Word of Mouth

Gastro gift guide: The literary edition

Ah, the season for giving. If only it were that simple. Finding the perfect gift is like meeting your next great love -- it should just happen. But when certain consumer-driven holidays (sorry, Jesus) force you to brave the crazies at the mall, it helps to have an idea of what you want for that special someone you're obligated to gift. For the next few weeks, we'll be posting gift ideas for the foodie in your life...or something you can buy yourself as a reward for not strangling the screaming infant ahead of you in the Target line.

This first one is dedicated to the food junkie that likes to read (or maybe just enjoys the way the books look on the kitchen shelf).

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman Brought to you by the dude that wrote The Soul of a Chef and The Making of a Chef, this book is like learning a really useful secret handshake. It teaches the reader how to cook and bake using ratios instead of recipes. While precise technique and solid recipes are of great importance, there is something to be said about being able to cook using ratios. I've got to admit that after digesting Ruhlman's advice, I successfully baked a stellar batch of cookies without cracking a cookbook.

Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table by Amanda Hesser This is a compilation of essays from the New York Times Magazine's food section, and Hesser did a beautiful job weaving together stories that go beyond simply describing a meal. The writings reflect upon how we relate food to memories, to people, to places, and to life experiences that are both lovely and heart-wrenching. This book is like a literary fireplace -- warm and inviting -- and the recipes that accompany the stories will leave your mouth watering.

Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller While I love to cook, I am helpless in the face of great culinary photography. I have owned The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon for years, but I have never cooked a recipe from either of them. But when I've had a busted day, or when I just feel like looking at food, paging through these books is the most soothing way I know to get inspired. Keller's latest, Ad hoc at Home, boasts the same beautiful photography as his other books, but this one has recipes that are accessible and easy, not to mention delicious. Crammed cover to cover with insanely appetizing comfort food, giving this book to the cook in your life could end up being the gift that gives back over and over again.

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Kate Kennedy
Contact: Kate Kennedy