Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.
Coverage of spring cooking usually looks pretty different than it does this year: At a time when food media should be beginning to sing songs of radishes, peas, asparagus, and ramps, the focus this year is mostly on storage produce, pantry staples, and all-consuming kitchen projects. Coverage of spring cookbooks looks pretty different, too—but that doesn’t mean the books have stopped!
Quite the contrary: This spring’s roster of new cookbook releases is sweeping and exciting, exploring everything from weeknight vegan cooking to the cuisines of Russia, France, Palestine, Lummi Island, the Black Sea, Armenia, Thailand, Korea, Sardinia, and Cajun communities of the American South.
In a moment when reading material and cooking inspiration feel completely essential—providing necessary comfort and occasional diversion from the dizzying lather and swirl of the news—we’re turning to these new books, ideal for armchair travel and project cooking alike.
Typically, a book’s release is accompanied by a string of events, like book talks and signings, cooking demos and classes, pop-up dinners and podcast appearances, many of which take place in beloved independent (and often cookbook-focused) bookshops. These kinds of events are one of the main ways authors connect with their audience, find new readers, and generate buzz around their books, and they provide a major stream of revenue for indie bookstores—not to mention reinforce the role of the business as an important part of the community. (To that end, Seattle’s Book Larder has suspended its regular cooking classes and is dedicating its kitchen space to making meals for medical workers at the nearby Harborview Medical Center.)
“About a week and a half ago, pretty much all book and food events we had on our calendar for the next couple of months were scrapped,” wrote Ken Concepcion, of the beloved Los Angeles cookbook-focused bookstore, Now Serving, in an email. “That's really devastating to a small specialty shop like ours. Events are so important to our community, and they're how we pay the bills too.” Ken co-owns the store with his wife, Michelle Mungcal.
Joe Yonan, Food and Dining Editor for The Washington Post and author of Cool Beans, had events planned at bookstores around the country, including a talk at Celia Sack’s shop, Omnivore Books, in San Francisco. They were all cancelled. He felt that this was the right thing to do, but added, “From a personal perspective, it’s so gratifying to connect with people directly when you’ve put your heart and soul into a book. You get to see the in-person reaction.” And after talking to a room full of people, he has something like “mini-evangelists” for the book out into the world.
Though new book releases are feeling the effects of event cancellations the most, authors of previously released books who had planned for a round of spring events are impacted as well; Molly Stevens, whose All About Dinner came out in November, echoed Joe: “My favorite part of selling books is when someone gets excited and inspired to run home and cook one of my recipes… The whole reason to write books is to encourage and help people to cook for themselves, and it’s incredibly inspirational for me to get to see this happen first hand.”
Now for some good news: We can help keep these authors and independent bookshops in business. Here are five simple ways to do just that.
1. Buy cookbooks!
We’ll all be needing an infusion of new recipes (and maybe a dose of escapism) as we wait out this storm at home in the coming next weeks and months—and cookbooks are great gifts to send friends you can’t be with in person. We’ve got a whole list of spring releases we’re excited about below. But don’t just buy them anywhere...
2. Order from your local independent bookstores.
Many bookstores are pivoting as quickly as they can to get their businesses online, to offer shipping or curbside contact-free pickups of books. (“We have whiplash as we scramble to change our entire business model and shift to strictly online sales through our website,” Ken of Now Serving wrote me.) Check out our list of some of our favorite independent bookstores and cookbook shops, as well as some recommended by cookbook authors, below.
And don’t forget about gift cards to bookstores you love; you can buy these online from many shops.
3. Cook from cookbooks, then promote the books you’re excited about.
Snap a photo, post it on social media, and tag the author! (And why not tag the bookstore you bought it from, too?) Or reach out over Twitter. You’ll be helping to boost the visibility of the book and the author, especially in a moment when, as Lara Hamilton of Book Larder in Seattle put it, “having the news cycle so fully dominated by one subject makes it very hard for books, and cookbooks in particular, to get the media attention they might otherwise get.”
4. Reach out to authors on social media.
Authors love hearing what their readers are cooking from their books, and many are experimenting with ways to make the same connections with readers that they would through events. Melissa Clark, whose book, Dinner in French, came out in early March, did a “book signing” on Instagram Live, “which went pretty well but they are hard to do in isolation. I think there are other virtual ideas afloat and I definitely want to explore Zoom.”
5. Join a cookbook club online with your friends or through a group.
Food52 has a cookbook club on Facebook (April's book is is Dinner in French by Melissa Clark!), as does Saveur (their pick is Joe Yonan’s Cool Beans—and the conversation is being led by Judy Witts Francini, a cook under severe lockdown conditions in Italy).
Here are some of the titles we’re excited to read and cook from, by release date:
Beyond the North Wind (Feb. 4) by Darra Goldstein
Cool Beans (Feb. 4) by Joe Yonan
Vegetable Kingdom (Feb. 11) by Bryant Terry
See You on Sunday (Feb. 18) by Sam Sifton
Start Simple (Feb. 18) by Lukas Volger
Drinking French (Mar. 3) by David Lebovitz
Open Kitchen (Mar. 3) by Susan Spungen
Dinner in French (Mar. 10) by Melissa Clark
How to Be a Conscious Eater (Mar. 13) by Sophie Egan
Always Home (Mar. 31) by Fanny Singer, foreword by Alice Waters
Lummi: Island Cooking (Apr. 7) by Blaine Wetzel
Kitchen Remix (Apr. 7) by Charlotte Druckman
My Korea (Apr. 7) by Hooni Kim
Everyone Can Bake (Apr. 14) by Dominique Ansel
Mosquito Supper Club (Apr. 14) by Melissa M. Martin
Bitter Honey (Apr. 28) by Letitia Clark
Maenam (May 5) by Angus An
Rose's Ice Cream Bliss (May 5) by Rose Levy Berenbaum
Help Yourself (May 12) by Lindsay Maitland Hunt
Quick and Easy (May 12) by Ella Mills
Tasty Pride (May 12) by Jesse Szewczyk
Eat a Peach (May 20) by David Chang
And here are just a few beloved independent bookstores and cookbook shops around the U.S.:
Read It & Eat (Chicago)
Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks (Manhattan)
Books Are Magic (Brooklyn)
Community Bookstore (Brooklyn)
Greenlight Bookstore (Brooklyn)
Kitchen Arts & Letters (Manhattan)
Powerhouse Books (Brooklyn)
Stories Bookshop (Brooklyn)
Fountain Bookstore (Richmond)
Book Larder (Seattle)