Can a cookbook have terroir? I’ve never eaten at David Kinch’s new Manresa, but after spending a couple of long evenings with this exceptionally complex and textured cookbook, I feel as though I know it inside and out. Manresa (Ten Speed, $50) is beautifully photographed and the text is enhanced by evocative woodcut prints by artist Tom Killion, but what really separates it from other cookbooks is the quality of its writing. More than in any other cookbook I’ve ever read, here Kinch and his co-author Christine Muhlke examine the philosophy of the cookbook and of the genesis of a recipe itself. While you might not necessarily be able to re-create Kinch’s specific and complex recipes like “A Winter Tidal Pool” (which includes pickled kelp, abalone, mushroom gel, and oyster gel) in your home kitchen, his ruminative approach to food ensures that you will think about the elements of cooking, and the creation and balance of your own recipes, in a whole new way.
When I brought home 100 Years of Soccer in America (Rizzoli, $45), my husband and son—one a coach, the other an avid player—both lunged for it at the same time, and we spent the next hour looking through the pictures of the crucial matches together. Can there be a better endorsement? This coffee table book by the U.S. Soccer Federation is a necessary artifact and a graceful survey of the diverse and crucial history of the sometimes-beleaguered U.S. soccer landscape. Its general nature makes it a keepsake for players and soccer-lovers of all ages, and it strikes a beautiful balance in coverage of both the men’s and women’s teams. The chapters detailing the early immigrant leagues are especially fascinating. You can be sure that no soccer fan on your holiday list already has a book like this because, a hundred years in the making, there never has been a book like this.
Roots (Chronicle, $40), by Diane Morgan, is an ideal testament to the hidden vegetables it celebrates: an encyclopedia of simple and clean recipes, perfect for a nourishing, elegant midweek meal. There’s no didacticism or dogma here, nor is this dinnerparty fare. Throughout, Morgan focuses on the inherent flavors of the vegetables, with seasonings added to bring out the natural taste of the roots. The author’s own Pacific Northwest culinary roots definitely shine through: there’s ease and palpable warmth in her writing. Reading Roots you can feel yourself in the kitchen with Morgan, devouring meals made with love, precision, and a little bit of dirt. Indeed, in my house her recipe for French Breakfast Radishes with Herb Butter and Sel Gris was devoured by my whole family, in happy, silent gulps.