Story Cookbooks for Mind, Body, and Soul

There are times when you want to quickly Google a recipe, only to find page after page of text. You frantically scroll down the page hoping to find the actual list of ingredients and measurements. This list is NOT for those times.

There's an ever-growing number of cookbooks on the market that offer historical background, cultural context, witty repartee, food science, and even folklore alongside recipes. In some cases, these books are more about the story than the cooking itself, and that's okay. After all, sometimes the journey is more exciting than the destination. Have a look at some of the following titles to find more than just teaspoon vs. tablespoon. 

Mi Cocina – In Mi Cocina, Rick travels to each of the seven regions in Mexico to explore 100 unique dishes, the recipe for each accompanied by stunning on-site photography. In this beautifully personal tribute, Rick expresses Mexico's regionality through dishes like Oaxaca's Mole Coloradito and Tacos de Capeados from coastal Baja.

Koshersoul – In Koshersoul, Michael W. Twitty considers the marriage of two of the most distinctive culinary cultures in the world today: the foods and traditions of the African Atlantic and the global Jewish diaspora. To Twitty, the creation of African-Jewish cooking is a conversation of migrations and a dialogue of diasporas offering a rich background for inventive recipes and the people who create them.

Arabiyya – A James Beard Award semifinalist and California bakery owner highlights the origins and evolution of her native Arabic food with inspired recipes for flatbreads, dips, snacks, and platters including hazelnut-praline baklava rolls with milk and honey and chile-onion-stuffed falafel. 

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat – In one of the most important books on food over the past decade, author Samin Nosrat takes the reader through the four integral elements of cooking. The book features in-depth information described with playful illustrations. We learn not only how these elements work but how they apply to the recipes supplied in the book. It lives up to the hype.

Let's Make Dumplings! – Don't be afraid, it's a cookbook and a comic book. Follow the authors through visual storytelling on the history and preparation of traditional dumplings throughout Asia. Think origami with noodles. If you like this book, check out the authors' previous title, Let's Make Ramen!.

Mastering the Art of French Eating – In the footsteps of Julia Child, read about Ann Mah's experience as the wife of a diplomat in Paris. When her husband is relocated to Iraq without her, journalist Mah goes on a quest of culinary discovery in the French capital.  

Trejo's Tacos – Danny Trejo is best known as the tattooed tough guy from movies like Desperado and Machete. But he's also a native Los Angelino, an ex-con, boxer, drug counselor, and restauranteur. Trejo writes about how all these roles have influenced him throughout his life and in his cooking. His stories combined with beautiful color photos and mouth-watering recipes will make you want to hop a plane to L.A. and find the nearest taco truck. 

A Homemade Life – To cope with the loss of her father, Molly Wizenberg buried herself in the food world of Paris. After a successful blog on the topic, Wizenberg offers this memoir about growing up in the kitchen and how to make the dishes that bring her close to home.

Ruffage – Check out this 2020 Michigan Notable Book by chef, writer, and former Michigan farmer Abra Berens. Considered a teaching cookbook, Ruffage also offers stories of Berens' experiences in Michigan from preparing food at Zingerman's to establishing her own farm in Northport. 

97 Orchard – While this book is more reading than cooking, you'll definitely want to take it into the kitchen at the end of each chapter. You'll read about the lives and eating habits of five different families all living in a Lower East Side tenement building during the turn of the century in New York City. It's the culmination of cooking from the old country and what can be scrapped together in a new place. A truly American experience.

Relish – Who knew there were so many comic cookbooks? Well, Lucy Knisely's is one of the first and most celebrated. She offers her perspective on growing up in the kitchen as the child of a chef, bookending each chapter with recipes. It's smart and sweet. If you enjoy this book, check out Knisely's other titles about marriage and pregnancy. Her wit and illustrations will keep you coming back.