Food writers look forward to fall with a special sort of anticipation. From September through November, heavy manila envelopes arrive on an almost daily basis. Tearing them open releases the smell of new paper, binding glue and ink as the publishing world's cookbook and culinary offerings for the holidays arrive. It's a bonanza of recipes, lush photos and food guidebooks that stack up with rather alarming speed.
Here are some of the best of the 2012 season.
"Japanese Farm Food," Nancy Singleton Hachisu, Andrews McMeel Publishing, $35
The most beautiful book released this fall is this love letter to the simple, pure foods of the Japanese countryside. American-born, Hachisu is married to a Japanese egg farmer, over the years adopting the community, culture and cuisine of an ancient, rural Japan as her own. Written as both memoir and cookbook, Hachisu describes the book as, ". . . just our Hachisu family food. It is a compilation of traditional dishes that my husband grew up with and new ones that he or I created. I had never seen a cookbook that approached Japanese food in the way my husband did -- main-ingredient and field- or fish-market-driven, so I never felt compelled to cook the recipes I saw in other books." And while many of the pickled, preserved flavors and ingredients may seem foreign to American palates, Hachisu bridges the gap with simple, homey preparations.
"Bouchon Bakery," Thomas Keller, Artisan, $50
It's so cute that any of us think we could actually make croissants like the famed Yountville bakery run by culinary rockstar Thomas Keller. Oh, we can certainly try, and this new book written in a breezy, sweet style does actually lull you into thinking this recipe for blueberry muffins with almond streusel might turn you into a morning hero. But it takes years to become as deft with butter and flour as Keller and co-author/executive pastry chef Sebastien Rouxel. So buy the book, set it in your kitchen and dunk your Oreos in milk while dreaming of buttercream and the perfect French macaron.
"101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes," edited by Fales Library, Rizzoli, $50
Like a mix-tape of just the good songs, this cookbook assembles the best of the best recipes as chosen by the likes of Jonathan Gold, Michael Pollan and Ruth Reichl from the 55,000 cookbooks of the Fales Library at New York University. That means tried-and-true classics such as Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon, Elizabeth David's Bouillabaisse, Marcella Hazan's Bolognese Ragu, Jacques Pepin's Brioche, James Beard's Pig Hamburgers, and Irma Rombauer's Devil's Food Cake Cockaigne. As if that weren't enough star power, Judith Jones, Florence Fabricant and Alice Waters are contributors and Marion Nestle has written the forward. Required reading.
"The Great Meat Cookbook," Bruce Aidells, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40
There aren't many chefs who could get away with an entire chapter on veal, and even fewer who would devote nearly a hundred pages to lamb and goat. But Bruce Aidells is the undisputed heavyweight champion of animal protein, and his new book is his arena. In exhaustive detail, he discusses everything from how to perfectly sear a cut of bison to the differences between grass-fed, grain-finished and organically-raised meats. A meaty read, for sure.
"Modernist Cuisine at Home," by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet, The Cooking Lab, $140