Have your ever read a cookbook just for the stories in it? Until I married, cookbooks were merely collections of recipes. But then I began buying cookbooks for my mother-in-law, a fabulous cook, as gifts, and my husband told me she liked to read ones that had a lot of descriptions or opinions or stories in them.
That’s how I stumbled across Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well by Sam Sifton. In his introduction, Mr. Sifton explains:
“For a couple years I spent Thanksgiving Day at The New York Times, where I once was restaurant critic and now work as national editor, answering panicked questions from readers. I was a one-man Thanksgiving help line.”
With a wealth of stories, expertise, and very strong opinions, this book is a collection of what he had learned.
I love Mr. Sifton’s style of writing, and his insistence that there is a right way to cook Thanksgiving — no marshmallows on the sweet potatoes, please — and anyone can do it if you plan ahead and work at it. He doesn’t believe in shortcuts. In an age when most people are trying to find hacks for shortening almost any task, it’s refreshing to find someone who refuses to take that route. Yes, Thanksgiving is a lot of work, and that is what’s makes it special. If we keep coming up with ways to make it easier, eventually, we won’t bother celebrating it at all.
I haven’t tried the recipes in the book, but they cover everything from how to tackle the turkey to dessert with additional advice on place settings and clean up. What I can recommend are the stories. Such as the first Thanksgiving the author “took a significant part in cooking … when I was 20” and his first attempt at frying a turkey with many wonderful descriptions and opinions sprinkled throughout.
Do you have a favorite cookbook because of the stories as well as the recipes?