These 6 cookbooks are your ticket to the cheapest vacation ever

The best new international cookbooks for cooks who love to travel!


 

How was your Labor Day weekend?

Jarrett and I spent the long weekend in Chicago, and it was an amazing one: we did The Bean, Lakeshore Drive, Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago, a river cruise architectural tour, the Chicago History Museum, and we even had enough time to relax and enjoy time with some family & friends.

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Our gorgeous view of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan from the top of The University Club.

But is it weird to say that I’m ready for a vacation, even though we just had one?

Usually I love getting back to my own home and routine, and I love feeling productive after a few days off. But there’s something about that August to September transition…

If you’re also daydreaming about a vacation but have to sit tight through September, here’s my little secret: a cookbook staycation!

After all, the best part of getting away is eating like a queen, right?

best cookbooks for cooks who love travel

And there are some pretty great cookbooks out this year that will help you cook straight past that wanderlust and make you feel like you’re right in the thick of dinner at that dream destination. According to my calculations, it’s approximately 785% cheaper and easier to do a cookbook staycation than a real-life, haul-yourself-to-a-plane-train-or-automobile vacation.

So here’s what I would do: Cancel everything on a Saturday or Sunday. Fake sick if you have to. Tell the kids/spouse/dog that it’s Cookbook Staycation Day, and they’re going to be part of it. Then wake up at a luxurious hour, have some coffee, read your cookbook in bed, make your shopping list, then stroll—don’t rush—through the store until you’ve piled up everything you need.

Then come home, find an on-theme Pandora station, put any willing hands to work at prep, and cook, cook, cook. Eat, eat, eat, exhale happily, and (if you’re feeling ambitious) watch a movie themed around the destination. Or just go to bed and dream happy, faraway dreams.

But before we can get to all that, start with this list of the best new cookbooks to take you away—with one of these on their way to you, you’ll soon be just as relaxed, rested, and gloriously well-fed as post vacation you has ever been.

6 new cookbooks for cooks who love to travel

Excerpted from The Kitchn.

With the last days of summer still ahead of us and the heat sticking to our backs, you might think grilling, grilling, and grilling are your only options for dinner. But picking at grilled chicken while scrolling through everyone else’s vacation photos is a straight path to lunacy.

So put down the grill tongs, step away from the envy, and have yourself a deliciously rollicking staycation, where you can be eating salsa-dipped chorizo and potato sandwiches in Mexico one day and Streuselkuchen in Germany the next.

Bangkok cookbook review

1. Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand by Leela Punyaratabandhu, $35

Bangkok is one of the top-ranked travel destinations in the world, and this book will slip you into the busy city and take you on the food tour of a lifetime. The beautiful photography captures a busy city — a monk looking out the window of a commuter boat, hands turning skewers of grilled meat at a market stall — but leaves out the over 16 million tourists that crowd the city each year.

Opt out of the tourist herd and opt in to a staycation with Punyaratabandhu, who will guide you through the essential and the innovative recipes and show you the pleasures of sourcing and cooking Thai ingredients every day, instead of just vacation-binging on them.

Nopalito mexican cookbook review

2. Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen by Gonzalo Guzmán and Stacy Adimando, $30

Admit it: You may be in a taco rut. But you don’t have to save the diverse miracles of Mexican food for nights out — Nopalito will usher you into a kitchen in Mexico, where anyone can master the fundamentals and extract them into unexpected and delicious weeknight dinners.

Let this gorgeous book pull you into the food and culture of Mexico, then walk determinedly into your kitchen and make those salsa-dipped chorizo and potato sandwiches.

taste of persia cookbook review

3. Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by Naomi Duguid, $35

Not every revered cuisine has a pin-on-the-map destination, and Persian food is one of those. Persia was once the world’s largest, most powerful, and intellectually advanced empire, and although Persians as an ethnic group are now mostly in Iran, it’s a culture and a cuisine that flaunts modern borders.

It’s hard to find a more ancient or humbling culinary tradition than this, and just a few nights eating at the table with Taste of Persia will inspire the same feelings of awe and curiosity that only the world’s greatest wonders can.

Click here to keep reading this list on The Kitchn!


What To Read This Week

3 Lesser-Known Books to Help You Understand, Manage, and Overcome Anxiety (Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy): Anne struggled with anxiety onset by 9/11, and here are the 3 books (originally recommended by mental health professionals) she wishes she’d had when she was stuck in the mess of anxiety. I’m a big believer that books can help us heal and untangle ourselves, and these 3 books are a great start for uncovering what’s really going on with anxiety.

8 Ways to Spark Agent & Editor Interest in Your Book (Linda Sivertsen of BookMama): “Other than writing a RIVETING page turner of a book, no matter your genre, you can guess my answer. Uh huh. Build. Your. Platform. But before you head for the fridge, hear me out. The process will grow you and your writing and make you infinitely more magnetic. Here are eight of my favorite things you can do, including resources and tactics I’ve tried that have made a big difference in my career.”

