Thanks to Pinterest, Instagram, and their food-blog forebears, we don’t need cookbooks. And yet we want them more than ever. That’s because the books themselves have never been prettier, more eye-catching, more statement-making — and because they’re tangible archives of creativity and diverse points of view, from traditional cookbooks to chef memoirs to collaborative projects from food-world change-makers. If you know someone who cares about food, whether they cook every day or once a year, there are so many good food books to gift.
Joy of Cooking has been in print since the Great Depression, but thanks to the release of updated versions nearly every decade since, it’s definitely no longer your grandmother’s cookbook. The latest 1,200-page edition — its ninth — updates more than 4,000 recipes while adding 600 new ones (including for beef rendang and an olive oil granola). Consider it a must-have for every budding home cook. Price: $28
Publishing house Phaidon is best known for its glossy art and photography books, a one-stop shop for coffee-table tomes that appeal to a certain level of taste. Its books focused on food and cooking are no different. The Asian Cookbook collection includes three of Phaidon’s single-subject books dedicated to China, India, and Japan. Together, the three include more than 2,000 recipes focusing on each culture and cuisine.
If there’s one food book worth recommending this year, it’s D.C. chef Kwame Onwuachi’s sharp memoir. Onwuachi and co-writer Joshua David Stein present the highs and lows of the chef’s life story — including his stint on Top Chef, the deep anticipation and ultimate downfall of his ambitious fine dining restaurant, and so much more — and they do so in a way that keeps readers hooked until the very last page.
San Francisco’s kitchen incubator La Cocina has an admirable mission: to help low-income entrepreneurs, mostly women from immigrant communities, grow their businesses. Its first cookbook, We Are La Cocina, represents the breadth of experiences and cuisines of more than 40 alumni, placing recipes for onigiri next to Cambodian chicken salad next to tamal frijol.
Everything in Angie Mar’s orbit — her recipes; her style; her restaurant, the Beatrice Inn — screams luxury. So, too, her first book, with its sumptuous photos (shot fashionably on Polaroid film) and meat-heavy recipes that reflect Mar’s unabashedly rich, glamorous approach to dining. It’s perfect for the home chef who wants to have the most stylish new cookbook on their coffee table (and cares less about recreating its contents on a regular basis).
This book from acclaimed Sydney chef Josh Niland is as much an education in nose-to-tail “fish butchery” as it is a collection of recipes. The book’s step-by-step visual guides to breaking down a fish are so incredibly detailed — did you know a fish can be separated into 31 distinct parts for cooking? — it makes an excellent gift for fishing enthusiasts and aspiring chefs alike.
Sometimes a reference book can double as a coffee-table book, and vice versa. Signature Dishes That Matter, a collaboration by several prominent figures in the food industry, consists of dozens of vignettes, each offering a chronicle of “the iconic restaurant dishes that defined the course of culinary history,” from the general (a margherita pizza) to the hyper-specific (Michel Bras’s chocolate fondant).
Books contain more than information; as objects, they carry history. Julia Child’s influential Mastering the Art of French Cooking is still available in print (the two-volume set by Knopf is also particularly giftable); but with nearly 50 years of history attached to the title, consider gifting someone a vintage printing tied to a significant era — eBay has plenty of options.
When Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson released their cookbook Tartine in 2006, their San Francisco bakery was already smash success. But in the 13 years since, expansions have seen the brand turn into a pastry-fueled lifestyle. Fittingly, an update to the original Tartine includes 68 new recipes and updates to 50 more. Fans of the bakery’s famous morning buns may find that with a recipe in hand, they’ll no longer need to line up.
It’s hard to believe that Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course is nearly 20 years old, because the onetime Gramercy Tavern pastry chef’s work feels completely timeless. The updated version of that book features 175 recipes with a seasonal dessert focus, like berry-filled tarts and Concord grape sorbets. If your recipient has a sweet tooth, this book is a must-have for their collection.
Independent zines never went away, especially in the food world. Peddler Journal, which publishes two issues a year, captures everything that’s satisfying about the form: Each themed issue (past themes were “Grandma,” “Chinatown,” and “Rice”) feels thoughtful and intimate, the photography is singular, and in a bonus (surprise!), all the recipes happen to be vegetarian.
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