Kitchener-Waterloo·Food column

How to find the perfect cookbook for the foodie on your gift list: Andrew Coppolino

If you need something for the foodie on your gift list this holiday season, food columnist Andrew Coppolino suggests a trip to the bookstore for the perfect cookbook.

From recipes by celebrity chefs, to farm-to-table offerings, there are options for every palate

David Worsley, co-owner of Waterloo’s Words Worth Books, has a few suggestions for the perfect cookbook for the chef in your life. (Andrew Coppolino)

If you need something for the foodie on your gift list this holiday season, perhaps it's time for a trip to the bookstore.

This year saw the publication of a wide range of food books in Canada, from culinary narratives and general cookbooks to missives about the politics of food and its history. The diversity of options speaks to the popularity of cooking, food and the hospitality sector.

"We are no longer a monoculture, and that's a great thing for food, of course," says David Worsley, co-owner of Waterloo's Words Worth Books. "Everybody gets to jump in the pool with different spices and different ways of doing things. There are all manner of different cultures and subcultures."

From iconic celebrity chefs to learning how to prepare a meal with local farm-to-table ingredients, here is short list of food-related books to satisfy your last-minute shopping needs.

Shelf Love: Recipes to Unlock the Secrets of Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer by the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen
Israeli-British chef and restaurateur Yottam Ottolenghi helped bring vegetables to the centre of the plate, along with Middle Eastern spices and techniques, over the course of several of his well-regarded books.

"The ingredients are easy to find and he's a guy with a track record [for recipes that work]," according to Worsley. "This is an old friend you can invite over to dinner."

The late Anthony Bourdain brought people into undiscovered culinary territory. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain, with Laurie Woolever
World Travel was the book Anthony Bourdain was working on before he, very sadly, died by suicide in June 2018. There isn't a cook I know who didn't relate to him in some way.

For his part, Worsley says, "I read the book in one sitting. It's nothing less than a love letter to all the cities of the world where food and culinary tradition matters. It makes his passing that much more poignant."

Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal by Mark Bittman
An expansive look at how food shapes us and, conversely, how we shape food.

"Bittman's cookbooks are standards in bookstores [and] he's gotten political with his new one. Supply chains are now the order of the day in everything. We now know way too much about how things get to us and what can happen to us when things go sideways," says Worsley.

Farm-to-table eating

Hearth & Home: Cook, Share and Celebrate Family-Style by Lynn Crawford and Lora Kirk
The book holds 140 recipes for casual everyday cooking and celebrating at home – certainly a very 2020-2021 phenomenon.

"These are easy farm-to-table recipes, including the sauces and stews and all the good stuff on a winter evening. Lynn Crawford, for my money, is about good as it gets for Ontario cooking," Worsley said.

To round out Worsley's to a lucky seven, I put forward the following.

The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh
A look at our current climate crisis through the spice, nutmeg. Ghosh traces our current condition back to geopolitics, economics and Western colonialism of hundreds of years ago, via the spice quest for the economically lucrative nutmeg.

The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants as We Know Them and What Comes After by Corey Mintz
Food journalist Mintz tackles many of the same behind-the-scenes that Bourdain has, but from the perspective of restaurant-worker labour issues, meal-delivery apps that harm restaurant business and what dining out has meant for healthy diets.

The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora by Lena Tashjian
Toronto-raised Tashjian offers a collection of plant-based recipes and narratives capturing some of the essence of the Armenian kitchen and the diaspora.