There are some activities in life that are best experienced, instead of described. For example, you might have a sense of what it is to love someone, but until you’ve actually done so, you don’t fully know what love is, with its one-two punch of ecstasy and agony. Or, take the funky aroma-ed liquid that is fish sauce. You might’ve read about it in a Vietnamese cookbook, or heard your sister talk about her profound aversion to it, but until you’ve tasted it for yourself, there’s really no way to fully convey the power of fish sauce (for the record, I love the stuff).
This is the case with writing a book. I’m actively working on my 9th right now. It’s hard work, friends. There’s the enormity of holding a book’s entire concept in your mind in advance, and then figuring out how to translate your rough ideas into words that fully convey the essence of whatever it is you’re discussing. There’s a huge amount of self discipline, a fair dose of stress (every single time I send off a manuscript to my editor, I get an eye twitch that lasts for about a month, or longer. Every single time.), and an inevitable “I don’t want to work on this any more!” moment. But, in the end, there’s the book itself. It is a battle hard fought and wholly worth winning.
Four friends of mine recently crossed the finish line on their own books. Having friends that write books is kind of like having friends that also have children, if you too have kids. Or that are colleagues in a field of study that is a bit esoteric and difficult to decipher to the uninitiated. Or like being a huge fan of The Matrix (raising hand) and being able to totally geek out with fellow Matrixians (is that even a thing? It is now). You get each other. You feel each other’s victories and challenges in ways others don’t. Authors of the world, I salute you. Bringing a book to life is no joke.
**The CSA Cookbook: No-Waste Recipes For Cooking Your Way Through A Community Supported Agriculture Box, Farmer’s Market, or Backyard Bounty, Linda Ly (Voyageur Press).
Have you ever been faced with a bounty of produce, either because you subscribe to a CSA, or you went a bit wild at the farmer’s market, and ended up stumped by how to use it before it goes bad? Then this is the book for you. It’s also the book for anyone that ever held lush, green carrots tops or the green rind of watermelon in their hand and felt that there must be a better final destination for them than the compost pile. In The CSA Cookbook, Linda (also known as Garden Betty on her award-winning blog) provides a wealth ideas for using up produce in delicious and innovative ways. Chapters include: The Basics, Tomatoes & Peppers, Leafy Greens, Peas & Beans, Bulbs & Stems, Roots & Tubers, Melons & Gourds, and Flowers & Herbs. I’m especially interested in her ideas for bits of produce otherwise discarded, like that gorgeous Watermelon Kimchi in the second photo. The photos are beautiful, her tone approachable and encouraging, and the recipes imminently inspiring. Get this book for yourself and anyone you know that loves cooking! And do be sure to check out the book’s beautifully filmed trailer. It’s sure to get you excited about the season of growing we’re moving into and Linda’s suggestions for making the most of it!
**Drink the Harvest: Making And Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas, and Ciders, Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest (Storey Books).
I first met Nan and DeNeice this past August, when we were set up at the same table to sign books for the annual Asheville Food & Wine Festival. But before I physically met them, I’d already heard about their book, and knew that they both lived in the area. Getting to meet them and hear about the book’s creation and process enriched my already existing admiration for what they had produced. Drink the Harvest is just the sort of book I’m most drawn to. It’s full of step-by-step process shots and clearly written instructions on how to grow, harvest, and create fruit and vegetable-based beverages. Juices, teas, syrups, wines, meads, and more are all accounted for. The artistic direction is really thoughtfully done, too, with pages that look juice-stained, as well as with backgrounds of cheesecloth and paper towels. Not least of all, I was especially excited to learn that the photography was done by husband and wife photography & food styling team Johnny and Charlotte Autry. The Autrys are the Asheville-based dynamic duo that I’ll be working with on my newest book (an image from the Drink the Harvest is the third one above). I am beyond thrilled that Glenn and I have the chance to partner with this award-winning couple! Nan and DeNeice’s book would be a lovely gift for someone that is into making homemade cocktails, or a friend that perhaps has a home with room for growing fresh produce, or anyone, really, that likes to entertain and enjoys serving homemade, from-scratch beverages to their guests.
