When you think holiday gifts, think close to home, think cookbooks, and think community. Where does that take you?
In my role as editor for The Food Channel I occasionally get the opportunity to be involved in local food events. So when the local business paper and downtown association asked if I’d review the new Taste of Downtown cookbook, I was glad to help out. After all, I was in the midst of looking for the best holiday cookbooks, and it occurred to me that there is nothing better than supporting your local organizations!
I picked up the cookbook and read through it – on an empty stomach. Bad idea. It meant I had to hit the kitchen to try out a couple of the recipes and see if they really were as good as they sounded.
So now I’m eating a delicious hummus on toast points (a variation from the recommended pita, but you work with what you’ve got). The smell of warm blueberry muffins is wafting through the kitchen. And a Crock-pot macaroni and cheese is bubbling away, ready for a meal in a few hours. These recipes and more are ones that were easily made, with ingredients on hand, and sized to the home kitchen in spite of being the specialties of local restaurants.
That’s a bit of a surprise, because adjusting quantities within the recipes and finding ingredients that are available to the consumer is often the sticking point in creating a restaurant-quality cookbook. There is a little bit of a disconnect in some of the recipes, for sure â€“ I don’t regularly keep Ciliegie mozzarella balls, Thai bird chilies, or frog legs in the pantry. Yes, those ingredients really are used by restaurants.
Some of the recipes were a surprise in other ways, such as a Chicken Liver Omelet and a Sauerbraten recipe submitted by the owner of a local frozen custard shop (please tell me that’s not going to show up as a mix-in!). Those things aside, this was a usable and fun cookbook that can enhance visits to area restaurants.
I find the same is true across every city. Many of them do annual “Taste of . . .” events that showcase their local restaurants and encourage people to try new things. More and more of them are commemorating the event with a local cookbook. In this case, proceeds supplement the cost of downtown police patrols. For others, revenue may pay for promotions, seed new special events, of offset development costs.
The fact that restaurants are usually willing to share their recipes for the cause is great, and a good show of collaboration in support of a community. So, if you have a community cookbook – buy it. It’s a great holiday gift idea that does double duty in supporting a cause and helping spread the word about great restaurants and recipes.
And yes, I went out and bought two more for Christmas gifts, but please don’t tell!