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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)