In spring 2015, Esther Dairiam opened Read It and Eat in Chicago’s upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood. The nearly 2,000-sq. ft. cookbook store, which focuses on food and beverage books along with other food-related titles, including novels, has a kitchen and prep area that have become even more popular than Dairiam anticipated when she was planning the store. Chefs frequently do kitchen demos when they visit, and Read It and Eat offers cooking classes for foods ranging from crêpes to Indian street food.
Below are the five cookbooks that Dairiam is particularly excited about this holiday season:
Cheers to The Publican, Repast and Present: Recipes and Ramblings from an American Beer Hall (Ten Speed/Lorena Jones Books, $40 hardcover, Sept.) by Paul Kahan and Cosmo Goss with Rachel Holtzman
This is the much-awaited debut cookbook of Chicago-based chef Paul Kahan, recognized by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef Midwest. “If you’ve wanted to eat at the Publican but haven’t had the chance to, this is the book for you, [or] if you’ve eaten at the Publican and want to recreate the experience at home,” Dairiam said.
Homegrown: Cooking from My New England Roots (Oct., $35 hardcover, Artisan) by Matt Jennings
“This is the most accessible chef/restaurant cookbook that I have come across. At the same time the recipes still have the creativity and sophistication that you would expect from a book like this,” said Dairiam of the debut cookbook from Matt Jennings, chef at Townsman, a brasserie-inspired New England restaurant in downtown Boston. “I see a Sweet Pea and Ricotta Pancake sometime in my near future,” she added.
The Palestinian Table (Oct., $39.95 hardcover, Phaidon) by Reem Kassis
Reem Kassis shares family recipes and offers a peek into what it was like to cook in a Palestinian kitchen when she was growing up. “[Kassis’s] resistance to cooking and being in the kitchen earlier in her life was very much how I was for many of the same reasons. And here I am today running a business where cooking is front and center. My identifying with her aside, this book highlights a cuisine and culture that many of us are still learning about,” Dairiam said.
Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey (Oct., $35 hardcover, HMH/Rux Martin) by Robyn Eckhardt
The creator of the Eating Asia blog,Robyn Eckhardt offers a collection of Turkish recipes for the home cook. “This book is a beautiful collection of recipes from restaurants, vendors, and friends, painstakingly reproduced in Robyn’s kitchen so that we can enjoy it in ours,” Dairiam said.
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South (Aug., $28.99 hardcover, Amistad) by Michael W. Twitty
In this food memoir, culinary historian Michael W. Twitty writes about his “Southern Discomfort Tour,” tracing the story of his family through food, and discusses the politics surrounding Southern cuisine. “I am deeply moved,” Diariam said.