Almost all of my best childhood memories involve making and eating food. My mother (who raised 10 children, several chickens, a few horses, some cows and a couple of sheep) somehow always found the time to bake bread from scratch, make huge pots of soups and stews and pan after pan of casseroles. To this day, the taste of tuna noodle casserole brings me back to our farm house in northern New York where we lived until I was 11. My mother taught me how to cook and bake, too, letting me pat a bit of dough into my own miniature pan before sliding it into the oven for me alongside her own perfect loaves.

In a large family like mine, food becomes a language of its own. When I was little, holiday preparation involved elaborate checklists to make sure we made every siblings’ favorite treat, and each family gathering was orchestrated around meals. Graduations, weddings, reunions, funerals, all were accompanied by pots of spaghetti sauce, loaves of focaccia with rosemary and garlic, my sister’s (in)famously sour cherry pie (for my sister’s version, use the minimum amount of sugar) with its delicate lattice crust.

In my adult life, food and cooking have also played a pivotal role. In the summer of 2020, I made and decorated my own wedding cake, and that November I made my first ever Thanksgiving meal with my husband, including my personal favorites, pumpkin pie and homemade cranberry sauce. We ate, just the two of us, at our tiny kitchen table and video chatted with both sides of our family, trying to feel less isolated during the first year of COVID-19, watching the steam curl off our plates.

Many recipes that I use and love are from the internet, or the backs of cans or bags of chocolate chips, but I also have a shelf full of cookbooks at my house. A second-hand copy of “The Joy of Cooking” that my mother gave me when I moved into my first apartment, a glossy fully-illustrated book on gluten-free, dairy-free cooking from my father in-law when I tried (and subsequently failed) to go vegan, and many others, feel as much a part of my home as the foods within them. There’s just something about food and family and home for me – I can’t unbraid them from each other.

For anyone looking for a beloved classic to tap into some food-nostalgia, or perhaps a completely unfamiliar set of recipes to create new family traditions, here are some titles you might want to check out from the Stillwater Public Library:

“Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer (641.597 ROM). A classic in many homes, this cookbook has everything from soup to nuts, as the saying goes, and includes one of the best macaroni and cheese recipes in existence.

“Love Soup” by Anna Thomas (641.5 THO). For fans of Thomas’s versatile cookbook “The Vegetarian Epicure,” this collection of recipes features 160 exciting soup recipes for all seasons, hot or cold, and all of them are completely vegetarian.

“Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking” by Toni Tipton Martin (641.59 TIP). Equal parts recipes, history, and celebration this cookbook also features stunning photographs that will have your mouth watering before you’ve even preheated the oven.

“Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home” by Eric Kim (641.5951 KIM). Described as an “homage” to Korean-American culture, this cookbook also features a wide variety of recipes and dishes, including a section titled “Kimchi is a verb.”

“The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Sherman (641.59 SHE). Another blend of family, culture, and food, Sherman’s book offers authentic recipes from Indigenous peoples in the Dakota and Minnesota territories that reclaim and celebrate traditional Native cooking practices.

“Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, With More Than 150 Recipes” by Suvir Saran (641.5954 SAR). Like “Jubilee,” Saran’s collection also features beautiful photographs of the recipes within. This book is meant for beginner cooks as well experienced and has a variety of meat and vegetarian dishes to try out.

“The Fannie Farmer Cookbook” by Marion Cunningham (641.597 CUN). One of mom’s favorites, this cookbook was an absolute staple in my house growing up particularly for its absolutely perfect oatmeal cookie recipe (“Cape Cod Oatmeal Cookies,” p. 615).

There are countless other cookbooks available on our non-fiction shelf, including some that cater to gluten-free diets, vegan and vegetarian, easy dinners, crockpot or hotpot cooking and more. Also feel free to stop by the circulation or reference desk to get more even more recommendations or favorite recipes.

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