The best books on American cuisine

5 authors have picked their favorite books about American cuisine and why they recommend each book.

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Coyote Cafe

By Mark Charles Miller,

Book cover of Coyote Cafe: Foods from the Great Southwest, Recipes from Coyote Cafe

Can a cookbook change the course of your life? Perhaps. I attended art school in the late 1980’s. A favorite Sunday morning diversion was wandering through the aisles of the nearby Book Loft in Columbus, Ohio. One day I came across the Coyote Cafe Cookbook and my life was subtly changed forever. It put the seed of what would grow into a passion for Southwestern cuisine into my being, and it may have been part of the catalyst for me moving to this region. The recipes are intriguing and a little fancy. Cooking from this book is a treat.


Who am I?

Jackie Alpers is an award-winning professional food photographer and author. She is a longtime contributing recipe developer & photographer for The Food Network, Refinery29, TheKitchn, TodayFood, Real Simple, National Geographic, and Edible Baja Arizona Magazine among others. She has been featured in articles for Reader’s Digest, CNN, Good Morning America, The New York Times & NPR. She writes, cooks, and styles recipes from her sun-lit studio in Tucson, Arizona.


I wrote...

Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona

By Jackie Alpers,

Book cover of Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona

What is my book about?

A cookbook dedicated to the foods inspired by the region's beauty and diversity, Taste of Tucson discovers through recipes and photos the unique mix of cultures that create Southern Arizona's incredible cuisine. Award-winning photographer and cookbook author Jackie Alpers shares her own inspired food creations in this book as well as her favorite restaurants' dishes, while incorporating the history of the Sonora region, the mysticism and lore, and how it has contributed to the food of the people who live there. Building from tried-and-true basics and tutorials on tacos, enchiladas, carne asada, and huevos rancheros, she divulges secrets to making Sonora's most unique savories and sweets, including Chicken Mole Amarillo, Adobo Pulled Pork, Red Pozole, Dark Chocolate and Coffee Figgy Pudding Cakes, and more.

Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts

By Susan Williams,

Book cover of Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts: Dining in Victorian America

If you strive to be a Victorian-era food snob, this is the guidebook. It’s a comprehensive overview of food and cooking customs from the second half of the 19th century, packed with illustrations and tons of fun trivia. (For example: celery was considered a high-status food by the middle class because of its connection to Homer’s Odyssey. If you were looking for a trendy centerpiece, you could put it in specially appointed silver or glass vases like a bouquet of flowers. Haha!) You’ll also find an explanation of mealtimes, and how expectations for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, and supper were different from today’s. There’s a whole chapter on Victorian table etiquette! By the way, Victorians advise that if you’re hosting a dinner party, make sure to wear an outfit that’s “rich in material, but subdued in tone” so you don’t show up any of your guests.


Who are we?

Miko and Jenne are librarians who love to eat. Their love of classic children’s literature led them to start their 36 Eggs blog, where they recreate foods and experiences from their favorite books. In 2019, they published the Little Women Cookbook, which required extensive research into the food of the Victorian era.


We wrote...

The Little Women Cookbook: Novel Takes on Classic Recipes from Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Friends

By Miko Osada, Jenne Bergstrom,

Book cover of The Little Women Cookbook: Novel Takes on Classic Recipes from Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Friends

What is our book about?

You already adore the story of these four sisters who, with little means, find their own paths in a tale full of laughter, love, loss, and family. Now, experience Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel in an entirely new and delightful way—as a cookbook. You’ll learn to make ice cream with Meg, molasses candy with Jo, baked squash with Beth, pickled limes with Amy, and so much more. For a creative twist, these delicious step-by-step recipes are adapted from vintage Civil War-era cookbooks for the modern kitchen.

The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

By America's Test Kitchen,

Book cover of The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook: Featuring More Than 1,200 Kitchen-Tested Recipes

If you are starting out in life and can only get one cookbook, get this one. It contains recipes for the classics as well as the familiar, basic dishes you must have in your repertoire—and the recipes are foolproof. Because the recipes are thoroughly tested, you can hardly go wrong if you follow the detailed instructions.


Who am I?

I’ve loved cooking and baking since I was a little girl. I attempted to bake a chocolate cake when I was nine without a recipe and put the resulting glop in a plastic bowl in the oven. Luckily, I forgot to turn the oven on and my mother discovered it later, no harm done. I was always a foodie but also a tremendous reader with a great love for the English language, so food writing marries my two passions. My published works include The New York Times bestselling The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook (over a million copies sold), and I write a food column for a women’s magazine.


