Building a Cookbook Collection

“I don’t have time to cook.”

“I don’t know how to cook.”

I’m looking at you and starting a series over the next three months inclined to get you aproned up and game on.  You and I might have something in common. I work a more than full time job and have a list of extracurriculars that keep me hopping on my toes like a firewalker trying to glide over coals. That hum of activity makes me hum right along. And these days the song of choice is “Pyro” a la Kings of Leon.

So many nights I come home trying to pinch myself with reminders that, “yes, I do like cooking” and “no, it will not come between me and a recent discovery of the new Battlestar Galactica.” Ah, such is life, friends. You have a choice to know what goes into what you eat or not. You have a choice to get as anal-retentive as you want about how salty or sweet you want your food. Or you can let people feed you and keep the legions of folks working in foodservice afloat and for that chefs and cooks the country over thank you. But seriously, what’s keeping you from the kitchen?

During April, May and June, I am highlighting three cookbooks for the novice cook, the one who doesn’t yet own an arsenal of assistance. Yet. Okay, I’m also eager to share these with those of you who relish the latest cookbook with the delight of a child and birthday cake. Since you and I have an understanding between us, I will be reviewing the cookbooks one at a time and like a slow braised leg of lamb, hope that as you stick with each cookbook review, you come out on the other side inspired to try something new, to kick up your heels in your kitchen, to turn it inside out until it looks like you want. Think of this as a field trip in your own home and like that fifth grader deliriously happy to head into the Big Cats exhibit at the local zoo, get ready and snag a glass of wine or a tumbler of water. Settle in, the show’s about to begin.

Now where were we?

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

One evening last Fall, we stopped in at Green Apple for Christmas gifts. In spite of us having pulled names for gifts, we still went shopping for something for Beck’s mom and dad. I skirted the new fiction aisles, veering a hard left at the edge of this revered neighborhood bookstore for a section I know well and scavenge with regularity.

I meandered past the vegetarian cooking section, past food lit. and kept walking past new releases all the way to the back by the used books section. This area interests me in a different way than the other cookbook blocks because here I can see what people bought and get a feel for books that have already been loved and brought back for someone else to sink their time and attention.

Looking for nothing in particular, I scanned the spines, learning as I looked. The indigo spine with goldenrod typeface stared out at me and simply said, “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.” Perfect! I could imagine Beck’s mom with her penchant for bread baking sinking her teeth into this book until I started reading the table of contents and began flipping through the pages. I showed the book to Beck trying to conceal a plan hatching in my mind.  My lovely husband, who plays the role of sous-chef, hand model and partner-in-eating-crime but does not really cook, looked at the book and said, “We should keep it.” Without hesitation and with a smidge of reticence, I shelved it next to others in my cookbook library before we headed to their house for the festivities.

Well into my holiday break and on a mental break, I found that the cookbook author and I shared a number of contacts in common on Facebook, so I befriended Maria Speck, imparting our unexpected results of a gift-getting mission gone awry.

As I conceived of how I wanted to tackle cooking my way through the “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” cookbook, I considered meal times and also wanting to experiment with different kinds of grains. My pantry is stockpiled with grains. If you have visited La Vie en Route before, you will know that I too, am already a whole grain enthusiast from my foray into Bulgur Collard Cakes and Bulgur Salsify Salad with Sultanas and Verjus Vinaigrette to Winter Wheat Berry Porridge Parfaits not to mention the Patriot Oats as a few recipes I’ve concocted and shared here before.

One point of departure remained between my former whole grain gusto and my present incarnation: gluten. For health reasons, Beck and I have begun a journey of taking out all foods and drinks with gluten from what we eat to see if this helps us determine a permanent course of action for health. Hear me when I say, I still think non-GMO whole red winter wheat berries from the Midwest are a delight with their chewy, nutty and ever so subtly sweet flavor, and eating wheat and gluten might be right for you. We are just trying this out to see how our bodies respond. We are listening closely.

Stay tuned for the cookbook review on Wednesday and then again on Thursday, when I share her recipe for an Artichoke-Rosemary Tart with Polenta Crust.

You don’t want to miss either bites.

ancient grains modern meals


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