They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. We say, the way to an examination of our cultural ecosystem is through the cookbooks it published in 2018. From a manual on eating alone to tips for using up those pesky leftovers, 2018 was a banner year for unusual cookbooks.
Here are 10 of the best.
Anita Lo’s “Solo”is an instructional manual on learning to appreciate solitary dining. With millennials and gen-Z kids ranking surprisingly high on UCLA’s loneliness scale, it seems the time has come to learn how to eat alone, and Lo’s recipes and tips (“the freezer is your friend”) will come in handy on many an unaccompanied Friday night.
Nik Sharma knows the struggle of balancing tradition and innovation is real. In his 2018 cookbook “Season”, flavors from around the world with traditional American fare for the spotlight. The photography is vivid and the ideas are mouth-watering in “Season,” 2018’s most relatable cookbook
Dr. Beth Ricanati is a doctor who prescribes therapeutic challah baking to her patients alongside medication. She’s such a profound believer in the power of baking challah as a form of self-care that she wove a memoir into a recipe-book into an Instagram-friendly self-help manual. “Braided: A Journey Of A Thousand Challahs” is a thoughtful take on what happens when a group of women get messy around a kitchen counter.
For Julia Turshen, leftovers aren’t detritus taking up space in the fridge, they’re opportunities to reinvent dishes. Combating years of kitchen snobbery in which the cost of constantly whipping up fresh meals is never discussed, this Forward 50 recipient’s new cookbook “Now and Again” is about reinvention. Because “anything, even us, can change,” and that’s the energy we want to take into 2019.
Bestia, the Los Angeles restaurant, might have a five-month wait list, but “Bestia: Bold Italian Cooking” is full of all of the buzzy eatery’s secrets - and it’s a mere click away. Bestia recipes have tempted even the most devoted Soulcyclist to indulge in quince crostata.
Yotam Ottolenghi has a firm grip on the culinary world, and he isn’t letting go anytime soon. In his new cookbook “Simple” he taught the world how to cook the Ottolenghi way, aspiring to divorce anxiety from cooking once and for all. “Simple” is just what it claims to be — 130 easy, gorgeous recipes, each including ten ingredients or fewer.
Islamic food culture has quite a lot in common with Jewish food culture — for one, both religions make food integral to observance. Lucky for us, Anissa Helou has written “Feast,” a primer on Islamic food culture that lets under-loved Middle Eastern foods like balaleet and tarator shine. Like Jewish food culture, Islamic food spans a wide variety of dishes and isn’t easily explained to outsiders. But it’s the intersection of food and religion that is most easily grasped and abundantly fascinating, and Helou lifts the curtain for curious outsiders to peek inside at the feast.
In the town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where college football reigns supreme, Zingerman’s Bakehouse stands proud as a community bakeshop with a deeply ingrained Jewish heritage. Former president Barack Obama even stopped by Zingerman’s for a bite on a 2014 visit. Zingerman’s has long doled out Jewish food in a part of the country that’s not exactly famous for its bialys, so “Zingerman’s Bakehouse,” a cookbook that reveals its kitchen’s three-decade-old secrets, is one even the most casual of cooks would want to snag.
As the world of coffee gets more and more elaborate, new rules are required. Cofounders of the coffee blog Sprudge, Zachary Carlsen and Jordan Michelman, have written a quick, easy jaunt through the complicated world of coffee, from its ugly history of colonialism to the case for accepting instant coffee. Someone has to help you understand what a matcha espresso with oat milk and agave nectar is, and “The New Rules Of Coffee” is a cheerful teacher.
After celebrity chef James Briscione was approached by IBM with the opportunity to collaborate with Watson, a supercomputer chef, to engineer some unexpected flavor combinations, the result was “The Flavor Matrix,” a cookbook dedicated to weird and wonderful flavor pairings. From recipes like Chocolate Mousse with Crisp Beet Meringue to the Chicken and Mushroom Burgers With Strawberry Ketchup that Briscione presented in a TED Talk, “The Flavor Matrix” is a mouthwatering explainer on adventurous eating through science.
Shira Feder is a writer. She’s at firstname.lastname@example.org and @shirafeder