How I Got My Cooking Groove Back: Part One


Nothing is more exciting to me than a brand new cookbook. The bright colours, fun fonts, and bold graphics designed to appeal to the senses do their magic, and I’m entranced. Often, I end up doing a lot of cookbook window shopping, as it were. You know, instead of mall walking my way past an endless barrage of likely too small crop tops and entirely optimistic spring florals, I take home beautiful cookbooks after a shift and fantasize about making dishes I will most likely never make. Like the episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai and Rory discover how depressing window shopping actually is, I have decided I should put a limit on the amount of cookbook fantasizing I subject myself to. In its place, I will make a concerted effort to find food writers who are targeting their work to the everyday cook who just needs some inspiration to provide sustenance for themself. The food delivery app has become an addiction for me. On top of the unfair deal often struggling small businesses and restaurants get when they sign up for these apps, it’s just not as healthy to eat out all the time. The main culprit is the lack of detailed knowledge about what goes into the food. A segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver brought this topic to mind for me. The percentage apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash take from the cost of delivered items is large. So, a lot of places end up charging you more than you would pay if you came to pick up the food in person. To boot, delivery drivers are under a lot of pressure to deliver on time or faster to ensure they retain their five-star rating, resulting in more reckless driving or cycling (for those who use bicycles or motorbikes in metropolitan centres). Of course, most of us who use these apps will most likely keep using them from time to time, but it’s time to get back into a cooking groove! (Like the legend that is Angela Bassett in this classic film.) By the way, Angela Bassett did the thing. What follows are the books that are giving me inspiration and energy on my quest toward culinary adventure and achievement. In a nutshell, I’m looking for not too complicated ingredients that are not too hard to source, as well as design and photography that succeed at making the food look absolutely scrumptious. Come along on my journey friends.

I was listening to the Table Manners podcast hosted by the English singer Jessie Ware and her mother. It’s a food podcast where they cook their guest a meal while chatting about their lives. They have a classic mother-daughter dynamic that is sometimes tempestuous and always interesting. The episode featured English comedian Sara Pascoe, who’s a vegetarian. The meal they cooked was from a cookbook by Anna Jones called Easy Wins. While we don’t have that one in our collection, we do have a couple others by her:

One Pot, Pan, Planet


I’m quite taken with this one. It combines two of my interests in the culinary world: environmental/other ethical considerations regarding food choices and a focus on plant-based foods. I’m not a vegan, that’s for sure. I consider myself pescatarian, but the choice to eat fish and other seafood may be somewhat of a stepping stone towards being vegetarian for me. I don’t think I will ever make the change to veganism, but it’s good to explore the options and inform yourself about the potential impacts of your diet on the world. There’s a lot of hidden or just not completely transparent complexity to how foods are produced and distributed to the store. For instance, in the episode of Table Manners I was listening to most recently, Sara Pascoe talks about parmesan. I was not aware that it’s considered an animal product, not just a dairy product. A substance called rennet is added to the milk and whey mixture to create the curd. It turns out, rennet is taken from calves’ stomachs. I had no idea. Also included in One Pot, Pan, Planet, are great ideas for reducing food waste. Jones encourages her readers to eat more plant-based meals, from whatever starting point you happen to be at. The next best step, according to her, is attempting to ensure the food you do buy doesn’t go to waste. She mentions a website called Too Good to Go, which partners with businesses to enable them to get rid of excess food that would otherwise end up in the garbage. It started in Copenhagen in 2015, and it’s now here in North America. A friend of mine coincidentally told me about this a few months ago. You can download the app on iOS or Android, reserve a “surprise bag” from whichever business you like, and pay a fraction of what the items would normally cost. The best part is, the food doesn’t go to waste.

I have my eye on the “Muhammara Chickpea Stew” on page 31. I’m also very intrigued by the “Aubergine Curry with Basil and Tamarind.” Aubergine is the English word for eggplant, by the way. I will report back on how my cooking goes. The author makes a point of saying that she has deep “respect” for the cultures some of the recipes and ingredients are derived from. She is inspired by them after growing up in London, England, but knows the flavours, dishes, and traditions alluded to in the book belong to those cultures. Jones’ book A Modern Way to Cook is also in our collection.

Go-To Dinners


Ina Garten (otherwise known as The Barefoot Contessa and my favourite cooking show host ever to have existed) continues to churn out glossy, satisfying tomes. Her brand seems to be cream and butter-laden takes on classic recipes — French, Italian, American, or some combination of all three. Her latest is beautifully comforting, simply titled, Go-To Dinners. I have written about her before here, and I will most likely continue to write about her for quite some time. I will be very tempted to read her forthcoming memoir entitled, Be Ready When the Luck Happens. Have you seen her interview for the BBC with Katty Kay? It’s a fascinating look at how she developed her business and the Barefoot Contessa brand. She also delves into her relationship with husband Jeffrey, which has captured the hearts of people all over the globe, I think. If there’s one media couple out there who must truly be in love, it’s them. Here are the recipes capturing my attention and hopefully curing my chef’s block:

Roasted Shrimp Panzanella on page 110

Overnight Mac & Cheese on page 157

Mushroom Bolognese on page 161

In part two of this post, I will let you know whether I have succeeded or not. I also have my eye on a couple other cookbooks, so we’ll see which ones make the cut. Please let me know if you’ve ever had a cooking slump before. If so, how did you deal with it? I know eating out and getting food delivered isn’t an option for some people, so when you don’t feel like cooking, what do you make? What drives you to turn on the stove or preheat the oven? See you next month! Until then, happy reading and happy cooking.

About Claire

Claire is an Information Assistant at Vaughan Public Libraries. Avid cooker, concertgoer, coffee drinker, TV and movie watcher, washi tape enthusiast, and unabashed fan of romance in all its varieties (even Hallmark movies).  |  Meet the team