Do you have an adult child, niece or nephew, grandchild, or young friend just starting out in an independent life? Hopefully that young person has at least some foundation in cooking for her or himself, but who couldn’t use a great cookbook, a food bible to turn to? Think back, chefs. It’s probably something you had and cherished–and learned to cook with.

Now that college graduations are a recent memory and the grads are going to be on their own–not to mention the college students moving into their first apartments–wouldn’t the gift of a cookbook be a great thing to surprise them with?

Need some inspiration? I got suggestions from a number of chefs on our APPCA Facebook group:

  • How to Cook Without a Book by Pamela Anderson
  • The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg (From Chef Anthony Caldwell: It teaches about developing flavors which is soooooo important!)
  • Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker
  • The Betty Crocker Cookbook in hardcover or the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (From Chef Lola Dee: For budding chefs, these are great go to’s to make just about any basic recipe. I’ve had them on my bookshelf all my life and still find myself looking there for certain recipes. They also have a whole section on cuts of meat, and what temperatures to prepare them at.)
  • The 1942 edition of Fanny Farmer Cookbook, the Betty Crocker Cookbook-2nd edition, and The Young Chef from the CIA (From James Haley: I am teaching my sons to cook. I started them off with The Young Chef by the CIA.)
  • The Whole30 Fast and Easy Cookbook by Melissa Hartwig (From Chef Suzy Dannette Hegglin-Brown: … because it is. And kids today do not like to cook.)

  • The New Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated
  • The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt (From Chef Cliff Chambers: Easy read. Focuses on Culinary Fundaments, which many forget as we progress in the field.)
  • How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
  • How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

Now to the naysayers who say that young people don’t cook, I say they need a better introduction to being self sufficient in the kitchen. Maybe it won’t take at age 21 or at all–and down the road they’ll be clients of yours. Of course, cooking isn’t for everybody. But maybe you will inspire them. Cooking’s a skill that represents independence, that can help economize when they’re just starting out, and could turn into a joyful endeavor that gives them respite in an increasingly crazy world. It’s worth a try and worth sharing your passion in the hopes that it will become theirs.

If you could inspire a young person with a cookbook, what would it be? What is your favorite cookbook?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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If you don’t know food writer, recipe developer, and owner of Nourish Evolution, a subscription-based real food community and online menu planner, you really should. And here’s the perfect opportunity; she just published a memoir called Nourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love. I can’t recall recommending a book in this space, but I think as chefs you’ll enjoy and appreciate her journey and certainly be taken by both her writing and her recipes.

Yes, recipes. Nourished, while not a cookbook, ends every chapter with an irresistible recipe–from Crab Ravioli in Saffron Lemon-Butter Sauce and Grilled Pork en Adobada with Cebollitas to a simple Zucchini Frittata and Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Lobster, and Caramelized Corn. What it is is a memoir of a woman who took the long road to find happiness and her place in the world, much of which has revolved around food and cooking. Traveling with her (and there is a lot of travel) through 20 years of her life journey was mouth watering, yes, but also an immersion into a life perhaps more adventurous than any of ours, but filled with the same sorrows and joys, discoveries of the spirit and heart, and ultimately a coming to as much peace and solace as anyone can be rewarded with in a life well lived.

Raised in Connecticut, Huber launches the book in 1991 in Corfu, Greece, where as a college student on break she falls in love with Alexi, whom she describes as a “tall, dark Greek man with mischievous eyes.” Huber digs into Corfu with loving descriptions of the food she discovered–the smokey fish roe dip, luscious lemony scented chicken, and the fluffy mass of boiled potatoes with smashed cloves of garlic and green-yellow olive oil that is skordalia (recipe included). She fully intends to marry Alexi but returns to the States for a cousin’s wedding and to finish school. The ambitious American college student, winning awards for her writing, ultimately breaks off the engagement and so begins a new chapter in her life, what she calls a “voraciousness for experience” that sent her to live in Manhattan–and then to Christianity. Not long after she meets Christopher, who would become the love of her life and partner in her travels and soul searching.

Nourished wends its way through Huber’s adventures and travails. She suffers from unresolved health issues, challenges in her marriage, challenges in the travels she and Christopher (and their Rhodesian Ridgeback Talisker–yeah, there’s that we also have in common) take trying to find their place in the world. It takes them from New York to San Francisco, where she launches her food writing and recipe testing career, to Costa Rica, making the 8,000-mile journey in their “gringo mobile” Rex, their Ford Explorer. They spend time in Italy and ultimately, they make their way to California’s wine country, where they endure a long, torturous process of foreign adoption and then the joys and angst of parenthood.

Throughout Huber’s travels, both geographical and emotional, is always food. She and Christopher cook their way through Anne Willan’s Look and Cook: Asian Cooking. They discover a rich, tangy asado de boda stew in Zacatecas, a dried beef machaca in a Chihuahua truck stop, and in Cuernavaca she learns how to make sautéed zucchini flowers stuffed into poblano chiles that are then wrapped in puff pastry topped by a creamy cilantro sauce and pomegranate seeds.

While many readers may find her struggle with and solace in God and Christianity just as rewarding as her culinary evolution, that part was not as resonant with me since I’m a non-religious Jewish woman. But I could feel her pain and appreciate her quest for answers and hope. She’s that good a writer.

In fact, I loved her vivid descriptions of her cooking experiences. I could see in my mind’s eye what she saw. In Italy, taking a pasta-making lesson, Huber describes her instructor Francesca as “nearly as round as the ball of pasta dough sitting in front of her…” She goes on to describe making pasta sheets:

“She cut the giant ball into several smaller pieces and covered them with a dish towel. She dusted the worktable with the flour as if she were feeding pigeons, and picked up a giant rolling pin longer than a baseball bat. ‘Matarello,’ Francesca said.”

Nourished takes us with Huber over a 20-year span and ultimately it’s a joyful, yes, nourishing ride. Read the memoir for its grace and honest reflections of a life filled with bumps, questions, and ultimately love. Keep the book for the recipes that provide delicious markers for each period of her life.

Frijoles de Lia
from Lia Huber

Frijoles de olla are a traditional dish of brothy beans cooked in an earthenware pot (an olla) that are hearty enough to be a meal in and of themselves. The recipes I followed in Costa Rica—from Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless—followed a simple equation of beans, lard, an onion or garlic, and epazote. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few more goodies that I’ve appended on over the years. 

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large poblano chiles, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander 2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons ground ancho chile
11/2 cups dried black beans, rinsed and soaked overnight (or fast  soaked in a pressure cooker)
Sea salt

In a large, heavy  bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium  high heat. Add the onion, poblano chiles, and garlic and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden brown. Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, and ancho chile and sauté for 1 minute, until fra grant. Add the beans, a generous pinch of salt, and 6 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 11/2 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until there’s a mix of whole beans and creamy mashed beans.

Serves 10 to 12


Reprinted from NOURISHED: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love (with Recipes) COPYRIGHT © 2017 by Lia Huber. Published by Convergent, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Do you have a favorite food or chef memoir? Is there a food-related book you think the rest of us should take to our heart? Perhaps you’d like to share it on this blog.

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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