Three cookbooks with a sense of place

food cooking in a pan

A ranch in the central US, a Greek American community, an English kitchen…

Ree Drummond has become a well known online personality: a city girl turned Oklahoma farm wife turned blogger who writes about food and ranch life with humour and with just enough sass along with the information to attract a wide audience. She has a cookbook out now too, calledThe Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. Along with step by step photographs and often funny instruction on how to cook hearty dishes from the heartland, there are photographs of life on the Drummond family’s Oklahoma cattle ranch enough to interest the traveler, even if you never cook one of her recipes — though the photographs and breezy instructions may get you to thinking about that.

How to Roast a Lamb is not breezy, but you will learn a lot about Greek and Greek American flavors from it. When chef Michael Psilakis ( you may have seen him on the Food Network ) first began school, he did not speak a word of English. The Greek how to raost a lamb cookbook coverAmerican community to which his parents had come from Crete was that strong. His book is as much narrative as it is cooking instruction, and he intends that, drawing on memories and stories to frame each chapter and set of recipes. Some of the recipes are traditional, some are ones he’s evolved through his restaurant building career, and all will allow you to learn something about Greek culture and food. Ever wanted to know how to braise an octopus? how and why you might want to dehydrate slices of watermelon? what dried feta cheese is good for? Chef Psilakis has you covered.

Nigella Lawson brings a good bit of family feeling to her book Nigella Christmas: Food Family Friends Festivities, too. Christmas may be past (or coming up, depending on your view of things) but that’s no reason to skip reading this. Lawson offers the same generous abundance of food stories, wry wit, and creative cooking ideas that you will have come across if you’ve seen her live or on television. She is thoroughly British too, and you will get a strong understanding of that, even though some of her recipes incorporate influences as diverse as American barbecue and Asian sauces. They all come back to the English kitchen and table. Reading Nigella Christmas you feel as though you are sitting in that kitchen, talking about food and planning your next celebration.

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