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by Grace Bonney

I could look at food books all day. Not only do they make me think of my first love: food and drink, but they are also usually just so gorgeous! We are so lucky to have a little shop here in Portland that specializes in books on food, wine and the like. I always have a hard time leaving with out a book. Of course I am addicted to cook books… I should admit that right out.

Anyway, whether it’s adding another cookbook to my collection or just a day for browsing a stop at Rabelais is one of my favorite simple pleasures hands down. The owners, Samantha and Don, are also a great source of knowledge and inspiration. They are passionate about the books that they carry and it shines through.

As my final “simple pleasure” post I decided I would head into the shop and ask them what their Top Ten was. This Top Ten is what’s new but rather what food books are important to them. They are total foodies and worth listening to for sure.

Here is their list and thoughts on the matter:

1) How to Cook Everything, 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food 10th Anniversary edition, by Mark Bittman. • The new updated version of this classic is even better than it’s predecessor. Bittman, who writes for the New York Times, makes it all seem so effortless as he takes the everyday and makes it inspired. This new version is full of charts and sidebars that makes it even more user friendly.

2) The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart • Reinhart is The Man when it comes to bread. He is an instructor at Johnson & Wales Culinary school in Providence and this book is an incredible resource for anyone whose bread is in need of improvement. The first third of the book is a course in itself, with detailed instructions on what to look for when working with dough.

3) Home Cheesemaking, Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses by Ricki Carroll • Everyone wants to make cheese! This is currently one of our best selling books. If you want to learn how to make cheese in your very own kitchen this book will take you through all the steps, including equipment requirements, dairy differences and aging techniques.

4) Charcuterie, The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn • This is the modern book on making charcuterie at home. Ruhlman and Polcyn make it all accessible and straightforward with clear concise instructions. We have seen a definite trend towards making more and more food stuffs at home. It goes along with growing your own vegetables and knowing where your meat comes from.

5) Pork & Sons by Stephane Reynaud • A beautiful book from Phaidon, the renowned art book publisher. Pork & Sons is a book that requires you seek out farm raised pork. Supermarket meat simply won’t have enough flavor, or fat, to make the recipes shine. But if you can get your hands on good quality pork you will have yourself a feast. The respect Reynaud shows for the hog is honorable, and delicious.

6) A16 Food + Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren • Just nominated for a James Beard Rising Star award, Nate Appleman conjures up rustic Italian fare with a down to earth approach. He makes his own salami (see Ruhlman’s Charcuterie) and offers up recipes and techniques for home made pasta and pizza that call out to be made. Not to be outdone, Shelley Lindgren opens the book with 60 + pages of Italian wine information, making this much more than just another fabulous Italian cook book.

7) Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett • In November of 2006 the New York Times ran an article by Mark Bittman that outlined a no-knead bread formula by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. The response to that article was unprecedented. This book takes the concept a step further by introducing other flours and flavors to the no-knead equation. We all need more good bread, this book shows us how to make it happen even with our busy schedules.

8) Ottolenghi, The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. • World peace and fantastic food from this London based pair, one Israeli, the other Palestinian. “…real food unadulterated or adorned…” is the way they describe their approach to very authentic, yet superbly modern, clean flavors. There is an Apple cake in here to die for.

9) Eat Me, the Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin by Kenny Shopsin and Carolynn Carreno. • Kenny Shopsin has been an underground fixture on the New York food scene for 20 years, although he would ban us for saying so. His outsize character is all over this fascinating treatise on the nature of service. While you may not want to actually cook much from this book it is a compelling exploration of the basic relationship between cook and diner. The book was designed by Shopsins daughter Tamara whose work appears in many publications including the New York Times.

10) A Vegetable Collection, Recipes and Rhymes to Conquer Kids of All Ages By Dorothy Perillo Lindner. • A lovely compilation of endearing watercolor illustrations of vegetables and simple recipes. This book is the antidote to some hide the vegetable books out in the universe. The amusing rhymes and colorful images will make a vegetable lover out of even the most resistant kid, whatever their age.


So my week here is up and I want to thank Grace again for asking me to write in this spot. Whether it’s tearsheets, tea, food, drawing or t-shirts, I hope you are able to find your simple pleasures these days. And all the better if they are right there in your town!

Wishing you a lovely weekend and perhaps I’ll see you again at weekly online project: 3191 Miles Apart. —MAV

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  • I love cooking and you are so right! Cookbooks are some of the most beautiful books to look at. I recently found James McNairs corn cookbook at a library book sale. I Love the photos and the recipes I tried were delicious!

  • I eaten at Ottolenghi in London a lot and I bought their cookbook on one visit. Everything I’ve had there was gorgeous and the recipes from the book are easy to follow and everyone I’ve tired have been a success. I made my partner the apple cake mentioned for his birthday and he loved it.

  • I’ve heard many praises of that A16 book on food blogs as well. The Ottolenghi one looks interesting too.

  • Thanks so much for writing this week, Maria! I love Portland, and it was a treat reading about your favorite places.

  • These have been such lovely posts this week – thank you!
    Another gorgeous (!) cookbook to check out is Breakfast Lunch Tea, from Rose Bakery (Phaidon). It’s tremendously beautiful and the recipes are to die for.

  • My soul mate! Another person addicted to cookbooks…I knew there had to be somebody, somewhere!!!
    Great post, thank you! Now you gave me some more books to add to my MUST HAVE list…Now…how far is Portlan’s Rabelais from Costa Rica????

  • I have the Breakfast Lunch Tea book from Rose Bakery. It makes for a good coffee table book or an addition to a cooks collection. Not only are the pictures great, the recipes are fairly simple and tasty.

  • Thanks Maria for highlighting such amazing folks here in Portland (so many of whom seem to be in the East End…).

    Sam and Don at Rabelais are incredible folks- and Rabelais itself is a must-visit on a trip to Portland! (also I’ve heard that they will be launching an online store in the not-to-distant future).

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