Cookbooks get us back in the kitchen

Published on Wednesday, 7 May 2014 00:34 - Written by Christine Gardner, food@tylerpaper.com

After my college graduation, the family gathered for a big celebratory dinner. As we were eating dessert, my mother handed me two presents. I knew, before I even tore the wrapping paper, they were books. It’s kind of easy to figure out.

I was less than enthused. After nearly five years at Texas A&M I did not want to see another book for a while.

The first book was a new Bible and she had written inside, ‘This is the only book that you need now!’ She was right, but there was still another book to unwrap.

It was the “Better Homes & Garden New Cookbook.” No more ramen noodles or hot pot macaroni and cheese. It was time to start cooking for real.

Over the years, both books have been referenced often, and each is quite weathered with tattered, stained and highlighted pages that prove the importance of the advice they offer — one in the kitchen and the other in life.

The “Better Homes & Garden Cookbook” really did teach me how to cook. Of course, there was a lot of trial and error, but it was always the book I referenced for straight facts about cooking, technique, traditional recipes and explaining ingredients.

It has been an American favorite since 1930 and has sold more than 40 million copies. It is now in it’s 15th edition and has been updated over the years to modernize the recipes, cooking techniques and evolution of food and eating.

It’s also the book that taught me to try new things and not just cook what I was raised eating at my mother’s table.

That’s one of the things I kept in mind when writing my cookbook. “Favorite FLAVOR.” The variety of recipes included in the book also represent the way my parents encouraged us try everything and eat whatever is on our plate.

“Try it, you’ll like it,” they used to always say.

I hated hearing this phrase because I didn’t like being told what to do, but usually they were right. Ironically, I have now made a career out of coaxing people to try foods they aren’t sure about eating.

Flavor has a personal meaning for all of us. It’s exciting to try a food for the first time and discover how good it is. It’s also great when something familiar is prepared a different way and we love how it tastes. That was my goal with the recipes in the book. Take familiar ingredients and create a dish that pushes them to the height of flavor.

It was difficult to narrow down years of recipes and decide what represents the best of flavor. These aren’t just my favorites, but also the ones that received the most positive feedback and wholehearted approval from countless taste testers.

Great flavor doesn’t have to be complicated. Each recipe combines basic ingredients and simple technique. They’re designed to make entertaining, cooking and sharing wonderful food a memorable experience.

We all have our favorites and I hope this book offers some new ones. One thing is certain, flavor brings food to life. And we have to keep trying all the flavors life has to offer — the good, the bad and the favorites.

One of the greatest compliments I’ve received since the book came out is that many ladies, who are probably my mother’s age, really enjoy the variety of recipes and are excited about trying some new things.

Many have cut back on cooking because they’re only cooking for one or two and have tired of making the same old things. Reading through the book has sparked their interest and made them want to get back in the kitchen.

That’s why I think this book would make a perfect Mothers Day gift. Moms of any age and kitchen expertise would find recipes they would enjoy cooking and eating.

Today I hope you can come see me at Sweet Gourmet from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. I will be sampling two of the recipes from the book and can’t wait to share some great flavor with everyone there. Plenty of books will be on hand and I can personalize one for you, your mom or anyone you know who loves to cook great food.

If you can’t make it, books are also available at FRESH by Brookshire’s, Texas Art Depot and O’ Sweet Pea Kitchen Boutique in Palestine or by emailing food@tylerpaper.com.