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Sounds like the perfect gift for that liftee or line cook if this is her or his first winter away from home.
You might also find Max in the easy chair with Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (great for making the transition from meat-eater to meatless feeder without falling into unimaginative ruts); Zanini De Vita's Encyclopedia of Pasta (really drills down into the esoterica of the universal comfort food); or Tina Anderson and Sarah Pinneo's The Ski House Cookbook, for every skier, and weekend warrior. The recipes are graded as green circles (easiest), blue squares and black diamonds. If you want to ski more and cook less — hint: dust off the crock pot — this one's for you.
As for that other illustrious Pique-er, our fearless publisher Bob Barnett, his I've-always-wanted-to-read-it-and-just-might-have-time-over-the-holidays pick is Empires of Food; Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations by Evan Fraser and Andrew Rimas.
A little light reading, as he says, with more than a few lessons for us today. To whit, why is the once-thriving Fertile Crescent no longer fertile, and how might that compare to today's overworked breadbaskets and rice bowls in the United States and China.
Bob's other suggestion — one he has read — is The Coffee Trader, by David Liss. "It's a good piece of historical fiction with more double-crosses than you can keep track of," he says.
Ophra Buckman, Whistler's mushroom lady, recommends The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman, a great-non fiction read about the hardest chef competition out there, while Sarah Macmillan at Rootdown Organics in Pemberton has fallen for her new hero, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, in a big way.
"I hope to be able to slip into the couch (I have a new cozy one that likes to envelope you like a big warm hug), next to the fireplace and get properly stuck into Hugh's River Cottage Meat Book," Sarah says, adding apologies to our vegetarian readers.
"This wonderful book is actually a cookbook, but one with a difference. Besides being about, yes, well, meat, it's somewhat of an intellectual schooling and philosophical look at the act of buying, killing, cooking and eating meat." In fact, nearly half of the book is dedicated to understanding meat.
At the farm, they've been stealing recipes from it all season, it resonates with them so much. And here's a chapter that can resonate with all of us: The Consumer Holds the Key. Love it.
Given it's the holiday season, we can barely think of food without wine. So we took it to the top on this one and asked Anthony Gismondi for his best pick: Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier's Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food by Evan and Joyce Goldstein. It will make your best wine choice with anything you eat a no-brainer, explaining why everything works on your palate like it does.