**Sorghum’s Savor, Ronni Lundy (University Press of Florida).
If you enjoy southern foods, then it’s highly likely you’ve already heard about Ronni Lundy. Considered by many to be the current grand dame of all things edible and southern U.S., Ronni really is all she’s lauded to be, of this I can personally attest. It could be argued by many that all they really needed to know about southern food they learned from her. A founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance (of which I am a proud member), she has authored several books and written countless articles on the topic of southern foods, including her newest, Sorghum’s Savor. For those that aren’t terribly familiar with sorghum (also sometimes referred to as “sorghum syrup”), it’s a type of grass (see the 4th photo from the top), from whose canes a syrupy sweetener is rendered. Preceding WWII, it was the predominate sweetener used in the southern U.S.. Its extraction, however, is labor intensive, and declining farm labor following the war resulted in a massive decline in production. It is still very much alive and kicking, though, manufactured by a handful of small producers. Ronni schools readers on sorghum’s history and production methods in her book before offering a wealth of recipes for its use. Chapters include: Basics, Breads and Breakfast, Soups, Salads, and Dressings, Fruits and Vegetables, Main Events, Drinks and Nibbles, and Sweet Treats. As a lifelong lover of pecan pie (it’s the very first thing I ever baked, at age 8) typically put off by any version other than my own owing to its often cloying sweetness, I’m especially interested to try out Ronni’s Sorghum and Bourbon Pecan Pie. Not a drop of corn syrup in sight! This book would be ideal for anyone interested in replacing sugar in their diet with a natural sweetener, anyone that grew up on sorghum and wants more of it back in their life, or truly anyone that loves cooking and is looking for ways to expand on their ingredient offerings and culinary repertoire.
**One Hour Cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Chèvre, Paneer-even Burrata. Fresh and Simple Cheeses You Can Make In An Hour Or Less!, Claudia Lucero (Workman Publishing).
Claudia and I first made each other’s acquaintance back in 2009. I was working on my book “Home Dairy.” All four of the books in my Homemade Living series (Canning & Preserving, Keeping Chickens, Home Dairy, and Keeping Bees) profile individuals that are somehow engaged in the book’s topics, either for profit or pleasure. An internet search on homemade dairy products turned up Claudia and her business, Urban Cheesecraft. I ended up profiling her for the book, and we’ve remained in touch ever since. When her own book on making cheese at home came out recently, I knew I’d return the love that she’d shown me all those years ago. One Hour Cheese is a wonderfully written, beautifully photographed, clearly outlined introduction to making simple cheeses in under an hour. The book includes 16 cheeses divided under headers of Creamy and Spreadable, Firm and Chewy, and Melty and Gooey. In addition to excellent process shots (an absolute necessity for any DIY newbie, regardless of the topic, I’ve always felt), I love that Claudia includes serving suggestions for each cheese as well as a cheeseboard for all 16 offerings that asks “How Easy Is It?” and then presents information on the required skill level, how long until the cheese is ready to eat, its yield, suggested uses, recommended milk, and additional bits of information worth mentioning. I had the pleasure of actually meeting Claudia and her business associate Colleen in person a few weeks ago, when they were in town for the Mother Earth News Fair and came over for dinner. She’s just as lovely, kind, compassionate, and considerate in real life as her writing voice conveys!
Let’s hear it for the ladies! If you’re looking for new adventures in food-making, or great gift ideas for Mom, graduates, Dad, and beyond, look no further. These labors of love are guaranteed to please!
I am beyond excited to finally share some huge news with you today! Announcing my much anticipated collaboration on the “Small Measures” line at McDonald’s. Each dish, made by a real Southern grandmother in the back of all southeast US McDonald’s, will feature organic, hand-picked, seasonal, local ingredients. The menu debuts today, and is only available for a limited time.