We don't recommend a lot of cookbooks these days. It's not that we don't love them. (We do, as our cluttered bookshelves attest!)
It's just that we haven't been reading as many of them lately. And when we do, we don't usually buy them, opting instead to sample them from the library. That way, when we do purchase a cookbook, we have a good idea it's one we'll actually use.
Recently we sat down with our first cookbook in quite a while: Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year. As two fans who still miss Gourmet, we found that the book brought back so many feelings -- happy and sad -- about the shuttering of Gourmet magazine, which Reichl edited from 1999 until it ceased publication in 2009.
My Kitchen Year tracks a year of cooking by Reichl following the magazine's sudden, devastating closure. We felt a great sense of loss when this happened in 2009, but we know our loss as fans was nothing compared to what Reichl and her staff were experiencing. This book takes you into Reichl's life at the time, as she mourns the loss of the magazine and then hits to the road to promote a just-released cookbook by the magazine.
Over the course of Reichl's year, we travel along with her to places across the country, but most of the time is spent in her rural home kitchen in New York's Hudson Valley, as she cooks her way through a difficult time and contemplates the future. Some food-world people we love show up (Calvin Trillin comes to Thanksgiving, bringing spiced matzo and frozen dumplings from Chinatown. #SquadGoals!). As Reichl cooks and fumes and heals, the book provides an honest and beautiful example of food's ability to comfort and heal. In sharing her year, Reichl slows the value of diving deep into something in a time of despair. In this case, it results in a true celebration of home cooking.
The recipes themselves are chatty and informative. A lot of the food is pure comfort (chocolate cake, fried chicken, carbonara) but also great meal options for entertaining (we especially enjoyed the piece on making burgers for guests). The book is punctuated by Reichl's tweets from 2009 and 2010, adding more context into what she was eating and thinking at the time. And the photography is simple and intimate.
My Kitchen Year is a beautiful book. If you loved Gourmet, we think you'll find great comfort and memories in the book. If Reichl is new to you, follow her @ruthreichl. And by all means, if you haven't already read her autobiographical trilogy -- Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, and (our favorite) Garlic and Sapphires -- do so immediately; they're among our all-time favorite food books.
Have any of you read My Kitchen Year? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!