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Cookbooks Make Great Gifts 

A list with a little something for everyone

Maybe you cook, maybe you don't. Maybe you get your recipes online and don't see the point of owning a stack of cookbooks. Or maybe you have a bookshelf full of cookbooks and treasure every single one of them. Whichever side of the cookbook fence you're on, there are most likely people in your gift-giving circle who would love to receive a new cookbook this year.

According to NPD Books, the outfit that offers sales tracking information about physical and digital book sales in the U.S., print cookbook sales rose 8.2% last year, thanks at least in part to the pandemic and people spending more time at home and in the kitchen. And as recently as this October, year-to-date sales of baking cookbooks were 42% higher than 2020.

As the pandemic forced more people into the kitchen, cookbook sales have increased. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • As the pandemic forced more people into the kitchen, cookbook sales have increased.

Just about every entity that has anything to do with food (and some that don't, i.e. businessinsider.com) is putting out its "Best Cookbooks of 2021" list right now. Here at the Source Weekly, we've compiled a list of our own, with a couple of cookbooks with local connections and a little bit of something for everyone.

click to enlarge "Big Boards for Families" by local author Sandy Coughlin. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • "Big Boards for Families" by local author Sandy Coughlin.

Let's start with "Big Boards for Families" by local author Sandy Coughlin, founder of the Reluctant Entertainer recipe and hospitality blog. Her recently released book, published by Fair Winds Press, is all about creating big, beautiful food boards that bring everyone together around the table. The book has over 50 board ideas including recipes offering a variety of ingredients and customizable options—everything from a Weekend Breakfast Taco Board to the Pistachio Lemon Salmon Board to a Funfetti Cookie Dough board, along with tips and resource info. Coughlin's daughter Abby took the impressive photos in the book, which will make you want to create your own big board of food.

The second cookbook with a local connection is Alicia Witt's new "Small Changes: A Rules-Free Guide to Add More Plant-Based Foods, Peace and Power to Your Life." This HarperCollins release, written by Witt, an actor now based in Nashville, features food photography by local photographer Tambi Lane and recipe testing and food styling by yours truly, food writer Donna Britt. Witt shares her philosophy of how a few small changes to your daily habits can help you create a healthier, more mindful lifestyle. From Superfood Pancakes to Creamy Mushroom Pasta to Chocolate Mint Avocado Mousse to the best homemade granola this writer has ever eaten, Witt's recipes are solid and delicious. Most of them are meant for serving one or two, but you can always double them.

Our list continues with a book that is on almost every other "Best of" cookbook list this year. The "New Native Kitchen" by Freddie Bitsoie and James O. Fraioli explores American Indian recipes from coast to coast, like Chocolate Bison Chili and Prickly Pear Sweet Pork Chops, and offers modern interpretations of 100 recipes. Navajo Bitsoie is the former executive chef at the Mitsitam Café at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and one of the few Native American chefs at the forefront of educating about foods indigenous to the Americas. Fraioli is a 2014 James Beard Award winner and has nearly two dozen cookbooks to his credit.

click to enlarge Alicia Witt's "Small Changes" has local connections. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • Alicia Witt's "Small Changes" has local connections.

"Celebrate with Kim-Joy: Cute Cakes and Bakes to Make Every Occasion Joyful" is the latest from The Great British Baking Show series nine runner-up Kim-Joy. Here you'll find 60 sweet recipes full of color, fun and imagination to celebrate everything from birthdays to weddings to Christmas. Vegan and gluten-free alternatives are provided along with step-by-step photography and a dash of positivity. Kim-Joy is known for her adorable and creative bakes. The child in everyone will appreciate her whimsiness and signature cuteness.

If you're looking for a cookbook for a kitchen newbie, you might try the beautifully illustrated "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat" by Samin Nosrat, who outlines the foundations of cooking in this 2018 James Beard Cookbook of the Year. Nosrat is a columnist at The New York Times and host of the Netflix original documentary series based on her book. This read is a go-to for things like when to salt your chicken to how to make perfect focaccia bread.

Last, but certainly not least, is Pati Jinich's "Treasures of the Mexican Table: Classic Recipes, Local Secrets" offering over 150 iconic Mexican dishes. The host of the three-time James Beard award-winning PBS series, "Pati's Mexican Table," brings culinary treasures from her home country to this new book. Jinich set out to highlight the culinary diversity and ingredients from Mexico in this huge book (over 400 pages) and she does just that. The recipes, many handed down for generations, accompany stories from Jinich and each of them has been tested in her American kitchen.

So while this list may be shorter than others, this handful of offerings will at least get you started on exploring all of the culinary offerings of the season. Bon appétit!

Print cookbook sales rose 8.2% last year thanks at least in part to the pandemic and people spending more time at home and in the kitchen. And as recently as this October, year-to-date sales of baking cookbooks were 42% higher than 2020.Alicia Witt's Small Changes has local connections

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