How to Run a Successful Blog as a Partnership (Rachel Tiemeyer and Polly Conner on Food Blogger Pro Podcast): My smart and sweet authors, Polly and Rachel, are chatting with Bjork of Pinch of Yum about how they run their blog together. And yes, they wrote their book together, too! (You have preordered your copy of From Freezer to Table, right?) 🙂

You Can’t Edit Your Own Book and Here Are 7 Reasons Why (Blake Atwood on The Write Life): Yes, yes, yes. You really can’t edit your own book. I’ve been an in-house editor at book publishers, and I still want someone else to look at anything I write. It’s not about skill—it’s about perspective. Fresh eyes are the best eyes.

The Odor “Wheel” Decoding the Smell of Old Books (Eric Grundhauser for Atlas Obscura): “It’s official. Science has decided that old books smell ‘smoky,’ ‘earthy,’ and more than anything, ‘woody.’” It’s almost like they’re made from trees, right?


What We’re Eating This Week

As an act of mercy (i.e. so I don’t bore you to death), let me tell you about what we ate in Chicago instead of the nonexistent dinners I’ll be having in NYC this week.

Friday: We had the most spectacular meal at North Pond! I loved the Arts and Crafts feel of the dining room, and we had a perfect view of Lincoln Park and the pond from our table. The staff even gave us a little shout-out on our version of the menu for our anniversary! Aren’t we spoiled?

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Saturday: I love, love, love when good friends cook for us, and we had some amazing Ropa Vieja at our friends’ Charley and Catherine’s house. Also, there were Hemingway Daiquiris. I felt both literary and literally stuffed.

Sunday: Again, we were treated to a great home-cooked meal of grilled salmon and potatoes and broccoli and salad by our friends Rob and Sherry. It was that perfect mix of last-bit-of-fresh summer cooking yet buttery enough that we knew we were still on vacation. It felt indulgent, so I did, in fact, indulge.

Monday: Well, we might have eaten a meat-lovers pizza and then Chicago-style Char Dogs with all the fixin’s at Midway. But don’t we all need one last binge before we’re back to the real world of respectable eating?

Tuesday-Friday: Respectability ensues. (Just kidding. I want tacos.)

Cheers!

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One-pot harissa pasta

How many hours have you been staring at the computer today? Spring is so busy, and sometimes it’s hard to shake off the glow of our screens and step out of the tunnel of the Internet.

We’re doing just that in Greece for our honeymoon right now, and oh man, does it feel good. Fresh air, new scenery, SO much to eat. After an insanely busy past few weeks, Greece feels like breathing deep again.

I’m just so happy to be spending some time outside, away from the computer. A lot of folks think us book people are introverts who’d rather sit inside all day reading a book rather than socializing. Which is totally true. But I’m also willing to sit outside all day reading a book. I think that makes me adventurous.

If you also want to try something new tonight, and you’re bleary eyed from staring at your manuscript or the computer screen for hours, then come over here. Back away from the computer, tiptoe into the kitchen, and make this really, really slowly. Isn’t it nice to remember what unrushed cooking feels like?

harissa pasta skinnytaste recipe

This pasta is:

  1. Cozy, comforting, reassuring, and all those other words you want to come home to after a long day
  2. Excellent when paired with a book or ouzo
  3. Spicy, and just a little bit adventurous. Like reading outside.

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The one word that should guide all your marketing

We’re having rain after rain after rain here, and that’s led to a lot of staying in and cooking and gin rummy playing. We recently got addicted to gin rummy after finally figuring out that we could play just the two of us, and now the competition has become fierce. Pepper has had to referee a few “disagreements” about the rules. I think that makes her the level-headed adult in the house.

(In unrelated news, here’s Pepper ready to hit the pavement for some job interviews. We had to stage an intervention last week and tell her that her free ride is up, and it’s time to start paying rent. Let’s hope someone else finds her more employable than we do!)

literary agent blog

We also spent a few days in Michigan this past weekend, and all the rain there brought up a crop of morels on the farm. We picked nearly 7 pounds of them, and now we’re going to cook them every which way we can think of.

literary agent blog

literary agent blog

Speaking of windfalls, I wanted to chat today about a word we don’t hear too often in the world of blogging and publishing:

Generosity.

Generosity doesn’t get talked about much, but it’s really the business we’re in as book people.

It’s the train car that’s pushed along by the engine of purpose—it’s essentially the outward expression of inward compassion for readers.

Generosity in writing means keeping a single-minded focus on bringing joy to others and feeling deeply, monumentally grateful that they’ve given a few precious minutes of their lives to your words. As Elizabeth Gilbert puts it in Big Magic:

“Learn to share things with an open heart and no expectations. Live out the existence that best suits your nature.”

