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.
I'm back from the first leg of the book tour, and I want to thank everyone who came out to say hello and share your stories of saving the season. I hope your summer preserving is going well.
Good news greeted me when I got back to LA: my friend Amanda hit me up on Instagram (@savingtheseason) to say that her fig tree was ready to pick—and that she was headed out of town. For the past several years, it's been my good luck that fig season coincides with Amanda's vacation season, giving me the chance to pick endless flats of stupendous Black Mission figs from her backyard tree, ABOVE.
I'll be out on the road for the next few weeks: it's book tour season. Come by and say hello while I'm in your neck of the woods. I'll be sharing tastes of my jam and marmalade at every stop, and of course signing books.
7/18 Santa Cruz: BookShop Santa Cruz, 7:30 p.m.
7/19 Sonoma: Readers' Books, at the Sonoma Farmers Market, 10:30 a.m.
7/19 Santa Rosa: Copperfield's, 7:00 p.m.
7/20 San Francisco, Book Passage, at the Ferry Building, noon.
7/20 San Francisco, Onmivore Books, 3 p.m.
7/21 Seattle, Third Place Books, 5:30 p.m.
7/22 Seattle, Book Larder, 6:30 p.m.
7/24 Nashville, Parnassus Books, 6:30 p.m.
7/25 Memphis, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, 6:00 p.m.
7/26 Atlanta, Charis Books, 7:30 p.m.
7/28 Greenville, Cook's Station, 1:00 p.m.
7/29 Asheville, Malaprops Bookstore, 7:00 p.m.
8/1 Knoxville, Union Ave. Books, 6:00 p.m.
8/4 Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills Farmers Market, 9:00 a.m. to noon.
Looking out on the horizon, I'll be back in the South during harvest season, and there's a whole other leg of the book tour—through New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut—for apple season. But more on that later.
Meanwhile I hope to see you on the road!
Thank you again to all the Martha Stewart Living readers! I've been so moved by the memories you've shared. Reading your emails made me think about something that I wrote in the Introduction to my book.
The way I see it, recipes can tell you how to make something, but they don't tell you much about it. Recipes need stories. Anyone who has learned to cook by spending hours in the kitchen with an older relative or a close friend knows what I mean. You learn by watching but also listening, and the instruction imparted is not merely technical. In the kitchen and at the table, food and narrative go together. In Saving the Season, recipes are vehicles for the stories.
I think you know what I mean. Thank you for sharing your stories.
Can you believe it? We're at the start of stone fruit season. Yesterday at the Hollywood Farmers Market was a glimpse of summer.
The pick of the day included Brooks cherries, some of my favorite for preserving because of their firm texture. The word "apricot" comes from the Latin "praecox" for "early ripening," and these Poppycots certainly live up to billing. The little green fruits are immature plums, which are used in some cuisines as a crunchy, sour condiment.
Also, thank you to everyone who read the backpage essay in Martha Stewart Living and took the time to send emails or post comments. It means so much to hear from you!