For our annual books issue, we're taking a look at recent books about food – that includes not only cookbooks, but also narratives and picture books that adults and kids might separately devour. In addition to Nikki McClure's new title, To Market, To Market, inspired by the Olympia Farmers' Market, featured in our "Great Summer Reads" story, here are a few others to consider.
Ready for Father's Day?
New dads might like a copy of Cooking for Gracie: The Making of a Parent from Scratch, by Keith Dixon (Crown, $22), but we bet experienced fathers might appreciate it even more. They'll shudder with the remembered agony of sleeplessness and stress as Dixon recounts, in a food-centered way, life with his infant daughter. They'll also know there's a happy ending coming as those first desperate months pass.
Some of the recipes that accompany the narrative might seem daunting for those first months as a family, but Dixon freely admits when his kitchen ambitions outweigh the reality of life with a newborn. Nursing moms will appreciate Dixon's loving sense that feeding his wife is, in those first months, his way of nourishing baby Gracie. We especially like the grimly hilarious footnotes on topics like sleep training and colic.
Or, for more famed names, there's Man with a Pan, edited by John Donohue (Algonquin, $15.95), a collection of essays and "family-tested recipes" from well-known male writers and chefs, running the gamut from Mario Batali to Stephen King. The highly personal essays here, from celebrity dads as well as regular folks, will inspire readers to head to the kitchen. Once there, they will find plenty of recipes for all levels of kitchen confidence. And if readers follow Batali's advice, their kids will come along, too, making the kitchen "less a weird place, or a sacred place, or an odd place. It makes it more of a social place." The most dog-eared essay? Our money is on food writer (and dad of two) Michael Ruhlman's well-thought-out instructions for roast chicken, which include a crucial middle step: "Have sex with your partner."
Looking for a more traditional gift for dad? Check out Fire It Up by veteran cookbook authors Andrew Schloss and David Joachim (Chronicle Books, $24.95). The "ingredient-focused" grilling book includes sections on everything from basic beef to crustaceans to bread to fruit and (bring in the kids!) cheese. It's one of those rare books that's useful whether you're an expert or a beginner, with solid tips and basic instructions for the latter and zingy recipes for the former. We especially like the diagrams accompanying each main ingredient (you'll know your chuck from your brisket with this book at hand) and the long list of lively marinades.
And for Moms? Buy any of these books for your husband and relax while he cooks.
For the Kids
Shifting to children's books, the big bedtime treat for the one-and-under set in our home is Babyberry Pie (Harcourt Children's Books, $16.99), by Portland author Heather Vogel Frederick, illustrated by Amy Schwartz. Our daughter adores the simple, cheerful drawings and the rollicking words as we "pick a baby from the babyberry tree," while her big brothers enjoy the story down to the last sweet line: "It's time for pies/to close their eyes/and dream a lullaby." We only wish it came in board book format, so the target audience could gnaw on it to her heart's content.
For toddlers and early readers, try Jam and Honey by Melita Morales, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant (Tricycle Press, $15.99). Our 4-year-old got rocking along to this modern-day Blueberries for Sal: "One for the bucket and one for me. /Berries for the girl and nectar for the bee."
Rebekah Denn says not to forgot older gems like Russell and Lillian Hoban’s Bread & Jam for Frances and Lois Ehlert’s Pie in the Sky.