by MHK Library staff


By Jared Richards, Technology Supervisor

I have previously written about the oft-maligned, but perfectly acceptable, practice of judging a book by its cover. Now I am back to judge books by the pictures contained within them. In this case, I am not referring to picture books for children, but as an aside, those books aren’t just for children. Along with the fantastic artwork, they’re often humorous, quick reads, which distill important life lessons in easily comprehensible ways, and we should all be reading them. But this article isn’t about those books.

This article is about cookbooks. Our cookbook collection is tremendous, both in terms of scale and quality. We have books that feature cuisines from around the world, and our books can accommodate all skill levels, from those who think they may have a kitchen but aren’t quite sure, to experienced home bakers who dream of baking in a British tent.

Cook Fast, Eat Well” by Sue Quinn advertises 160 recipes that only require five ingredients and ten minutes to cook. Each recipe is on a two-page spread, and a single image spans both pages. On the left page you will find the ingredients neatly arranged and clearly labeled on a kitchen table, along with needed equipment, like a blender or pan. On the right page you will find the continuation of that table, featuring the finished dish, along with the recipe itself. I like the choice of displaying the actual ingredients, rather than just listing them, because it encourages you to get everything out and ready before you start, so you’re not scrambling around later.

Comfort food varies for everyone, but “How to Feed Yourself” has made me rethink my life. The photograph accompanying their recipe for honey-sriracha Brussels sprouts makes my mouth water, and I now know of the existence of the tater tot waffle grilled cheese. This beautiful monstrosity is a grilled cheese sandwich that has replaced the bread with tater tots cooked in a waffle iron.

I’m a fan of sauces, or at least the idea of them, because they seem like an easy way to change up the flavor of any meal. Elisabeth Bailey offers up over sixty sauces in her book “The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution.” The idea is that these sauces can be made ahead of time and frozen until needed. Each recipe tells you how much sauce you will need for a given base (chicken, rice, pasta, sandwich, etc.) as well as meal suggestions for each base. Each sauce is displayed on a wooden spoon and often shown in use on a nicely-photographed plate of food.

East Meets Vegan” by Sasha Gill provides an array of plant-based recipes inspired by Asian cuisine from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, India, and Thailand. This book makes classic dishes, which are often prepared using meat or other animal products, accessible to those whose diets skew towards vegan. The photographs also show that the food is wonderfully colorful, which is up there with taste in terms of importance.

For those wanting to take a deeper dive, we have “The New Essentials Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen and “Vegetables Illustrated” by Cook’s Illustrated. “Vegetables Illustrated” features over 700 recipes, which are divided by the featured vegetable, from artichokes to zucchini, so it is easy to find a recipe for whatever vegetables you have on hand. And if you want to learn all the things but only want to carry one book home, go with “The New Essentials Cookbook.” It starts out with a tour of what you’ll need in your kitchen, from basic tools to fancy electronic gadgets, and gives you a list of the staples that should be in your pantry. From there, food prep is covered, along with the simplest way to cook all sorts of food. The vast majority of the book contains more advanced recipes, which are accompanied by plenty of instructions and pictures to walk you through the process.

I have recently found myself browsing our cookbooks because I have been sucked into a world of cooking through online videos and documentaries. I must admit that I tend to have an eat-to-live rather than a live-to-eat outlook towards food, but I do enjoy watching talented people who are passionate about what they do. Their creativity and passion are inspiring, beyond the scope of cooking, but if I can channel a little bit of that inspiration into my kitchen, I wouldn’t be opposed. And even if I can’t, the food photography in our cookbooks is top-notch and worth a look.