My favourite cookbooks
Gates Annai (they/them) // Features Editor
Lauren Howard (she/Her) // Illustrator
Back home I always cooked next to my mom. Even when I was too short to reach the counter, I was standing on a stool grating cheese or peeling potatoes into the sink while she stirred something warm and red on the stove. Before I moved out at 17, mom tried to teach me everything she knew about the kitchen. Even now when I cook, her voice in my mind reminds me, “Take your time. Don’t worry so much about the recipe. Trust your intuition.”
To me, a good meal is just as important as a good night’s rest. We just aren’t really living without it. In order to capture this, I have tried many different cookbooks, some recommended by my mother herself, and have several go-to favourites accessible to any aspiring cook.
For complete beginners, you can skip a few steps of the learning process and pick up Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. It’s a heavy book packed with professional knowledge about the chemistry behind why combining certain foods makes them taste good, accompanied by charming illustrations done by Wendy MacNaughton. It also comes with easy recipes to follow at the back for you to practice what you learned. Unsure about making the purchase? You can watch her Netflix series by the same name. I dare you not to get inspired to cook after that.
I’ve read many Jamie Oliver cookbooks (he’s my mom’s unofficial chef boyfriend), which are typically packed with healthy options for families of four or more. As someone cooking for just one, this produces far too much food for me, and a lot ends up going to waste. However, Jamie’s book Save with Jamie is a bit more suited for student cooks as it guides you through buying one set of ingredients to make many different dishes throughout the week. If you’re a meal planner, this book would definitely be best for you, and is structured around helping you save your money on groceries.
Yum and Yummer by Greta Podleski was the first cookbook my mom gifted to me after I moved out. Her recipes are healthy and easy (most fit onto just one page), but what I really love about this book is how simple it is to use. Everything is separated into clearly labelled sections including drinks and desserts (which are a must for me.) As well, if you ever get lost while cooking, every recipe has a QR code to scan for a how-to video to get you back on track.
I left my absolute favourite cookbook for last. You can always tell how loved a cookbook is by how many stains it has across the pages, and Nonna Said… by Nadia Carinelli and Sara Meghella is a painting of tomato juice and flour on my shelf. Nonna Said… is a collection of Italian family recipes passed down by, well, Nonna. It’s incredibly genuine, lovingly made, and I can’t get enough of making my own pasta and pairing it with a different delicious sauce found in the pages. It also has vegan pasta recipes, soups, pizzas, sides, and meats. Not to mention delicious, unique desserts.
While I still sometimes browse the freezer section at the grocery store, I try to cook at home often to honour my mom as my teacher and the best cook I’ve ever met. She introduced me to this joy, community, and sense of accomplishment after plating the final product–and that’s something I would never have found in a frozen cardboard box.