I wrote...

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

By Dinah Bucholz,

Book cover of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

What is my book about?

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook makes dining à la Hogwarts as easy as Banoffi Pie! With over 150 recipes and a guide to where the foods can be found in the series, you can create perfect Potter meals drawn straight from the pages of your favorite stories. With a dash of mystery and a dollop of creativity, you’ll conjure up the entrées, desserts, snacks, and drinks you need to transform ordinary meals into culinary masterpieces sure to make even Mrs. Weasley proud.

Nathan Turner's I Love California

By Nathan Turner,

Book cover of Nathan Turner's I Love California: Live, Eat, and Entertain the West Coast Way

One of our all-time favorite books. Nathan Turner loves California, and we love how he translates that love to us, transporting even those of us who have lived here all of our lives to a new level of appreciation for our beautiful state. A combination of food, family, design, and adventure, it is an ode to our state — a love letter that is an absolute joy.


Who are we?

At Home in the Wine Country coauthors Heather and Chase love the open, nature-focused attitude toward living that California does so well. Heather worked in the field of architecture for 25 years and is the author of The New Architecture of Wine. Chase has been a western lifestyle writer for 30 years and is the author of 14 books, including Modern Americana, American Rustic, Cabin Style, and Bison. As writers and consultants they work with publishers, magazines, and design, hospitality and wine clients to craft and convey their stories. Heather and Chase live in spectacularly scenic Marin County, halfway between San Francisco and California's iconic wine country.


We wrote...

At Home in the Wine Country: Architecture & Design in the California Vineyards

By Chase Reynolds Ewald and Heather Sandy Hebert,

Book cover of At Home in the Wine Country: Architecture & Design in the California Vineyards

What is our book about?

Through compelling narrative and stunning photography, At Home in the Wine Country features architecture, style, and design in California’s picturesque wine country, showcasing the work of California’s top architects and designers in styles ranging from modern farmhouse to refined rustic to updated agrarian to unapologetically modern. This virtual tour documents a native terroir-derived style that has evolved dramatically since the days when the region looked to European chateaux for inspiration. The range of styles is broad and pays homage to wine-country living in an atmosphere of understated, family-focused, nature-intensive hospitality.

True Comfort

By Kristin Cavallari,

Book cover of True Comfort: More Than 100 Cozy Recipes Free of Gluten and Refined Sugar: A Gluten Free Cookbook

Another lifestyle cookbook with recipes and tips that are simple, comforting, and family-friendly. Kristin shares not only recipes for healthy comfort foods, but also the staple ingredients she keeps in her pantry. I love how she offers gluten and dairy-free alternatives in her recipes and how she uses natural sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey. The Nashville Hot Chicken Salad cups and the Creamy Roasted Veggie Pasta Salad are my two favorite dishes to make from this book—and my family agrees!


Who am I?

As a child of divorce who moved around often, cooking and entertaining was consistent in my life on both sides of my family. The comforting smells and traditions around food in the home became a religion to me—something I could count on. My grandmother was a hostess to be admiredher impeccable entertaining etiquette was where my love of hosting was born. My degree in psychology lends itself to sharing what’s so important about creating intentional gatherings at the table. My education and passion for creative arts pair well with my husband’s expertise as an Architect, where we understand the importance of creating inviting spaces for people to occupy.


I wrote...

The Modern Hippie Table: Recipes and Menus for Eating Simply and Living Beautifully

By Lauren Thomas,

Book cover of The Modern Hippie Table: Recipes and Menus for Eating Simply and Living Beautifully

What is my book about?

The term “Modern Hippie” celebrates a way of living and entertaining that creates an intentional series of moments at home, where good food, conversation, and design come together to create lasting memories. Lauren Thomas’s The Modern Hippie Table combines more than 70 curated recipes and assorted themed menus with beautiful and doable tabletop ideas, creating a vibe of laid-back elegance that complements whatever is on the menu, from an intimate dinner for two to a large celebration.

In this debut collection, Lauren shares favorite dishes that can be easily prepared for entertaining, which allows you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your guests and family. 

