Memorable Meals

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Our Book Editor Beth Goehring's Delicious Book Selections


Do you know someone—perhaps it’s you—who reads a cookbook as if they were reading a novel? A really mouth-watering cookbook is an absolute pleasure to read. Each recipe is like a chapter in the story. Appetizers and soups introduce the book’s mood. Entrees bring the action to a climax. Desserts deliver the resolution. Ingredients blend--some dominating, others playing second fiddle--just as characters do.

When I read a novel, I “watch� it unreel on a screen in my mind. When I read a deliciously written cookbook, I see myself at the cutting board, licking dark chocolate off a wooden spoon, or seasoning with herbs and spices to taste, bending down to look in the oven, presenting and devouring the finished dish. Just as I can live vicariously through a novel, imagining myself seducing a duke in Regency England or strutting down the halls of Conde Nast in Manolo Blahniks, I can eat pasta everyday with Giada de Laurentiis or buttermilk biscuits with Edna Lewis—and not worry about the calorie count! And like a favorite novel, I can re-read a good cookbook again and again.

Of the creative and beautiful cookbooks available today, these three offer tales of their authors’ unique journeys and passions that rival the most accomplished novel:

Chocolate Epiphany-Payard

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"Francois Payard’s loving tribute to all things dark, decadent and chocolate."

If you’ve been to Payard on Madison Avenue in New York City, you’ve been to a chocoholic’s paradise. A third-generation baker from Nice, France, Francois Payard has written cookbooks before, but Chocolate Epiphany (Clarkson Potter, April 2008) is his piece de resistance. Beginning with breakfast (so far beyond pain au chocolat, you’ll be setting your alarm for the crack of dawn to get in every sinful calorie), he proves there isn’t a minute in the day when a chocolate delight isn’t worth eating. The sensuousness of the photos will convince you to keep this cookbook by your bedside when it’s not open beside the stove.

Cecila Chang

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"A riveting life story told in mouthwatering recipes for traditional Chinese foods."

Cecilia Chiang’s The Seventh Daughter (Ten Speed Press, October 2007) is both a traditional cookbook of northern Chinese cuisine and her amazing life story. As a well-born girl in Beijing, she wasn’t allowed into the kitchen with the servants, so she learned about how food should taste and be served from her mother whose bound feet made visiting the market a test of endurance. After a harrowing six-month flight into Free China dodging Japanese soldiers, Cecilia settled in Tokyo to start a family. On a trip to San Francisco, a sudden decision to invest in a restaurant started her legendary career. No one who ever enjoyed her hospitality at The Mandarin in Ghirardelli Square will ever forget it. Anyone who cooks from The Seventh Daughter will savor her rich and dramatic memories as much as the robust recipes.

Feasting on Asphalt-Alton Brown

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"A portrait of America with irresistible food and the roadside culture of the towns along the Mighty Mississippi."

I bet Alton Brown could charm the recipe for classic Coca-Cola out of CEO Neville Isdell. His Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, April 2008) is a journey up the Mississippi to make you forget Huckleberry Finn. In a motorcycle pack with a bunch of guy friends, he stops at roadhouses, juke joints, hot dog stands, diners, and restaurants where the food, however simple, is to die for. Along with lots of recipes—some the real deal, others “inspired by� dishes whose secret ingredients Alton Brown’s superhuman taste buds re-created—you will learn so much fun trivia, you’ll be dining out on these stories for years. With tons of wonderful photos (Alton at Kleibert’s Alligator and Turtle Farm alone is worth the price of the book), this cookbook-cum-travelogue is one in a million.

History, cultural tradition, geography, nutrition, hedonism…what don’t you learn from a really good cookbook! Even if you’re a Calamity Jane in the kitchen--and I admit I’ve had my fair share of culinary disasters—you can appreciate the joy of a wonderful cookbook.


I am so excited to write about books for CESLIE-The Women’s Network™. Reading is not only a lifelong passion, but it’s my job. As the editor-in-chief for a group of book clubs that includes Book-of-the-Month Club®, The Literary Guild®, Doubleday Book Club®, Mystery Guild®, and The Good Cook®, I hear the early buzz about what will soon be hot in everything from autobiography to zoology. In any week, my colleagues and I review hundreds of upcoming books to choose those that really deliver, whether it’s with fascinating characters, an unforgettable story, a vicarious thrill, a wealth of useful information or compelling inspiration.
Hands-down, the best thing about my job is finding that hidden gem, a novel that wasn’t lavished with a huge marketing budget, not for lack of charm or quality, but because of a publisher’s limited resources. When I can make a match between one of these unsung heroes and a grateful reader, then I’ve done my job well!
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