There’s a magic that happens when you push all your cells in the direction of serving others, even if you haven’t had nearly enough coffee yet, even if you can only eke out a few moments of big-heartedness each day, even if nobody will notice or appreciate it.

That, I think, is one of the most important traits all successful bloggers and writers have: they start with giving and they end with giving, and in between they give a little more.

Effective Book Marketing for Authors

I am so, so lucky that my authors start there. They’re already at the top of their fields, running successful businesses, and well-known for the quality of their work. They have it all, and they want to share it all. That’s the kind of heart I look for when signing an author.

Which brings me to a related and important point that few people talk about:

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How to organize your cookbook recipes

I know it sounds strange, but I have a very specific process for welcoming a new cookbook into my home. We get a ton of them crossing our desks at Stonesong—either given to us at editor lunches or sent by the publishers—but I only let a few of them come home with me.

(I’ve seen first-hand what a life of book-hoarding looks like, and I don’t want to be surrounded in my old age by a lot of books I only sort of like. And then have to dust them!)

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So on the rare occasion when a cookbook makes the first cut and gets an invite home, we have to have a little period of getting to know each other. We sit on the couch together, and I read every single last word the author has to say to me, starting with the front matter and all the way through the acknowledgments.

As I go through, I dog-ear each and every recipe I want to try, running through a whole list of questions before I’ll give a recipe a fold:

Can I cook this on a weeknight?
Is there something new and exciting about this recipe to me?
Are these ingredients I usually have or can easily get?
Is this a good weekend project to push me out of my comfort zone?

But see, the problem is that a dog-eared page doesn’t really tell me why I wanted to make that recipe. And it doesn’t call out to me that “This is the one!” when I’m in a rush and trying to plan a week’s worth of meals.

When I heard from so many people about how they hate to fold the pages of their favorite books, or how they love to use sticky notes to mark recipes they want to try, I realized this wasn’t just a problem I had. I think it’s generally kind of hard to mark-off cookbook recipes in the categories that actually matter to you!

So I decided to have some fun and work up a solution for myself that would make it much, much easier for me to find that just-right recipe from each of my cookbooks.

Here are the cookbook index tabs I came up with, free for your downloading and printing and cooking pleasure!

Free printable cookbook tabs, perfect for categorizing your recipes

cookbook index tabs

cookbook index tabs

cookbook index tabs

Cookbook index tabs

Aren’t these fun?! Jarrett has already requested that I make him a set for his cocktail books.

You can download the file for these cookbook index tabs for free here, print them on these sturdy Avery tabs, and then have fun indexing your cookbooks for the way you really use them!

Click here to download these printable cookbook index tabs!

 

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What I’m Reading This Week

Which Cookbook Cover Should We Use? Your Vote Counts (Thriving Home): Polly and Rachel continue the fun by letting their readers choose the cover for their upcoming cookbook. I personally love both options–what do you think?

Losing by Winning (Seth Godin): “Culture, it turns out, is built on people losing in the short run on behalf of the long-term win. Connection and trust and reputation are worth more than any single inning. Not to mention that a tantrum not only ruins the relationship, it can ruin your day as well.”

May Sarton on the Artist’s Duty to Contact the Timeless in Tumultuous Times (Maria Popova of Brain Pickings): This is not only timeless, but timely: “Now it has become impossible to guard one’s soul… we are forced to read the papers, and yet… our job is somehow or other to be above the mêlée, or so deeply in it that one comes through to something else, something universal and timeless.”

How to Become More Consistent in Your Daily Journaling (Michael Hyatt): Do you journal? I’ve always wanted to be the journaling type, but no matter how many pretty notebooks I bought, I couldn’t seem to stick to the habit. But I love Michael Hyatt’s idea here of using a template for journal entries, so you’re not reinventing the wheel each morning. And I’m determined to try the Day One app he recommends!


What We’re Eating This Week

On to more urgent matters: what are we going to eat this week?

Monday: We made this ridiculous bro recipe for Super Bowl Sunday (guess who’s idea this was…), and now we have very full bellies and too many leftover cold-cuts in the fridge. The only solution? Muffuletta salad! The definition of healthy-ish.

Tuesday: I’ll be in NYC for a dim sum party to celebrate the launch of Crown’s new online mag, Taste! Jarrett will be eating whatever’s in the back of the fridge.

Wednesday: If I play my cards right, I’ll talk Jarrett into picking up what we affectionately call “The Chicken” from El Pollo Rico before he picks me up at the train station.

Thursday: I’m still on my white chicken chili kick–it’s just the only thing I want to eat lately. Chili in the mornin’, chili in the evenin’, chili at suppertime

Friday: Taco night, and I’m hoping that between now and Friday I dig up a really great shrimp taco recipe from one of my cookbooks. But suggestions are always welcome!

Cheers!

Get one tip for upgrading your literary life sent to your inbox each week!

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