The past year has been productive for cookbooks, cocktail guides, regional and personal memoirs, photo books, and other literature relating to food and travel in the Americas. The following list includes many of our favorites and range from little known recipe books from regional publishers to big name chefs talking about topics spanning ingredient, technique, culinary history, and current preoccupations including gender disparity within the industry. If you’d like a copy of your own, click through the links to purchase.
Ranked the #42 by World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Boragó – one of Latin America’s most avant-garde spots – is helmed by the brilliant Rodolfo Guzmán. Known to imagine and execute over 500 highly unique recipes (like vegetable “cheese”) each year from native Chilean products he finds foraging on the seaside or in the wilds of the Atacama desert, this cookbook is a narrative of Guzmán’s creative process, showcasing sketches and photographs of his adventures interwoven between 100 recipes chosen from Guzmán’s menus. Order here.
Culinary historian Michael Twitty has long been a storyteller of Southern foodways, slave culture, and of racial connections and relationships to food and country. The Cooking Gene is a memoir that traces Twitty’s own ancestry through food and seeks to answer the question of who “owns” Southern food and Southern food tradition. Importantly, Twitty hopes that this book will act as a vehicle to promote a greater awareness of African-American contributions to society and to also incite racial reconciliation and healing. Order here.
Outside the kitchen, Oglala Lakota chef Sean Sherman is also well-versed in agricultural farming, foraging, hunting, salt and sugar making, as well as in food preservation – and his food reflects this expertise. As the “Sioux Chef,” many of Sherman’s dishes are devoted to Native American food preparations within a contemporary framework. In his first cookbook, Sherman shares his tremendous knowledge using ingredients found in America’s midwestern states of Minnesota and North Dakota. Order here.
The Potlikker Papers tracks the many different evolutions of Southern identity and, through food, tells the story of society and politics over the last half-century. Touching on slavery, racism, and class, author John T. Edge illustrates the journey of how the food of the poorest Southerners has interestingly and ironically become a signature trend of modern American haute cuisine. Order here.
Maricel E. Presilla is an accomplished chef, a three-time James Beard award-winner, a culinary historian, and a journalist. This book, Pepper of the Americas, is described as a “beautiful culinary and ethnobotanical survey of the punch-packing ingredient central to today’s multi-cultural palate” and includes expert descriptions of 200 varieties of capsicums and over 40 Pan-Latin recipes featuring peppers grown in both North and South America. Order here.
New Yorkers know pastry chef Fany Gerson from her famous La Newyorkina paletas and Dough doughnuts – brands that have raised the bar on what popsicles and doughnuts should taste like. Mexican Ice Cream is Gerson’s third cookbook (her second, My Sweet Mexico, was nominated for James Beard Award), and is solely dedicated to flavorful ice creams and other frozen treats from Mexico. In this book, Gerson introduces her readers to new flavors like Red Prickly Pear Ice Cream, Oaxacan-style Lime Sorbet, Avocado-Chocolate Ice Cream, and Rice-Almond Ice Cream with Cinnamon. Order here.
Between the covers of The Grand Central Market Cookbook, over 85 distinctive recipes and wealth of vivid photographs transport readers and eaters to the stalls inside downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market. The DTLA market, opened since 1917, is home to a plethora of authentic multicultural tastes celebrating the diversity of culture and cuisine of Los Angeles including Eggslut, McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream, La Tostadaria, and many others. Order here.
The world of fine dining collides with the humble and delicious taco on chef Wes Avila’s beloved L.A. taco truck, Guerrilla Tacos. Coming from some of the world’s best kitchens and drawing from his own Mexican heritage, Avila creates unique and expressive dishes worthy of his experience, using a tortilla to deliver the goods. A wonderful must-own for the taco-crazed home cook. Order here.
Undeniably, Alice Waters is one of the most important figures of the American food scene. Her philosophy on food and ingredients, her numerous cookbooks, her trail-blazing Chez Panisse, and her food activism have long inspired cooks and eaters alike. Water’s long-awaited memoir, Coming to My Senses, is a deeply personal account of her journey — from experiencing French food for the first time to becoming the meaningful culinary figurehead of today. Littered with recipes, letters, and photos, Waters finally tells her whole, wonderful story. Order here.
Bill Esparza has been hailed as “the expert’s expert” in regards to his vast and unmatched knowledge of L.A’s food scene – specifically L.A.’s Mexican food scene. He’s a James Bread Award winner for his coverage of tacos in Los Angeles Magazine and also the curator of the city’s yearly Tacolandia festival. Esparza’s book is the definitive guide to Mexican food in Los Angeles and, along the way, introduces the world to the people, the vendors, and the chefs behind it. Order here.
One of Toronto’s most influential food voices, Jen Agg is the Canadian restaurateur behind popular locales The Black Hoof, Cocktail Bar, Rhum Corner, and Agrikol restaurants. Known for her brazen, sharp and often funny observations and ideas on the restaurant industry, I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, Agg’s first book, is a timely, smart, and frank commentary on the current state of the industry and, in light of the recent charges against the patriarchy of kitchens around the world, a must-read. Order here.
A beautiful conversation piece and an indispensable cocktail guide holding the secrets of one of the country’s foremost mixologists within, this bar-building manual mixes history with professional knowledge touching upon topics from bartending, to service and hospitality, bar design, spirits production, and tools to achieve the perfect cocktail. With over 100 recipes for classic cocktails, as well as Meehan creations, this is the definitive book for any fan of the well-crafted drink. Order here.
In a year that debate over immigration in the United States has often been grossly distorted, this collection of oral histories of 17 migrant farm workers helps paint a clear and honest picture of the lives of those working in California agriculture. These voices, some of the “more than 800,000 men, women, and children working in California’s fields—one third of the nation’s agricultural work force,” detail the struggles that they face in their everyday lives. Order here.
A follow up to the highly successful book Modernist Cuisine, Modernist Bread (read our interview with the author) required a full-time staff of 22 to create this $625 blueprint for the history, the science, and future techniques of bread making. Research took four years and 36,650 loaves of bread. It’s safe to say the bread making will never be the same after this book, which relied on more than 1,600 experiments to discover ways of making bread, such as making high-hydration doughs easier to handle and pressure canning bread in jars. Order here.
Often defined by their limitations, the private restaurants of Cuba, called paladares, are a rather recent phenomenon that are helping to redefine modern Cuban cuisine (read our story). Author Anya von Bremzen details the lives of the Caribbean nation’s chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, and food historians, describing long secret recipes for daiquiris and what happened when Russian aid disappeared. More than 100 recipes reveal an emerging cuisine that we are only just beginning to understand. Order here.
Balancing acidity is an important aspect of cooking, which is why vinegar is an essential element to ethnic cuisines the world over. To wit, writer, photographer, and Heritage Radio host Michael Harlan Turkell explores North America, France, Italy, Austria, and Japan to learn about vinegar-making practices and see how the art has evolved over centuries. Recipes come from some of the world’s leading chefs, including Massimo Bottura, Sean Brock, and Barbara Lynch. Order here.