All Booked: What’s Cooking, Good Looking?

Diving Into Cookbook Collections for the Holidays

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Hello, book lovers! It has been a while. My partner in this newsletter, Caitlin Fitch, has been avidly reading for the past few months. She always has new and interesting books and thoughts to share with you all. Unfortunately, I have been in a bit of a reading slump. It has been a struggle for me to pick up a book or even hit play on a few audiobooks, and even when I do, I make it about 20 minutes before my mind wanders, and I realize I need to start over. This happens to me about once every two years or so. I’ve learned to accept it as a phase, and the faster I embrace the reading slump and take a break from reading, the sooner it is over.

While I am not reading traditional novels or nonfiction, I have been diving headfirst into my cookbook collection. Not only am I reading my cookbooks, but I am actually cooking from them, too — something my husband is very thankful for. Due to my recent shift in reading habits, and because we are quickly approaching the holiday season, I wanted to share with you all a few of my favorites.

Credit: Courtesy

I received Suzanne Lenzer’s Graze as a Christmas gift from my brother a few years ago, and it is quite possibly my favorite cookbook in my collection. This is my main source of inspiration for when I am having the girls over or a more casual dinner party. All the recipes are “inspiration for small plates and meandering meals.” Perfect for those long summer nights lounging in the backyard, a holiday cocktail party, or even a picnic at the Rose Garden. Lenzer divides the book into three main sections: Mostly Chopping, A Bit of Cooking, and Worth the Effort, so you can decide how much time and prep you want to commit to. She also lists sample menus such as “A French Affair for Many” and “Fall Supper by the Fire.” If you are new to cooking and hosting, this book is the perfect starting point.

Credit: Courtesy

Now, for those who are looking for a challenge, look no further than Gjelina by Travis Lett. Lett is the head chef at the popular Venice restaurant Gjelina. I have had the pleasure of dining there a couple of times, and both experiences were extremely memorable. You know a restaurant is good when their dishes show up in your dreams. I hope to make it back there sometime soon, but until I do, I can bring a bit of Gjelina magic into my own home with their cookbook.

Filled with stunning photographs, stories from the kitchen, and a focus on quality ingredients, Lett brings you into his mind as a chef. There is quite a variety of recipes in this book. Some take minutes to construct, while others can take days. But when you love to cook, if there anything more fun than planning and prepping all week for a dinner party? I swear it tastes better.


This edition of All Booked was originally emailed to subscribers on October 26, 2021. To receive Emily Cosentino Lee and Caitlin Fitch’s literary newsletter in your inbox, sign up at independent.com/newsletters.


Credit: Courtesy

By no means am I a vegan, but I do happen to own quite a few vegan cookbooks — six, to be precise. I purchased them all for different reasons, but I would have to say that my favorite of the bunch is Mississippi Vegan by Timothy Pakron. This cookbook is a thick one and is filled with recipes showcasing the beauty of vegetables, grains, and plant protein. Before all you non-vegan readers scrunch up your noses, I challenge you to rethink your relationship with “vegan food.” There is so much beauty to be found in ingredients that are often overlooked. Pakron does an impeccable job of showcasing the abundance and deliciousness that vegetables can provide.

If you are interested in getting a taste for these types of recipes, Pakron has an Instagram and a blog where he posts additional recipes. Pakron is also just a really great human who loves to garden, cook, and photograph his creations. I have been following him for years, and when he published this cookbook, I knew I needed it in my collection. I cried reading the acknowledgements.

Reply to this email and let me know some of your go-to cookbooks. I’m always looking to expand my collection with quality recipes that either offer up a challenge or inspiration or, in the best cases, both.

Happy cooking!

Your smitten bookworm, Emily

If you are a local author, host book events in the Santa Barbara area, or have any other fun bookish tips for us, please send your recommendations for consideration to allbooked@independent.com.


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