Holiday Cookbookery: Buyer's Guide to Gifting Cookbooks

Categories: 2013 Gift Guide

Photo by Hannah Palmer Egan
We have a small cookbook collection going here
Fork in the Road is publishing a series of local gift guides this year -- one from each regular contributor. This one comes from our Cookbook of the Week columnist, Hannah Palmer Egan.

So, it's the holidays. And if you're a busy New Yorker like the rest of us, thinking through the gifting gauntlet can be daunting: what to buy your coworker, boss, bff, best-frenemy, MOM. There's a different conundrum for everyone -- what to get that's not too personal, yet personal enough, that someone will actually want AND use...or perhaps something that can be easily re-gifted.

Whatever your gifting aspirations, here at Fork in the Road, we'll remind you that EVERYBODY EATS, and thus, most people cook, at least occasionally. So cookbooks make excellent holiday gifts -- your gift can appear thoughtful (but not TOO thoughtful), useful (but not in a banal way), re-giftable (for sure!), and generally all-around nice. And, most of them are reasonably priced (but not cheap!).

Herewith, our cookbook picks for the friends and freaks in your life, culled from this season's finest new releases. (If you're looking for classic/vintage, head to the last page for where to find rare and esoteric tomes.)

Image courtesy Grand Central Publishing

For the baker or aspiring baker, or greenmarket fan: The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emma and Melissa Elsen ($30)
The Deets: Gowanus Pie mavens Emma and Melissa Elsen share their baking secrets in an easy-to-follow, practically foolproof bible of pie.
Why it's great: Eleven crusts. Fun and funky pies and tried-and true classics. Vegetarian, vegan, sweet/salty/tart -- this book has everything but the bitterness (though some recipes do call for bitters!). It's my favorite book of the season -- and I generally don't bake.
Where to buy: The Strand Bookstore,, Barnes & Noble

For the the urban dweller wanting to break their takeout habit: Best Cookbook Ever by Max and Eli Sussman ($25)
The Deets: This book makes it easy for you. It's divided into real-life scenarios: What to make when hungover, what to prepare for an impromptu dinner party (what, five hungry friends just showed up? No problem!), or what to eat on the eve of the apocalypse. The Sussmans distill dinner into quick, snappy dishes anyone can prepare.
Why it's great: You can buy MOST of the ingredients at your crappy corner grocery store, prep times are short and simple, and none of it requires too much space or forethought...great cooking for dummies, er, amateurs.
Where to buy: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

For the capable and adventurous home cook: Pok Pok by Andy Ricker with JJ Goode ($35)
The Deets: For mortar-and-pestle wielding Thai food aficionados, this is a must. Filled cover-to-cover with preparations for everything from som tam (papaya salads, four recipes), curries and soups (eight recipes), phat (stir fry, five recipes), to condiments and desserts, Ricker's book delivers.
Why it's great: No fluff here, folks -- this is a cookbook, through and through -- Ricker keeps it focused on the food, not himself, and with salivating hordes lining up on two coasts to Pok Pok it up, you better believe that food is great.
Where to buy: The Strand, Amazon, St. Mark's Bookshop

For the food-loving historian The Way We Ate by Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz ($35)
The Deets: In this time-traveling tome, Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz break down a century of culinary history by year, offering 100 dishes from 100 well-known chefs and fooderati. 1909 brings Travis Post's Baked Alaska, 1953 serves Jesse Shenker's Beef Wellington, and 1971 gives you Gael Greene's "Almost like Mom's" Mac & Cheese.
Why it's great: Steeped in history (as informed by Fecks and Wagtouicz's ridiculously awesome blog chronicling the Gourmet magazine archive), and generally accessible for home cooks, this book is just begging for decade-themed dinner parties.
Where to buy: Powell's Books, The Strand, Amazon

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