Joy of Cooking 1931

By Irma S. Rombauer,

Book cover of Joy of Cooking 1931

Food history—why and how and what we eat—is one of my favorite topics. The first edition of Irma Rambauer’s The Joy of Cooking inspired 1930s American cooks to make an eight layer cake, a celery aspic, a chicken bisque, cinnamon toast, shrimp wiggle, and green peppers filled with macaroni. Recently widowed, Rombauer self-published the book to support her family—and thereby became a heroine for 1930s homemakers. Her Cheese Custard Pie, so far as I know, is the first recipe for quiche in an American cookbook. It is introduced with these memorable words: “In Switzerland we had a vile tempered cook named Marguerite” whose quiche varied with “her moods and her supply of cheese.” (I love recipes that tell us something about the cook.)


Who am I?

I’m a writer and history buff who loves to make fiction out of facts. For me, the best stories are imagined out of truths we have all lived, real places that are mapped in our memories, real people whose names conjure events, past times that are prelude to our own. I like to read books built on plots and puzzles, so I write mysteries. I love books about real people, so I write biographical novels bent around the secret selves of people we only thought we knew: Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Georgia O’Keeffe. 


I wrote...

The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker

By Susan Wittig Albert,

Book cover of The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker

What is my book about?

It’s Labor Day weekend, 1935, and the Darling Dahlias―the garden club in little Darling, Alabama―are trying to keep their cool at the end of a sizzling summer. This isn’t easy, though, since there’s a firebug on the loose in Darling. A dangerous hurricane is poised offshore and a hurricane of a different sort is making a whirlwind campaign stop: the much-loved-much-hated senator from Louisiana, Huey P. Long, whom President Roosevelt calls the “most dangerous man in America.”

The people of Darling face the challenges of the Great Depression with courage and grace, reminding us that friends offer the best of themselves to each other, community is what holds us together, and even when life seems too hot to handle, there’s always hope.

AMA

By Josef Centeno, Betty Hallock, Ren Fuller

Book cover of AMA: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen

Josef Centeno honors the food he grew up with in San Antonio. The book is named for his great-grandmother, “Ama´” and the influence of both his family, and his life as the chef of Los Angeles’s Bar Ama permeate the book. “Reimagined” is the word Josef uses to describe his recipes, and I think it’s a perfect descriptor for his particular vision.

Chef Centeno’s taste leans towards acidic, with lots of citrus and vinegars. Words like pickled and vinaigrette appear often in recipe titles and there is no shortage of chiles and salsas. I learn something every time I make a new recipe from this book, which is something I aspire to have my own cookbooks to do for others.


Who am I?

Jackie Alpers is an award-winning professional food photographer and author. She is a longtime contributing recipe developer & photographer for The Food Network, Refinery29, TheKitchn, TodayFood, Real Simple, National Geographic, and Edible Baja Arizona Magazine among others. She has been featured in articles for Reader’s Digest, CNN, Good Morning America, The New York Times & NPR. She writes, cooks, and styles recipes from her sun-lit studio in Tucson, Arizona.


I wrote...

Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona

By Jackie Alpers,

Book cover of Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona

What is my book about?

A cookbook dedicated to the foods inspired by the region's beauty and diversity, Taste of Tucson discovers through recipes and photos the unique mix of cultures that create Southern Arizona's incredible cuisine. Award-winning photographer and cookbook author Jackie Alpers shares her own inspired food creations in this book as well as her favorite restaurants' dishes, while incorporating the history of the Sonora region, the mysticism and lore, and how it has contributed to the food of the people who live there. Building from tried-and-true basics and tutorials on tacos, enchiladas, carne asada, and huevos rancheros, she divulges secrets to making Sonora's most unique savories and sweets, including Chicken Mole Amarillo, Adobo Pulled Pork, Red Pozole, Dark Chocolate and Coffee Figgy Pudding Cakes, and more.

The Border Cookbook

By Cheryl Jamison, Bill Jamison,

Book cover of The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico

The Border Cookbook will teach you just about everything you need to know about the many different styles of Southwestern cuisine from the southern border regions. Trailing from northern Mexico to southern California, across Arizona and up through northern New Mexico, the book is organized by recipe instead of region so you can see how ingredients are uniquely utilized. Headers explain the history and regional significance of each dish.


Who am I?

Jackie Alpers is an award-winning professional food photographer and author. She is a longtime contributing recipe developer & photographer for The Food Network, Refinery29, TheKitchn, TodayFood, Real Simple, National Geographic, and Edible Baja Arizona Magazine among others. She has been featured in articles for Reader’s Digest, CNN, Good Morning America, The New York Times & NPR. She writes, cooks, and styles recipes from her sun-lit studio in Tucson, Arizona.


