It’s a Saturday morning, and I stare at the ceiling for awhile before sitting up to stretch. Forcing myself up and scratching my head, I shuffle out of my room to the kitchen to start the water boiling. For a while, I fiddle with grinding some coffee beans. Once I’ve finally started pouring the water, I can appreciatively watch it slowly drip into the glass pot below. I add my sugar and cream and sigh as I lean over the freshly made cup of coffee, my glasses fogging up with steam. (My beau says I add coffee to my cream.)
I totter over to the bookshelves, glancing over novels, histories, and classics before my eyes fall on my favorite section – Food. There is nothing better than starting off the day brewing coffee, pulling a book from the shelf, and curling up to read in the morning. My preferred book choice will always be a cookbook or one of gastronomic literature. Talk to me about M.F.K. Fisher, and you will be my best friend. Talk to me about Michael Pollan, and I may fall in love. After finishing my coffee, I feel a rush of joy as I pin up my hair, roll up my sleeves, put that book onto a cookbook stand, and raid the fridge to see what I may try to make today.
To me, cooking is my joy and passion. It is what calms me when there is a storm brewing outdoors or in my head. I love getting my hands dirty kneading together mixtures of flours to get the best gluten-free bread, or measuring out meticulous proportions to get my own culinary chemistry project going. My sister never loved playing chef. But these days, since we are living together again, I have started to find her in the kitchen more and more; giggling over a pot of water while we dance to our favorite tune. (Don’t tell her I said that!)
Honestly, my love for cooking faded for a long time when I was diagnosed with celiac disease in high school. How could I cook anything I enjoyed without being able to eat gluten? No bread? Zero pizza?? Denied pasta??? No more cake???! Due to my lack of skills and cooking knowledge, I denied the existence of any of those delicious recipes within my dietary restrictions.
However, as I became more educated about allergies and medical restrictions, I realized I didn’t need to limit my passions and culinary imagination. After all, if it weren’t for imagination, where would well-established classic recipes come from? How would they have been created? It was through acceptance of my own psychical limitations that I fell in love with the new challenge. In the end, I found myself at my childhood stomping ground – the cookbook aisle of bookstores.
You may wonder what my draw is to cookbooks since it seems like a dying art? As less and less people cook from scratch, I find myself drawn to it more and more. Cookbooks, culinary journalism, and gastronomic literature are gateways into someone else’s world. It is an invitation to enter into their lives, sit at their table, and share their meal.
To me, the table is where community exists and is one of the most intimate aspects of someone’s life. We let down our guards as we break bread. We open up, share our thoughts and ourselves with the people sitting across from us and feel comfort in drink and food. Why else do families come together over dinner, a date is set over coffee or a meal, and you meet a long lost friend for brunch? It’s because food creates a sense of community and comfort that it is such a bonding experience.
Since Christmas, our cookbook collection has grown to include four books filled with recipes from different cultures, regions, and recipes: The Grammar of Spice by Caz Hildebrand; The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis; Hazana – Jewish Vegetarian Cooking by Paola Gavin; and Six Seasons – A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden. We can’t wait to read them ourselves and share what we think of them. But first, we would like to ask, what are on your shelves? Leave us a comment of what your favorite cookbook is and why!