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Notes on Cooking:  A Short Guide to an Essential Craft by Lauren Braun Costello and Russell Reich. Handy tips for my quest to be a better cook. Some tips are very practical such as #91: “Don’t grab a hot pan with a wet cloth. Water conducts heat; you’ll scald yourself.” Others are a bit more thoughtful. #72: “Know the flavors. There is no master score for manipulating flavors but must know the notes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter. Think of the sweetness not only of honey or sugar, but of corn or port; the saltiness of Parmesan and capers as well as seaweed or anchovies; the sourness not just of lemons and vinegar, but of buttermilk and tamarind; and the bitterness found in chocolate or coffee as well as radishes and rhubarb. Your job as the cook is to consider these notes and compose a balance of harmony, melody, rhythm, and counterpoint. Balancing flavors is like writing a glorious song – it makes the dish, and the mind of the diner, dance.” Yes, this is the kind of cook I want to be!

Vanessa & Virginia by Susan Sellers. I heart Virginia Woolf, so I eagerly awaited the arrival of this book. Using an almost stream of consciousness writing style, Sellers work of fiction portrays the life of VW and her sister, Vanessa Bell, through the eyes of Vanessa. Of course we all know where the story is going – to VW’s suicide, but the journey is a nice one. I was fortunate enough to visit the Charleston farmhouse where Vanessa and her family lived (VW and the rest of the Bloomsbury group visited often), so I was quite familiar with much of the setting. I definitely recommend this one to Woolf followers.

A Homemade Life: Stories from my Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg. Wizenberg is the creator of Orangette, a fabulous foody blog. She wrote this touching, yet yummy memoir after the death of her father. Vignettes of her youth, soujourn to college, and beyond are followed by recipes that are mentioned in the stories. Honestly,  I would like to cook every last one! I haven’t yet made anything, but I now see the necessity for a food processor. Am I the only person who doesn’t own one? I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who loves to cook… or even just enjoys eating!

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