The end of the year always brings out the "best of" cookbook lists. I like check them out and see what was hot and what I missed — and I missed a lot this year. I didn’t spend much time looking at new cookbooks or even pouring over the cookbooks I already own. It was just that kind of year.
As a result, many of the books that made the 2014 best cookbook lists are unfamiliar to me. I took a look at the lists from six sources: Serious Eats, Good Reads, Washington Post, Powells, NPR and The Splendid Table to see what resonated with people. It was interesting to see that the lists had few books in common, but one genre did stand out: global cuisine, specifically Middle Eastern and Asian cooking.
“The Banh Mi Handbook” by Andrea Nguyen showed up on three lists. The cookbook has 50 recipes for the Vietnamese sandwich. Books with titles like “World Spice at Home,” “Persiana,” “Asian Pickles,” “Simple Tai Food” and “Mediterranean Vegetarian Feast” were on almost all lists.
Two French cookbooks were favorites: David Lebovitz’ “My Paris Kitchen” was the cookbook that many lists had in common (four of the six picked it), and Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking Chez Moi” was on three of the lists.
Other books that showed up on three of the lists were “Nom Nom Paleo” and “Apples of Uncommon Character.”
There were about 55 books between the six lists, and only 14 books showed up on more than one of them. I’m not surprised. Picking a best cookbook is subjective. It depends on factors like what kind of food you like, how skilled you are in the kitchen, and who you’re cooking for. Although there wasn’t a definitive best, I’m glad I spent some time with these lists because there are three books that caught my attention.
- “One Hour Cheese” by Claudia Lucero: Making cheese in on my someday-I-want-to-do-it list, and I think it would be good to start out trying simple and quick recipes to build up my confidence. This seems like the book that could do that. (Powells list)
- “Saveur: New Classics” by the editors of Saveur: I love Saveur and have success with the recipes in the magazine. I’d like the chance to work through this collection of 100 recipes.
- “Twelve Recipes” by Cal Peternell: A basics of cooking book that a Chez Panisse chef wrote after teaching his college son his way around the kitchen over the phone. I’ve taught my sons some basics, but I’m betting this cookbook will take them further than I have.
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