A cookbook might be the nicest thing you can give for Mother’s Day – it lasts longer than flowers or dinner, it’s less expensive than a trip to a spa, and it’s not as hard to pick as a scarf. Chances are, if you have a mom who loves to cook, you already know what kind of cooking she likes. So you might already have a sense of what kind of book she’d appreciate.
Just in case you’re stuck, though, I’ve compiled a list of hard-to-resist books in various categories. Beautiful books, books that read as well as cook, books that are just plain fun are all good choices. Steer clear of diet books (unless specifically requested) or books that basically say, “Feed Me” – most entertaining books; in short, or anything that might make Mom feel overworked or resentful.
Visual Feasts: You can’t go wrong with a beautiful book – especially these days, when food photography has gotten so phenomenal you can practically eat the dishes with your eyes. Books like Canal House Cooks Every Day ($45) and David Tanis’ One Good Dish ($25.95) make you want to catch your breath when you open them, and linger for an hour to browse before you rush to the kitchen.
Armchair Traveler: Charm, out-of-the-ordinary flavors, clear instructions – well-edited ethnic and regional cookbooks have it all, bringing the world’s table to your doorstep. The Little Paris Kitchen ($35) offers up sweet chic, Indian Cooking Unfolded (19.95) is colorful and accessible – and then there’s always the ever-popular Jerusalem ($35).
Tell Me A Story: Sometimes you just want to read a cookbook for its anecdotes and tales, its glimpses of culinary mishaps or delicious adventures. I’m partial to the quirky Southern charm of Screen Doors and Sweet Tea ($32.50), but who can resist a chicken romance? like Janice Cole’s Chicken and Egg ($24.95).
Down the Garden Path – For moms with green thumbs, a handful of cookbooks make great garden companions: the lavish and handsome Grow Cook Eat ($29.95) has seed-to-harvest guidance and lots of wise tips, while Eliot Coleman’s and Barbara Damrosch’s 4-Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook ($22.95) offers up two lifetimes’ worth of cooking and growing expertise.
Treats: Some like diamonds, some like candy, but everyday indulgences like drinks and desserts make any evening a treasure as far as I’m concerned. An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails ($20)is a lighthearted guide filled with graphic flair, while Faith Durand of the Kitchn’s Bakeless Sweets ($29.95) offers a summer’s worth of cool temptations.
For lots more Mother’s Day cookbook recommendations, check out Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app. You’ll find write-ups of the latest cookbooks and regular cookbook news, and links to all my Boston Globe reviews. It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!