My holiday cookbook selections. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

My pick for best food book of the year is Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal, a collection of thoughtful, elegantly written essays on food and cooking. Tamar, who has worked mainly for food magazines and has also done actual time on the line at Prune and Chez Panisse, opens the book with the rather preposterous, even arrogant claim of aspiring to the level of the doyenne of the form, MFK Fisher. As it turns out, it’s not so preposterous after all. She’s the real deal. I read the galleys of this book on a beach in Okracoke, NC, this summer and enjoyed every moment of this smart, thoughtful cook’s work. For those who like to read good writing on food, on cooking, on sharing food, both practical information on cooking and more thoughtful observations on the pleasures and rewards of cooking and sharing food, I highly recommend this book.

I’ll mention other books that caught my eye, in no particular order, most of which were sent to me by publishers. I get loads, so many that it is no longer a pleasure, but I do review them so that I know what’s out there and so that I can recommend what’s good.

The indefatigable folks at Cook’s Illustrated have published a compendium, a monster of a book. There are now a lot of these big boys available now—from Gourmet, The New York Times, and others—but I love this one for its explanation of their trials and errors in perfecting recipes and their explanations of why things work. It’s the book I’ll give to my kids when they want a good all-purpose recipe book.

Ed Behr, creator and publisher of the elegant and smart periodical The Art of Eating, has published a lovely book of recipes in honor the magazine’s 25th Anniversary. Congratulations to Ed and his staff from this fan.

Jennifer McLagan has come through again with a quirky and beloved subject, Odd Bits, on cooking the nether reaches of the animals we eat. It’s important that we know how to cook the whole animal, not just the tender parts.

Mourad Lahlou’s New Moroccan is a gorgeous and fascinating cookbook on the San Francisco chefs contemporary Moroccan cuisine (written with my friends Susie Heller and photographer Deborah Jones).

Another chef/restaurant book that I found intriguing was Cooking My Way Back Home: Recipes from San Francisco’s Town Hall, Anchor & Hope, and Salt House, By: Mitchell Rosenthal and Jon Pult. I don’t why, because these books don’t normally impress me and I don’t know the restaurant but I found the food genuinely intriquging.

I had meant to blurb Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time, by Georgia Pelligrini, but work got in the way. Was up on my bedside table when Donna shot the above photo. How can you not be intrigued by a fetching girl holding a hunting rifle on the cover?! Good luck with all your fascinating and ambitious work Georgia!

Brad Parsons has published a gorgeous and fascinating book on Bitters, highly recommend for those interested in spirits.

The beguiling North Carolina chef Andrea Reusing, who hosted a grand dinner on behalf of my new book last month, has published her first and wonderful cookbook, Cooking In the Moment.

Another chef I really admire, Marc Vetri has a new book out, Rustic Italian. And the amazingly prolific British chef, Heston Blumenthal has a lovely new book out on home cooking.

Moving from blog to book is not simply a given; they’re different media. But Lisa Fain succeeds elegantly with her Homesick Texan Cookbook.

And last but not least, a new edition of Clementine Paddleford’s The Great American Cookbook, edited by Kelly Alexander. Paddleford was one of the first American food journalists and her coverage of our country and it’s food at mid 20th Century is fascintating.

All books are long difficult undertakings. Congrats to all these authors on their excellent work, and all those I wasn’t able to mention in this surprisingly strong cookbook season.

If you liked this post on the Season’s Best Book and Others I Like, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved