For us, books about food are a no-brainer when it comes to gift buying. They teach us how to cook, tell stories of far-flung places, and help us understand what it’s like to experience the stories others have to tell. There are so many books that grace our shelves at The Takeout, and some of them make eternally good gifts for loved ones, and frankly, yourselves. Wrap up one of any of these books and you’re sure to have given a gift that will keep on giving for years to come.
Rodney Scott’s World Of BBQ
We embraced backyard barbecue this year, which is a leisurely and delicious way to spend a summer day. It’s a nuanced subject that can be daunting at first, but once you have the basics down, you can turn almost any cut of meat into a smoky meal that’s worth savoring. Of course, having a good cookbook for reference is key, and this year’s standout was Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ, which has accessible and magnificently delicious recipes for your grill or smoker. It’s also a great read that delves into the challenges of making a successful business.
Any of the Jacques Pépin Fast Food My Way series
The Takeout is a big fan of Jacques Pépin for his charismatic and friendly charm, along with his deep culinary knowledge of French cuisine. His TV shows are warm and easygoing and have taught generations of home cooks how to make simple and delicious food in their own kitchens. His entire book series Fast Food My Way provides recipes that are quick and delicious, while turning your boring pantry items into an absolute goldmine of resources. These books are inspiring and a perfect gift for novice and experienced home cooks alike.
Anything by Leela Punyaratabandhu
If you’ve ever been interested in Thai food, any of Leela Punyaratabandhu’s cookbooks is an absolute must-have. Punyaratabandhu is an expert teacher regarding Thai cuisine, and her three books, Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen; Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill: Classic Recipes for Seafood and Meats Cooked over Charcoal; and Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand are an excellent resource to fuel your love of Thai cuisine. They’re a timeless resource for any Thai food enthusiast.
In The Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain
Tom Vitale’s memoir, In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain is a challenging read about the legendary TV show host. But it’s also a deep insight into how powerful, impactful television is made and a plunging dive into Bourdain’s complicated character and personality. In the Weeds is not a long read, but it’s definitely a great one if you feel like you’ve wanted some insight into the chef’s life.
The Korean Vegan Cookbook
Korean food isn’t exactly known for being vegan. There’s commonly a small inclusion of shellfish or meat in many banchan recipes, and some of its most popular dishes are in barbecue, which are all meat of some sort. Joanne Lee Molinaro, a former lawyer turned social media star and cookbook author, made a life change some years back and became vegan. She missed Korean food dearly, and took it upon herself to turn all her favorite beloved dishes into versions she could eat, to fit her new lifestyle. The Korean Vegan Cookbook isn’t just about recipes, however. It includes stories, some sweet, some difficult, from her upbringing, which has shaped the person she’s become today, along with beautiful photography, and deserves a spot under the tree.
The Rajes series
Author Sonali Dev really knows her food—her newsletter even includes a recipe book—and in her latest series, a love of food and the way it connects us is front and center. Each book in the Rajes series (so named because it follows members of the fictional Rajes family) is a modern retelling of a Jane Austen novel with some delicious twists. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors follows neurosurgeon Trisha Raje, who despite her achievements is still considered the black sheep of the family, and DJ Caine, an up-and-coming chef who clashes Trisha before ultimately, well, you know the story. The backdrop for Recipe for Persuasion Is a cooking reality competition TV show on which Ashna Raje (a chef and Trisha’s cousin) reconnects with a childhood love, soccer player Rico Silva. The last two in the series, Incense and Sensibility and The Emma Project (due out next year), aren’t explicitly chef-focused, but Dev’s love for cooking, Indian cuisine, and the power of food is present in every word she writes.
Cheese Sex Death: A Bible for the Cheese Obsessed
Cheese Sex Death: A Bible for the Cheese Obsessed by Erika Kubick is a perfect gift for the cheese board builder in your life. In Kubick’s case, cheese is a religion, and she worships at the church of Cheesus, as she likes to say. Cheese Sex Death creates its own Ten Commandments of Cheese, which helps break the complex nature of cheese appreciation down to the basics, giving a profile of affordable cheeses to the rare, small-batch stuff. Plus, cheese-filled recipes are included, along with a cheese plate formula and beverage pairings that run from the non-alcoholic to beer, wine, and spirits. Cheese lovers can rejoice, have fun, and worship the funky to the creamy.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen
In the graphic novel memoir Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, cartoonist Lucy Knisley looks back on the food moments that shaped her, from making salad dressings with her chef dad as a kid to eating her way through different countries to working as a cheesemonger. Each of the book’s 12 chapters includes an illustrated recipe. Knisley’s approach brings the colorful dishes to life in a way that perfectly pairs with the often relatable and humorous coming-of-age tales she shares.
Crying In H Mart
Crying in H Mart is a stunning act of vulnerability from musician Michelle Zauner. Throughout the memoir she looks back on her sometimes tumultuous relationship with her mother, who died from cancer in 2014. It’s through food that Zauner recalls her most joyful memories with her mom, ones she held onto even as their relationship soured and she left home. It’s through food that Zauner notes her mother’s deteriorating state after her cancer diagnosis. And It’s through food that Zauner holds onto her Korean culture and finds comfort during the good and bad times in her life.
If you or a friend enjoyed our feature on Native communities reclaiming their corn, it’s time to pick up Braiding Sweetgrass. Author Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and she pulls from both experiences to create this nonfiction masterpiece, published in 2015. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer combines science and tradition to urge readers to reconsider their relationship with everything from strawberries to algae, making an argument for forming a reciprocal relationship with the plants and animals we harvest for food.
The children’s classics
It’s never too early to get into food books, and luckily there are classics that still hold up. These two are a great place to start: The Very Hungry Caterpillar teaches a lesson about transformation and not being ashamed to eat whatever you darn please while If You Give a Mouse a Cookie offers advice on setting boundaries and probably avoiding mice.