Award-Winning Cookbooks

2012 James Beard Foundation Book Awards

Book Talk tends to feature reviews and booklists of fiction and narrative non-fiction books, so I thought it was time to highlight another big part of our library’s collection: cookbooks. Here is a list of some of the best cookbooks published in 2011:

Cookbook of the Year:

Modernist Cuisine

by Nathan Myhrvold with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet

[We do not own this 6 volume, $625 set, but have ordered the 2 volume Modernist Cuisine at Home, to be published in October, 2012.]

Cookbook Hall of Fame:

Home Cooking and More Home Cooking

by Laurie Colwin

[We don’t own these classic cookbooks from 1988 and 1993, but they are available for interlibrary loan from libraries in our area.]

American Cooking:

A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen

by Hugh Acheson

Baking and Dessert:

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

by Jeni Britton Bauer


Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, & Formulas

by Brad Thomas Parsons

[Available for interlibrary loan]

Cooking from a Professional Point of View:

Modernist Cuisine

by Nathan Myhrvold with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet

General Cooking:

Ruhlman’s Twenty

by Michael Ruhlman

Focus on Health:

Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen

by Heidi Swanson


The Food of Morocco

by Paula Wolfert

Reference and Scholarship:

Turning the Tables: Restaurants and the Rise of the American Middle Class, 1880-1920

by Andrew P. Haley

[Available for interlibrary loan from several college libraries in Illinois]

Single Subject:

All About Roasting

by Molly Stevens

Writing and Literature:

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

by Gabrielle Hamilton

Prisoner of Heaven

Prisoner of Heaven, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Translated from  Spanish by Lucia Graves)

This is the third in a cycle of novels that began with The Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game.  I would recommend that you read the first two books before reading this one.

This novel is set like the others in Barcelona, Spain. The main character is Daniel Sempere, who, together with his father runs Sempere and Sons Bookshop.  There is also another fascinating place, “The Cemetery of Lost Books” a huge library of old forgotten books protected by an elite of old bookkeepers.  According to tradition initiates are allowed to select one book from the collection and must protect it for life.

The saga starts with The Shadow of the Wind and then is continued in The Angels Game which is actually a prequel. There are a lot of doings and plots and run ins with the Fascist authorities under General Francisco Franco.

Prisoner of Heaven recounts the imprisonment of Fermin Romero de Torres in a notorious political prison run by the Franco regime during the Spanish Civil War.  Fermin is a character in the first two books, but not the main character.  He is something of a rogue, a bon-vivant, and protector of Daniel.  He escapes from the wretched prison using a technique gleaned from The Count of Monte Cristo.

There is romance, intrigue and shadowy forces in these books.  I highly recommend them.


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

If you look at the book cover of Rachel Joyce’s first novel, you may be expecting a happy, quirky, light read. While a very good read, this is not a light or happy book. It’s about a journey taken by Harold Fry, whose life is rather empty. His wife Maureen cleans obsessively; Harold does yard work. He gets a letter from former coworker and friend Queenie Hennessey with news that she is very ill with cancer. Harold writes a brief note and goes to post it, but is troubled that a note is inadequate. Harold was a brewery sales representative who traveled with bookkeeper Queenie to visit pubs. So he keeps walking while he thinks about it. A talk with a young woman at a gas station’s convenience store inspires him to keep walking, the whole length of England, to visit Queenie.

His wife Maureen is flabbergasted, and can’t decide if she’s more angry, worried about him, or lonely. Harold is not much of a walker, and gets lots of blisters. He sends postcards to Maureen and Queenie, and buys souvenirs for them along the way. His wife is concerned that he will empty their retirement savings account on such a long journey, so Harold starts camping instead of staying in hotels. Harold is very shy, and has always felt akward because he’s tall, but people like to tell him their stories. His walk to save Queenie inspires some fans and even gets some publicity, leading to some funny parts of the story. Harold’s long pilgrimage gives him lots of time to think, and to reflect on his life. The journey eventually answers some questions for the reader. Why did Maureen move into the spare room, yet they stay married? Why does their bright, troubled son David never come to visit? Why did Queenie leave the brewery, and why doesn’t Harold drink? Will Harold’s walk for Queenie make a difference?  And, finally, will Harold be able to finish his pilgrimage? A memorable journey for Harold and the reader.