Cookbooks at the Library: Holiday Favorites and Year-Round Resources

While we all might celebrate holidays a little differently, there are a few things most of us share. At the top of that list is food. It’s no surprise then that librarians and library users alike have a soft spot for the Library’s collection of cookbooks.  

There's something for everyone: favorite series like those from Smitten Kitchen, Ottolenghi, Martha Stewart and Half Baked Harvest. There are cookbooks for types of cuisine and types of appliances, various diets and holidays. And Diana Spencer knows most of them.  
Spencer, a Youth Information Specialist at Corinth Library, sometimes spends time in the nonfiction stacks so she can scope out new cookbooks. A pretty cover catches her attention, she says, but what she cares about most is what’s inside. 

She tends to gravitate to cookbooks that can give her patrons the same things she values in a cookbook: “Something that draws out their creativity, something that they find confidence in doing. I think cooking is a form of expression. When I’m cooking, I know that I'm taking care of other people and nurturing them, and I hope that maybe somebody else might find that same joy in cooking,” she said.   
She’s right. Patrons Tonia Hites Hartzell and Anita Kendall also spend time looking for new cookbooks at the Library, particularly during the holidays.  
Hartzell says she currently has 13 cookbooks checked out, including a variety of vegetarian and vegan books to consult as she plans an unconventional Christmas and New Year's menu, as well as two of Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen cookbooks.  
Kendall says she used to check out cookbooks for the holidays often when she and her wife were first married; over the years they’ve perfected their favorite recipes and don’t tend to check out as many holiday-themed cookbooks. But in January, she says, when the winter doldrums hit, they often find themselves “looking for cookbooks for meals for 2, soups, and other ways to liven things up!” 
Something Spencer, Hartzell and Kendall share is that no matter how many they’ve already read, they always find new cookbooks that seem interesting. “I never get bored reading a cookbook, even if it's not what I'm going to make,” Spencer said. “I still like to sit and read about the history of the recipes and where they originated and things like that.” 
Hartzell has gifted her children cookbooks as they’ve become adults. “My daughter will be receiving Martha Stewart’s 'Hors D’oeuvres Handbook,' Martha Stewart Pies and Tarts and The Book on Pie by Erin Jeanne McDowell this year,” she says.  
Kendall has asked for several cookbooks as gifts after checking them out. A few of the cookbooks first checked out from the Library and now in her home library include “Warm Bread and Honey Cake,” Comfort and Joy, Cookies to Die For!, and various Instant Pot cookbooks.  
As for favorites, each cookbook lover has said that’s the hardest question. Still, Kendall says, “'Warm Bread and Honey Cake' is just a gorgeous one I'd recommend. It's got sweet, cozy reminiscences, beautiful pictures and a huge variety of interesting recipes. It's wonderful to leaf through for 5 minutes, read deeply for hours, or just cook from.” (You can reserve this title through Interlibrary Loan.) 
Hartzell recommends the Smitten Kitchen series, 100 Cookies by Sarah Kieffer (especially the Neapolitan cookies) and “almost all of the books from the Milk Street by Christopher Kimball collection.” 
Spencer, who has developed an interest in baking challah (the traditional bread Jewish people eat on Shabbat) and makes it about three times a week using different braided designs, made a list of newer and older titles, which reflects her love of both experimentation and tradition. 
Though Spencer observes Hanukkah as an adult, she has many memories of Christmas as a child with her family, which include great memories of their holiday food traditions growing up: “We try to keep a lot of those recipes still going today because we don't have the same family members with us anymore. Carrying a lot of those recipes forward is important to everybody in my family. All three of my sisters cook, my mom cooks and my two nieces love to be in the kitchen too. It runs in the family.”