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Omnivore: Great Cookbooks for the Season

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For the next issue of our print publication, SAY Magazine, we're taking a deep look at the landscape of independent food publishers which includes our partners Food52, Serious Eats and Amateur Gourmet as well as offbeat sites like Scanwiches (scans of great sandwiches) and NY Barfly (a sophisticate's guide to drinking and debasement).This of course led us to Celia Sack, the owner of Omnivore Books – a carefully curated selection of the best cookbooks, new and old. We'll have more on her picks of the best blog to print cookbooks in Spring issue of SAY Magazine, but in the meantime we also asked her to help us pick the best cookbooks of the season as gifts. Here's xoJane contributor Daisy Barringer's report:

Walking into Celia Sack’s culinary bookstore Omnivore Books on Food, where new and classic cookbooks nestle on the shelves with rare and collectible titles, I was struck by the realization that no matter how many Kindles or Nooks we buy, the Cookbook will always be best in its original book form. A book about baking feels loved and used if one opens it to find dashes of flour or smudges of chocolate on the worn pages. But just see what happens if you try to get your frosting-covered fingers near my iPad.

I stopped by Celia’s charming shop to ask her about great books to give for the holidays. Since she she stocks all of the very best books on food and drink, there’s no one more qualified to recommend something for everyone on your list.

For the Novice Chef

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Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook’s Manifesto, by Michael Ruhlman

“He writes about twenty techniques that you need in the kitchen and explains why you need a technique. Salt is a technique. Acid is a technique. And then he has 100 recipes around those techniques. It’s very smart and would really teach someone who’s learning to cook.”

For the Cocktail Aficionado

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Bitters, A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Forumulas, by Brad Thomas Parsons and Ed Anderson

“This is a fun book because Brad is a cocktail guy. His website is all about making and using bitters to enhance cocktails. I’d recommend this for any cocktail aficionado or people who are just into drinking and learning more about it.”

For the Bread Lover

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Artisan Breads Every Day, by Peter Reinhart

“Peter Reinhart is The Bread God. And what he’s done that’s interesting is that he’s gotten a lot of his readers to test his recipes for him. He’ll put a bunch of recipes he’s considering for a book and hundreds of people will try them and say how it went.”

For the Vegetarian

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Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks

“This book is great because Heidi tests her recipes really well, which is a big thing for me; I love that. She’s also got a strong, unique voice that really comes through in the writing. Plus, since it’s all vegetarian, there are some really interesting recipes.”

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For the Single Guy or Gal

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Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself, by Joyce Goldstein

“Joyce Goldstein is a Bay Area chef. Really good. Also teaches you how to shop well and stock your kitchen.”

For the Person Who Loves to Read and Cook

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The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks, by Kathleen Flinn

“Kathleen Flinn went into a grocery store in Florida and saw someone buying crappy foods. She got up the nerve to go talk to her about her eating habits and asked if she knew how to cook a chicken. The woman had no idea and so Kathleen taught her and eight other women. She taught them how to cook from home and how to use vegetables and chickens—really simple ingredients. She showed them they could save tons of money by cooking, changed their lives, and wrote a memoir about it.”

For the Baker

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The Italian Baker, by Carol Field

“A classic that was just reissued, it’s such a pretty and well designed book. Just really good all around.”

For Everyone Else

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The Sunset Cookbook: Over 1,000 Fresh, Flavorful Recipes for the Way You Cook Today, by the editors of Sunset Magazine

“This is going to be a shocker, but I really love The Sunset Cookbook. It may sound dowdy, but since it’s cooking of the west, it contains a lot of interesting Mexican and Asian recipes that are easy to do. Every time I open the book, I find something I want to make that usually takes less than an hour. And it tells you calorie count and time commitment. I really love that book. It’s a good catchall.”

And just in case you’re wondering what to get a woman like Celia Sack, who loves everything about cooking from the shopping to the ingredients to the prep, I asked her what books are on her holiday list this year. The answer?


And don’t forget, while all of Celia Sack’s recommendations are available on Amazon, they’re also available at her store, Omnivore Books on Food. We love the Internet, but we also love supporting great (and well-curated) stores. You can also call the store Monday-Saturday (11 a.m. – 6 p.m.) or Sunday (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to ask about the numerous vintage and signed books for sale. She will happily ship books anywhere in the world. 415.282.4712

Daisy Barringer is the sports editor for xoJane.

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