Saturday, June 26, 2010

Baking the Books

It's Saturday night and I've just baked a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies--the epitome of simplicity, just the Nestle Toll House recipe, with extra salt for a lovely little kick in the middle of pure sweetness. I have never learned to cook anything besides pasta, and literally am unable to boil an egg, but I love to bake--it calms me to know that I can spend the time I need to read the recipe over and over and do each step before contemplating the next, and then put the combined deliciousness in the over to plump up into something delectable.

Then, of course, there's nothing that goes quite so well with a warm gooey cookie as a fresh new book or a return to a beloved favorite. Tonight, in between reading manuscripts for work, I'm returning to Mary Oliver's poetry, and also thinking of a recently finished book--Dominique Browning's SLOW LOVE: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas & Found Happiness. I highly recommend her book, and also that you take a look at her accompanying blog. In the book, Browning writes about learning to cook and the idea that one only needs to love the process--rather than be intimidated--to be able to succeed. This idea has invigorated me, and I'm spending tomorrow building a shelf for my kitchen to house all my gorgeous, untouched cookbooks and soon hope to be pulling on my apron and pouring out my love onto those impossible-to-hard boil eggs. I have faith in my future achievement.

In the meantime, I'm opening myself up to the world that Browning discovered online, all the cooking and baking sites too numerous to name here. Though I'm not a technology person--I'm still put off by computer screens, even if I do spend my days in front of one--I honor the invention of something that increases the ability for conversations across worlds. I wanted a recipe that involved Nutella the other day, and found myself peeking into people's kitchens from near and far to read about their recipes, and then all the suggestions and stories that poured forth in the comments.

One of my favorite communities is Knopf's cooking blog, run by colleagues whose personalities and enthusiasms shine through. Another of my daily favorites isn't a cooking site per se, but Grace Bonney's design*sponge, which recently featured a baklava recipe that I'm eager to try as soon as I remember to pick up rosewater from the store. Laurie Muchnick, book editor at Bloomberg, recently put me onto The Tipsy Baker, and I can't wait to follow along as Tipsy makes her way through more cookbooks and accompanying adventures (I could tell I was going to like her as soon as I read her first post, from back in 2006: "Everybody and her hamster has a blog, and I want one too!").

In my house, there are three areas for books. Two enormous oak bookcases in my blue bedroom, which house every type of book (and includes a whole shelf on the bottom of children's books) except for poetry--that resides in a shelf all its own in my living room--and cookbooks, which will be happily living together (instead of in piles) on my aforementioned new kitchen shelves. I'm looking forward to an exciting new future of a store that's used for more than ramen, and cookbooks that are beautifully stained and call forth favorite recipes. For now, I'm off to have another cookie and a dose of Mary Oliver lines (such as this, from "Honey at the Table": "...a taste composed of everything lost, in which everything lost is found." Also loved by Miz Masala.)

What are your trusted cookbooks, cooking sites, and well-remembered meals? Please share, and make us all hungry for more good food and good words.


  1. Aw, thanks for the cooking site shout-out, Katie. When are we going to get a cooking post from YOU on the blog?

  2. Anything by Diana Kennedy or Martha Hall Foose, for me, is golden. Also Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

  3. Mark Bittman is my imaginary cooking uncle whenever I need something really simple, like a pie crust or a way to use up 2 cups of heavy cream...

  4. Pam! I just saw your comment...when can I post? I'm going to try to make chocolate hazelnut baklava with cardamom honey syrup soon, would be fun to post about that...