Books That Cook is served like an array of cuisine in diverse flavors for one to dig in and enjoy. It was a delight to discover it was chock full of literary works; poems, snippets of fiction, memoirs (all related to food, of course) and must-have recipes. The engaging stories, steeped with old time dish, cooking wisdom and introduction of specialties, make for a cozy reading as well as useful for everyday food preparation.
It was quite a brilliant idea, I must say, since I have never read anything like it (perhaps because cookbooks are not part of my usual reading). It felt like being invited to a warm kitchen and subjected to pleasant monologues from someone’s grandmother while a pot of stew is bubbling on the stove and the smell of fragrant spices fill the air. There is a sense of intimacy in being shown to each character’s household kitchens which are naturally a haven of family history, drama and nostalgia.
I love that the book displays how food encompasses almost everything. In terms of culture, the subject of food is such a key ingredient to be introduced to varying lifestyles and cultures. It also meanders into individual and societal issues like love, longings, self journeys, disparity and inhospitable neighbors.
Books and meals are always a perfect combination. I could hardly choose which among the stories a favorite of mine is. But even as I finish it, I want it served again. It is definitely one book for keeps.
Whether a five-star chef or beginning home cook, any gourmand knows that recipes are far more than a set of instructions on how to make a dish. They are culture-keepers as well as culture-makers, both recording memories and fostering new ones.
Organized like a cookbook, Books that Cook is a collection of American literature written on the theme of food: from an invocation to a final toast, from starters to desserts. All food literatures are indebted to the form and purpose of cookbooks, and each section begins with an excerpt from an influential American cookbook, progressing chronologically from the late 1700s through the present day, including such favorites as American Cookery, the Joy of Cooking, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The literary works within each section are an extension of these cookbooks, while the cookbook excerpts in turn become pieces of literature—forms of storytelling and memory-making all their own.
Title: Books That Cook
Author: Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa A. Goldtwaite
Published: August 2014
Publisher: New York University Press
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ (4 cups - A varied work of poems and stories as enjoyable to savor as the food recipes it offers).