I wrote...

Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona

By Jackie Alpers,

Book cover of Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona

What is my book about?

A cookbook dedicated to the foods inspired by the region's beauty and diversity, Taste of Tucson discovers through recipes and photos the unique mix of cultures that create Southern Arizona's incredible cuisine. Award-winning photographer and cookbook author Jackie Alpers shares her own inspired food creations in this book as well as her favorite restaurants' dishes, while incorporating the history of the Sonora region, the mysticism and lore, and how it has contributed to the food of the people who live there. Building from tried-and-true basics and tutorials on tacos, enchiladas, carne asada, and huevos rancheros, she divulges secrets to making Sonora's most unique savories and sweets, including Chicken Mole Amarillo, Adobo Pulled Pork, Red Pozole, Dark Chocolate and Coffee Figgy Pudding Cakes, and more.

Food in the Civil War Era

By Helen Zoe Veit,

Book cover of Food in the Civil War Era

Of the many reference resources we encountered in the midst of our obsessive research for our Little Women Cookbook, this one was a favorite (along with the incomparable YHF). It’s just so satisfying to find the perfect book for a project, isn’t it? When we first started out, we thought, “We’d be so lucky to find anything about food from the Civil War era that doesn’t focus on soldiers’ rations, rich people, or the South — especially if it touches on the role of women in everyday culinary culture.” And as if our local university library were a magical genie who heard my wish, there this book was.

In Food in the Civil War Era: The North, editor Helen Zoe Veit provides a bit of background so you can understand the trends behind five Civil War-era cookbooks. Her engaging commentary made this one a surprisingly quick read.…


Who are we?

Miko and Jenne are librarians who love to eat. Their love of classic children’s literature led them to start their 36 Eggs blog, where they recreate foods and experiences from their favorite books. In 2019, they published the Little Women Cookbook, which required extensive research into the food of the Victorian era.


We wrote...

The Little Women Cookbook: Novel Takes on Classic Recipes from Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Friends

By Miko Osada, Jenne Bergstrom,

Book cover of The Little Women Cookbook: Novel Takes on Classic Recipes from Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Friends

What is our book about?

You already adore the story of these four sisters who, with little means, find their own paths in a tale full of laughter, love, loss, and family. Now, experience Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel in an entirely new and delightful way—as a cookbook. You’ll learn to make ice cream with Meg, molasses candy with Jo, baked squash with Beth, pickled limes with Amy, and so much more. For a creative twist, these delicious step-by-step recipes are adapted from vintage Civil War-era cookbooks for the modern kitchen.

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

By Lisa Fain,

Book cover of The Homesick Texan Cookbook

Longing for the food from home yet finding her quest unobtainable to fulfil, Lisa Fain, a 7th generation Texan, took matters into her own hands and began exploring ways to recreate Tex-Mex dishes in her NYC apartment. From this process a cookbook was born. The Homesick Texan is for every armchair traveler who wants to recreate a little bit of Texas, not matter where they may be at the moment.


Who am I?

Jackie Alpers is an award-winning professional food photographer and author. She is a longtime contributing recipe developer & photographer for The Food Network, Refinery29, TheKitchn, TodayFood, Real Simple, National Geographic, and Edible Baja Arizona Magazine among others. She has been featured in articles for Reader’s Digest, CNN, Good Morning America, The New York Times & NPR. She writes, cooks, and styles recipes from her sun-lit studio in Tucson, Arizona.


I wrote...

Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona

By Jackie Alpers,

Book cover of Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona

What is my book about?

A cookbook dedicated to the foods inspired by the region's beauty and diversity, Taste of Tucson discovers through recipes and photos the unique mix of cultures that create Southern Arizona's incredible cuisine. Award-winning photographer and cookbook author Jackie Alpers shares her own inspired food creations in this book as well as her favorite restaurants' dishes, while incorporating the history of the Sonora region, the mysticism and lore, and how it has contributed to the food of the people who live there. Building from tried-and-true basics and tutorials on tacos, enchiladas, carne asada, and huevos rancheros, she divulges secrets to making Sonora's most unique savories and sweets, including Chicken Mole Amarillo, Adobo Pulled Pork, Red Pozole, Dark Chocolate and Coffee Figgy Pudding Cakes, and more.

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