Sincerest apologies, but our favorite cookbook memoirs of 2010 are not blog-inspired personal tomes about how fantastic it has been to bake brownies and arrange them ever-so-artfully for light box-enhanced photos the past few years. We are using the term more loosely, in the global history sense -- cookbook that peek back into an era when cooking meant something entirely different than it does today, snipits of memory as much as memoir. You know, books you'll still want to read ten years from now when you've long since moved on to a new favorite blogroll list.
Our two favorites fall on very opposite ends of the cookbook spectrum. One professes true love for stuffing fowl and grinding whole grain, the other celebrates convenience cooking as its own high artform, a comedic read if not always perfectly delicious one.
Turn the page for the Best Cookbook Memoirs (Or Memories) of 2010.
The I Hate To Cook Book by Peg Bracken
"This book is for those of us who... have learned through hard experience that some activities become no less painful through repetition: childbearing, paying taxes, cooking," begins the 1960s classic by Peg Bracken, The I Hate To Cook Book. That quick-and-convenient focus hardly sounds like a cookbook for those who actually enjoy ferreting out the best farmers market heirloom tomatoes.
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But as Bracken's daughter, Jo, points out in her introduction to the 50th anniversary edition, her mother, who died in 2007, was actually a pretty decent cook -- just simply one with "too few hours, not enough days, and never enough time" between her job as an advertising copywriter and mom. Something all of us can relate to, even if we opt to swap those canned mushrooms for fresh (always a wise idea, lest you actually like your vegetables slimy). Because even for all of her kitchen bitching, Bracken reminds us that cooking -- whether you're making elaborate 5-course meals or one-pot wonders -- can actually be a hell of a good time.
The Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala and blogger Rosanna Nafziger
Even by design, The Lost Art of Real Cooking is meant to look like a cookbook from the turn of the century (1901, not 2001). You know, before Betty Crocker and canned chicken broth replaced homemade cakes and chicken stock (and recipes for the homemade versions became long, tedious chores rather than general guidelines). It includes black and white drawings by Marjorie Nafziger (Rosanna's mother) that are neither cute nor overly clever. They simply illustrate a point: how to stuff grape leaves, what jam looks like when it coats a spoon, how to fill sausage casings by hand using a funnel rather than a fancy contraption.
But that doesn't mean this is a complicated kitchen manifesto. Rather, as noted in the forward, "this book is an effort to loosen up," whereas most modern cookbooks today are "dictating strict recipes [that] really teach aspiring cooks very little, apart from a slavish obedience to directions." In other words, lighten up and have some fun in the kitchen. This is pie crust we're talking about, not politics.