What are cookbooks for?
Once they were resources for cooks, like grammar books are for writers. Then came the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, which was also a memoir, full of anecdote and adventure and gossip—recipes optional. Toklas had to disguise her memoir as a cookbook because Gertrude Stein, her more famous companion, had already written The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. While few other writers have such problems, many cookbook authors since have, like Toklas, stretched the form’s conventions in order to explore a wider world beyond the kitchen.
The following five readable cookbooks go beyond the mere technical instruction of recipes.