Seeking tall, beautiful and well-bound

While they say that dogs are a man’s best friend, books will not fall short of good company either. That’s also the way I like my cookbooks: interesting, engaging, and accessible. In honesty, the only cookbook I’ve used time and time again is not even published, and in instances otherwise I like to flip through Milk calendars past (especially when Anne Lindsay contributes! Her chocolate cake recipe is one that has received compliments every time.)

The cookbook was something my dad purchased at a school fundraiser — you know, when all the families submit a recipe or two, the yearbook committee throws it to their bookbinding contacts, and copies are distributed among bake sales and car washes. That kind of unpublished and unassuming book. To be fair, not all potluck-contribution style books are good, in terms of content (two other sympathetic purchases made a few years ago remain lost and untouched behind some pile of novels), but this particular collection has recipes made by mothers, sisters, friends, coworkers and enjoyed by children, neighbours, friends, family. Some of them are paired with anecdotes: When Jake was sick and would only eat soup. M.B. shared this recipe with me when I was looking after her husband who was ill at their home. He happened to be A.J. Billes, founder of Canadian Tire. Aside from the reliability that comes from these families who have had their recipes well-received, I love the humanity behind it.

But now, I’m looking for something more .. updated. Photos of the dishes are an obvious plus (is this vegetable supposed to be turning purple?), but I’m looking for one that is not necessarily gourmet, but complex enough to have people think about how it tastes. Part of the reason why Anne Lindsay ranks well in my books is her consistent creation of light, healthy meals. That chocolate cake I mentioned replaces the oil and butter in conventional recipes with yogurt and milk for moisture, along with a secret tablespoon of coffee — the ingredient that gives the cake a subtle yet distinguished taste. Many chapters in her cookbook are devoted to bread-making, and I don’t think I can make use of those recipes quite yet. I’ve also seen cookbooks that arrange recipes according to the seasonal availability of the key ingredients, and I like that idea of bringing a seasonal menu into home cooking as well. What to do, for example, with all the colourful fruits that Ontario gives out in the sun-drenched months of summer? Berries are great eaten fresh, but what else can be baked other than cobblers and cheesecakes?

The search is on! Tall (for quick and easy reading when scurrying around the kitchen), beautiful (visual information cannot be understated in cooking), and well-bound (no page-flipping or book closing when my back is turned and finger lifted!)


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