That has continued to this day. Lists of projects around the house, recipes I want to try, things I need to do, trips I dream of taking… You get the idea.

So I thought it would be fun to start sharing some lists here.

Today I’m sharing my cookbook obsession love. It will be very hard to narrow it down to 5.

When we were packing to move to Italy, I had a giant stack of books I wanted to bring with me. Many of them were cookbooks. (I tend to inhale them like novels.)

As our move grew closer, my book pile grew taller. To the point of the moving company man saying to my husband- “Are you really shipping all those books? You should just buy her a kindle”

No thank you. I still really love the smell and feel of a real book in my hands.

I finally narrowed them down and sent my favorites to meet me in our new home.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” 
― Charles William Eliot


Books are a comfort. I knew that having my favorites around me during a time of great change, culture shock, and even excitement- would put a smile on my face, no matter how far away from home we were.

Here are my 5 favorites that floated the Atlantic Ocean to meet us on the other side.

A Homemade Life  by Molly Wizenberg 

In the summer of  2009, I bought this book and read it for the first time while camping with friends in the Sawtooth mountains of Idaho.

I was instantly drawn in by this collection of essays and recipes. It is a memoir of love and family and food and the link that bonds them.

I remember interrupting my poor friend Debra and reading bits and pieces out loud to her. Over and over.

I couldn’t stop crying and I couldn’t put it down. Raw, honest and delicious. A book like none I had ever read.

It was so beautiful.

The kind of beautiful that makes your heart ache and at the same time you don’t want it to end.

Molly writes with poetry and emotion about her family, the illness and death of her father- her grief and the healing power of friends, family, memories and food.

Molly grew up in the kitchen, cooking with her father- and after his death continued to cook and travel and write. I love that she shares in the book how she met her foodie husband through her beautifully written blog “Orangette” .

I have read this book 3 times and refer to it’s recipes often. If I could have only brought 1 book with me, it would be this one. No lie.

Molly’s new book, Delancey  just came out and I am dying to read it. It’s difficult to find books in English here, and ordering online and having it shipped is just crazy talk here in Italy. I will patiently wait until I am in an English bookstore this summer to get my hands on it.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

This is a gorgeous cookbook. A work of art.

I have loved every single thing we’ve made from this book and Deb’s blog.  When we were struggling last summer after arriving in Italy, amidst the sticky heat & homesickness I turned to this book and blog for ideas and a wee bit of comfort.

Her chapter titled “How to throw a dinner party (that you’ll actually get to enjoy)” is genius.

Honestly my heart goes pitter-pat when a new post from Smitten Kitchen shows up in my inbox!

That’s normal, right?

Barefoot Contessa: back to basics by Ina Garten

I had a day dream about Ina a few months ago. (Do you think she would mind if I called her Ina?) We took a trip to Paris over Christmas break and I had read that she was there as well celebrating the New Year with friends.

I have no idea where her Paris apartment is, but as I  was strolling a cute little neighborhood by myself on new year’s eve afternoon, I passed a beautiful cheese shop and flower market.

And I couldn’t help myself- I imagined running into her as she bought last minute things for her fabulous midnight dinner party. She would tell me what her favorite french cheeses were and invite me to come take a little tour of her apartment and have a glass of wine.

Alas, it was not meant to be. But I have her close to me in Italy- in the form of this- my favorite cookbook of hers. I have many of her books- but this is the one I return to again and again.

Dinner: A Love Story  by Jenny Rosenstrach

I fall in love easily apparently. At least with books. I bought this one on a whim a few years ago, right before a road trip to the Oregon Coast with my family. I read it like a novel in the car- windows down, hair flying, iPod blasting.

I loved it so much that I made several recipes from it ON VACATION- which is unheard of for me. I usually stick to the basics- easy family favorites.

But we found some new family favorites in this book that week, and I started my Dinner Journal after reading Jenny’s book too. As a busy working mom, it made me recommit to planning meals out a bit better and making family dinner a priority.

It’s good stuff, people.

And so the good news is this.  After you inhale the book, you can head to Jenny’s blog for more recipes, stories and inspiration.

I can’t wait for her new book,  Dinner: The Playbook (A 30-Day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal) to come out in August!

Drat that it comes out after I leave Idaho to come back to Italy. I must figure out a way to order books here and actually receive them…

Bread & Wine  by Shauna Niequist

This is my newest of the 5 favorites. I got it before we moved to Italy, and loved it enough to bring it with us. I actually brought all of Shauna’s books with me! I love the way she writes, and you immediately feel like you could curl up on her couch and chat for hours.

This is where the Favorite Chicken Mango Curry comes from! And many other goodies. It is a book to be savored- I did not want it to end and have read it several times. It’s also a great book to give as a gift to someone you love.

Ok. Now you!

What is your favorite go-to cookbook- the one that you pull out again and again?

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