2023 Essential Cookbooks: CODES List Announced

NEW ORLEANS – The CODES List, a committee of the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), has announced the 2023 selection of essential cookbooks for public libraries. Essential Cookbooks 2023: The CODES List highlights titles for both avid home chefs and those just learning the rewards of making a meal. The list further supports those who appreciate the many joys of reading cookbooks, even if they rarely venture into the kitchen. As judged by librarians who cooked from them and hosted book groups about them, these are the cookbooks from 2023 that will stand the test of time, become reliable favorites, and nourish readers. This juried list marks an initiative from CODES to help librarians identify works destined to become the backbone of our most popular collections, works that serve as sure bets for readers and standards of their genre. Look for more lists in the coming years addressing additional topics vital to public libraries.

The list was announced Sunday, January 29, 2023 during the Book & Media Awards Ceremony at ALA LibLearnX.

The 2023 selections are:

Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish: A Whole Brunch of Recipes to Make at Home by Cathy Barrow.  Clarkson Potter. 

Make bagels at home?  Sure! Easy straightforward recipes for bagels, bialys, pletzels and more from all regions are abundant here.  But if you are happy buying your bagels, explore all the things to put on them:  spreads, salads, pickles, and fish can all be made with minimal time and effort.  Try the basic Schmear recipe, make your own lox, and you may never visit the deli again.  

Ghetto Gastro Presents Black Power Kitchen, Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao, and Lester Walker with Osayi Endolyn, Artisan,  

The contributors begin by reminding us that food is not a neutral subject; this book simultaneously provides opportunities to find comfort in its cuisine and discomfort with its context. That is not to say that the book sacrifices taste for message; Ghetto Gastro offers plenty of both. The recipes are nestled between vignettes of Black history and culture, and yield enticing and creative dishes. Try the Maroon Shrooms for a satisfying, plant-based application for Jamaican jerk that honors the self-determination of “the OG freedom fighters,” the Maroons. 

Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from the Matriarch of Edisto Island by Emily Meggett. Abrams.  

Ms. Emily epitomizes Gullah cuisine and culture with her mouth-watering recipes and fascinating stories of her lifelong residence on the island. Incorporating West African tradition with American influence, her recipes are accessible and intuitive, showcasing regional delicacies like fresh oysters, collards, and grits. Listening to her voice and following her lead, cooks of all experience will feel they are working alongside this beloved and admired treasure. Her Hoppin’ John recipe calls for multiple repeats and variation.  

I am from Here: Stories and Recipes From A Southern Chef by Vishesh Bhatt.  Norton. 

Flawless fusion of flavors of India and the American South, both familiar and unique, is the signature of Chef Bhatt’s dishes and also the basis of a wealth of personal stories in a life’s journey with food, family and friends.  The practical design and large format paired with irresistible photography gives this alluring appeal.  The Shrimp Salad is a surprise you will relish. 

I Dream of Dinner (so you don’t have to): Low effort, High-Reward Recipes by Ali Slagle.  Clarkson Potter.   

If you are looking for encouragement, comfort, or perhaps only a really great meal, this is the source for you. Flavor and simplicity are the hallmark of these can’t miss recipes. Organized by main ingredients, and beautifully illustrated, Slagle creates joyful dishes without constraint. The Skillet Broccoli Spaghetti is sure to find happy eaters.

The King Arthur Baking School:  Lessons and Recipes for Every Baker by the King Arthur Baking Company.  Countryman Press.   

In addition to being a purveyor of high-quality ingredients, this employee-owned institution is a leader in culinary education.  The book provides friendly, clear, step-by-step illustrated instructions that allow the reader to succeed in making the basic, essential recipes in each category:  yeast breads; sourdough; laminated pastries; pies and tarts; cookies; quick breads and cakes. If you have to choose only one bake, go with the Oat Chocolate Chips Cookies.  

Mamacita: Recipes Celebrating Life as a Mexican Immigrant in America by Andrea Pons. Princeton Architectural Press. 

Food stylist and author Pons, now Seattle-based but born in Guanajuato, Mexico, takes readers and cooks on a heartwarming trek through her families’ life in food and their immigration process. Every recipe tells a story, and the charm (and ease) behind Crema de Chile Poblano and its sumptuous texture will have it on replay. All the basics are covered, yet Pons goes deeper with accessible regional ingredients as well as local specialties. 

Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico: A Cookbook, Rick Martínez, Penguin Random House

Martínez takes the reader on both a personal and literal exploration in Mi Cocina, beginning with a compelling narrative about the role of Mexican food in his life, and continuing through an odyssey of recipes for each state in the country. The offerings are comprehensive distillations of geography and culture, and Martínez discusses both what binds these disparate places – like salsa and tortillas – and what sets them apart. The recipe for Mole Coloradito is less intimidating than many, and it would be a perfect Saturday afternoon project. 

Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files by Deb Perelman. Alfred A. Knopf.

Popular food blogger, Perelman, offers up her best tried and true recipes in this delectably photographed volume. Each entry begins with a warm and witty headnote, like your best neighbor friend is telling you about a favorite dish. From breakfast and salads (and even breakfast salads), to an extensive vegetable section, to sweets and snacks, these no-fail concoctions deliver. Ingredients and techniques are very doable, and with consistently good results, this is certainly a book to keep. Make the Double Shallot Egg Salad for an unforgettable twist on a classic. 

Snackable Bakes:  100 Easy-Peasy Recipes for Exceptionally Scrumptious Sweets and Treats by Jessie Sheehan.  Countryman Press. 

Sheehan approaches baking with great humor, honesty, and a knack for storytelling.  This book guides the reader in making fantastic no fuss treats with pantry ingredients that are easy to find, quickly assembled and baked, with little kitchen clean up.  From savory to sweet there are loads of yummy options to whip up lickety-split. If you are “team coconut”, don’t miss the Coconut Loaf Cake.

The Vegan Chinese Kitchen: Recipes and Modern Stores from a Thousand-Year-Old Tradition by Hannah Che.  Clarkson Potter.  

Centuries-old Chinese traditions of vegan cooking are rediscovered for today’s kitchen and paired with deeply imbued photography in this stunning cookbook.  Steeped with knowledge of time-honored ingredients and techniques, Che masterfully furnishes a vast array of recipes that are full of umami and can be executed by all levels of home chefs.  Start simple with the Smashed Cucumber Salad. 

The Wok: Recipes and Techniques by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. W.W. Norton & Company.

Sure to be the definitive guide to wok cooking for years to come, Lopez-Alt’s book inspires as much as it informs with science at its core. A thorough introduction, including everything from buying a wok and seasoning it, to history and stocking a wok-friendly pantry, prepares the reader for success. Throughout, step-by-step instructions with well-documented photos will have even the most apprehensive cooks feeling confident. For a lightning-fast meal, try Soy-Glazed Mushrooms for a wok first foray. 

Essential Cookbooks 2023: The CODES List committee includes: Sarah Tansley, Chicago Public Library, chair; P.J. Gardiner, Wake County Public Libraries, NC, Vice-Chair; Danise Hoover, Brooklyn, NY; Edward Kownslar, Stephen F. Austin State University; Dodie Ownes, Denver Public Library; Ron Block, Cuyahoga County Public Library; Jessica Jones, Takoma Park Maryland Library.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more at www.rusaupdate.org.

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