Books belong on coffee table or in kitchen

  • By Joan Brunskill / Associated Press
  • Tuesday, December 21, 2004 9:00pm
  • Life

NEW YORK – Most cookbooks earn their keep in the kitchen. But there’s a wh ole category of books that dwell lovingly on the subject of food, ingredients or cooking, and that seem more appropriately savored first of all as gratifying armchair reading. That doesn’t mean they can’t also have a recipe content that may later lead the reader into the kitchen.

Both kinds may be what you buy as a present for someone else before indulging yourself. “Gift books” tend to be larger, or more expensive, usually handsomely illustrated, or charmingly decorative.

Among many candidates for gift lists published this year are the following:

“The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds” (Artisan, $40) by Amy Goldman. Goldman, author of “Melons for the Passionate Grower,” writes as gardener, cook and advocate of preserving the world’s heritage of fruits and vegetables. The science of the squash she describes is balanced by a variety of mouthwatering recipes. The book becomes a work of art through photographs by Victor Schrager that persuade the reader that squash are as beautiful to look at as they may eventually taste.

“Bordeaux Chateaux: A History of the Grands Crus Classes 1855-2005” (Flammarion, $60) is a luxurious wine book whose text is an accessory to a pictorial tour of the French country estates and mansions of the Bordeaux wine region. Large-format double-page spreads alternate with smaller details in the color photographs by Christian Samarron that, yes, do include vineyards and wine, bottles and glasses, but focus mostly on the chateaus at the center of wine production. There’s a foreword by Hugh Johnson to the work of a team of writers: Jean-Paul Kauffmann, Dewey Markham, Cornelis van Leeuwen and Franck Ferrand.

As a related bonus gift for the serious connoisseur, note: “The Wines of Bordeaux: Vintages and Tasting Notes 1952-2003” (University of California Press, $60) by Clive Coates, a detailed reference book, as opposed to picture book.

A trio of famous professional chefs have produced books lavished with fine photography as well as recipes for those who aspire to attempt some of the masters’ dishes.

“Bouchon” (Artisan, $50) by Thomas Keller. This is a weighty, detailed account, by the owner of Napa Valley’s renowned French Laundry, of his other restaurant, Bouchon, located next door, and of its bistro style of cuisine. Photographs by Deborah Jones in color and black and white set the scene and bring the food, it can seem, just a bite away. Definitely one for the armchair.

“Patrick O’Connell’s Refined American Cuisine” (Bulfinch, $45) is based on O’Connell’s work at the highly rated restaurant, The Inn at Little Washington, Va., of which he is chef and co-owner. The book’s title aptly categorizes the stylish but down-home American-based cooking on which the recipes are based, while the photographs by Tim Turner show not only the food but also some of the inn and countryside.

“Frank Stitt’s Southern Table” (Artisan, $40) by Frank Stitt. This is sophisticated Southern, another large-format tome: The book’s subtitle is “Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill,” in Birmingham, Ala., of which Stitt is chef-owner. Photographer Christopher Hirsheimer makes the food look more than good enough to eat and includes some scenic context.

“Geronimo: Fine Dining in Santa Fe” (Ten Speed Press, $50) is by Cliff Skoglund and Eric DiStefano. Skoglund is owner and DiStefano is head chef of Geronimo, a popular restaurant in a historic hacienda building popular for its “new American” cooking combined with cosmopolitan fusion elements. Photographer Peter Vitale gives the food and setting handsome visibility.

“Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions” (Ten Speed Press, $39.95) by Fernando and Marlene Divina, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, moves beyond the United States in its scope. Written by a chef and his wife, it features modern recipes and background essays on the North, Central and South American cultures in which they originate. Color photos by Maren Caruso alternate with period and archival photos of people and artifacts.

“Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style From the Heart of Italy” (Broadway, $29.95) by Frances Mayes, with Edward Mayes, elaborates on the details of the Mayes’ life in Italy to inspire admirers of it to adopt some of that detail into their own lives, wherever they live. This includes house and garden as well as kitchen and food. There are plenty of glowing color photos by Steven Rothfeld to back the text.

“A Celebration of Herbs: Recipes From the Huntington Herb Garden” (Huntington Library Press, 2004, $29.95) is based on the lectures of Shirley Kerins, former curator of the Huntington Herb Garden, in Pasadena, Calif. More than 200 recipes are featured, most using fresh herbs; herb chart and sources are included. Instead of photos, the elegantly designed book is illustrated with some 20 fine reproductions of historical botanical color plates, as well as numerous line drawings.

Talk to us

More in Life

FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2013 file photo, Elvin Bishop performs at the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee, Wis. Bishop, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson, John Mayall and the Memphis Jug Band were inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Invision for Invision/AP, File)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Elvin Bishop will join fellow bluesman Charlie Musselwhite on stage in Edmonds on May 25.

789_speller: Olive Ostrovsky (played Abby Price) concentrates on her spelling word while her competitors, played by (from left) Amanda Petrowski, Alexa Soriano, Haylie Conchelos, and (back row) Jackson Zimmerman try to distract her in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” running May 26-June 11 at Red Curtain Arts Center in Marysville.(Kenny Randall)
‘Spelling Bee’ wraps up Marysville theater’s 2022-23 season

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will run May 26-June 11 at Red Curtain Arts Center.

Just outside Kraków, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is filled with salt sculptures – and tourists.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Kraków weaves a vibrant cultural tapestry

It’s Poland’s cultural and intellectual center, and easily the nation’s best destination.

Do I express my feelings or keep them to myself?

It might be difficult, but communicating uneasy feelings is an important part of taking care of yourself.

American Queen Voyages takes five months to process refund

May Youngclaus has been waiting months for a refund from American Queen Voyages. Is her money lost at sea?

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Thousands walk the streets of downtown Everett with cameras in hand for return of Cruzin’ to Colby Monday afternoon in Everett, Washington on May 28, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Everett’s Cruzin’ to Colby car show is ‘place to play on Memorial Day’

And it’s free! Last year’s event drew 50,000 people downtown to see hundreds of gleaming hot rods and cool cars.

“The Tree Frame Cabin” at the site of the Index Cabins, also known as The Pietsch Pit, in Index, Washington on Friday, March 31, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
The Index Cabins showcase Sky Valley beauty — and millions of years of history

Nick and Nassim Pietsch’s property offers six ways to see your surroundings in a new light.

Firearm discovered by TSA officers at Paine Field Thursday morning, May 11, 2023, during routine X-ray screening at the security checkpoint. (Transportation Security Administration)
3 guns caught by TSA at Paine Field this month — all loaded

Simple travel advice: Unpack before you pack to make sure there’s not a gun in your carry-on.

The delicate pink flowers of Soapwort are just one part of the tapestry of blooming ground covers in Steve Smith’s garden right now. (Getty Images)
Lament slow growth no longer: Our gardens they are a-changin’

What a difference a few weeks can make! A late-spring surge never fails to keep things interesting.

Eagles are a powerful symbol in American designs from the Great Seal to everyday decorative arts. A carved eagle holds up this table’s faux marble top.
Colonial Revival pieces celebrate American history with classic symbols

Stars and stripes, Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty and, of course, eagles often appear in works from this period.

Home Garden Briefly: Mill Creek Garden Tour & Artisan Market

Mill Creek Garden Tour & Artisan Market returns For the seventh time,… Continue reading