In my family, we give a lot of books at Christmas (and birthdays) and my Mom, aunt and cousins often get the latest cookbook I’ve touted in this column. It’s our own little Jolabokaflod, the “Christmas (or Yule) Book Flood” practiced in Iceland. It seems back in World War II paper was inexpensive (but not imported goods) so the book publishers “flooded” the country with new books at the end of the year. Icelanders give books on Christmas Eve and then read them all evening. That’s what we call the “free reading” period in our family. It’s a time to sneak away while on vacation or taking a break from chores to relax with a good book. Here are my picks for books for the cooks, beer drinkers and mixologists on your holiday gift list. I encourage you to buy them in your local book shop. They can order it if they don’t have it in stock.
“Soup Swap” by Kathy Gunst (Chronicle Books,$24.95)
I’ll start with some local authors and books I’ve devoted entire columns to. Not only do you get delicious recipes for soups and accompaniments of all kinds, for all seasons, but Kathy also tells us how to throw a Soup Swap of our own. Each guest makes a pot of soup, tells the group about the background, and we all try each others’ soups, bringing some leftovers of each home for the week. Give one to each member of the family and start a wonderful annual holiday tradition.
“Black Trumpet” by Evan Mallett (Chelsea Green, $40)
Two hundred and fifty recipes covering eight seasons with beautiful photography by local Enna Grazier. Anyone who loves Portsmouth and the region’s food will love this book. “At the renowned Black Trumpet restaurant, located in the historic seacoast city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Chef Evan Mallett and his staff reflect the constantly changing seasons of New England, celebrating the unique flavors and traditions of fished, farmed, and foraged foods in their ever-changing menus that rotate roughly every six weeks throughout the course of the year.”
“Against All Hops” by Butch Heilshorn (Page Street Publishing, $18.99)
This book by the Earth Eagle Brewings’ co-owner and brewer is great for brewers, but it also has plenty of herb and flower lore and history. Learn how to brew without hops, using plants, seeds and herbs foraged or cultivated. Great photos from local Jay Fortin, too. Go into A&G Homebrew in Portsmouth and do all your holiday shopping there.
“Project Extreme Brewing: An Enthusiast’s Guide to Extreme Brewing at Home”
by Sam Calagione, ? Todd Alstrom and Jason Alstrom (Quarry Books, $24.99)
The founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Sam Calagione teamed up with brothers Jason and Todd Alström of BeerAdvocate for this authoritative primer on extreme brewing. Find recipes from breweries around the country like Allagash, Lost Abbey, Shmaltz, and Beau’s All Natural Sam came to brew at the Portsmouth Brewery many years ago so I’m stretching the local aspect.
“America The Great Cookbook” edited by Joe Yonan (Weldon Owen, $40)
Both Kathy Gunst and Evan Mallett have recipes and photos in this delightful book edited by Joe Yonan, the food editor from the Washington Post who spent time homesteading in South Berwick, Maine. The recipes are easy and from the heart of each of the 100 chefs, cooks, and food luminaries from all over the country. Purchases benefit No Kid Hungry.
Oh, and you can still buy “Maine Classics: 150 Delicious Recipes” from Downeast by MC Perkins Cove and Arrows’ Restaurant chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier and me, Rachel Forrest. Sure, it’s six years old, but these are classics!
Now, on to the more national picks for the foodies on your holiday gift lists.
“The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South” by Michael W. Twitty ( Amistad, $28.99 ). I got to sit next to this author on a plane to Austin where he was giving a lecture and, of course, I got nosy and asked him all about what he was reading. He’s a renowned historian on African-American food history and this book is a memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry through food.
“America: The Cookbook” edited by Gabrielle Langholtz (Phaidon Press, $49.95 ) has 800 home-cooking recipes presented state by state. It also features 50 essays and menus from 100 food experts and chefs in each state (food writers Susan Laughlin and Alison Ladman in New Hampshire and in Maine, Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley from Eventide).
“Sweet” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (Ten Speed Press, $35). London chef Yotam Ottolenghi brings us this follow-up to Jerusalem with the flavors of Israel in desserts. Find fig, rose petal, saffron, orange blossom, cardamom and almond in delicious desserts like Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream.
“The Moosewood Restaurant Table: 250 Brand-New Recipes from the Natural Foods Restaurant That Revolutionized Eating in America” by the Moosewood Collective (St. Martin’s Press, $35). Famed Moosewood restaurant is now in its fifth decade, doing “farm-to-table” long before the term was used so ubiquitously. Now, they include vegetables not commonly in use way back in the day like Romanesco broccoli and watermelon radishes. Plenty of new grains here, too, like freekeh and millet. Find butternut latkes, Cuban picadillo with tofu and Jamaican Jerk tempeh patties.
“Pok Pok the Drinking Food of Thailand” by Andy Ricker with JJ Goode (Ten Speed Press, $35). Andy Ricker spent decades in Thailand and in this follow-up to Pok Pok, he brings us the food Thais eat when they drink (not food that is meant to be sipped). You know, bar snacks! Spicy, sweet, salty snacks like Thai-style fried chicken and thua thawt samun phrai, an addictive combination of fried peanuts with makrut lime leaf, garlic, and chiles.
“The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press, $34.95). Sean Sherman is an Oglala Lakota chef and founder of The Sioux Chef, a catering and educational business. Here, he gives us healthful plates featuring venison, duck, blueberries, sage, amaranth, and abundant wildflowers. It’s a great introduction to the modern indigenous cuisine of the Dakota and Minnesota territories.
“wd~50: The Cookbook” by Wylie Dufresne and Peter Meehan (Ecco, $75). This is the first book from the NYC modernist chef who opened wd~50 in 2003 (and closed it in 2014) with cutting-edge food and a whimsical attitude. Find gorgeous photography, recipes explaining how it’s all done and memories from the restaurant’s last days.
“How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon-Vivant’s Companion: Containing Clear and Reliable Directions for Mixing All the Beverages Used in the United States” by Dr. Jerry Thomas (Forgotten Books, $30). Newly re-released, this book is “a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy.” Jerry Thomas was an American bartender considered to be the father of American mixology because of his pioneering work in popularizing cocktails in the United States. His showmanship established the image of the bartender as a creative professional. He learned his trade in the East, but worked as a bartender in California during the gold rush, St. Louis, Chicago, Charleston, New Orleans, and New York. It’s a great gift for the bartender in your life.
— Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner who lives in Exeter (and Austin, TX). Her column appears Thursdays in Go&Do. Her restaurant review column, Dining Out, appears Thursdays in EDGE magazine. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.