Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen: Simple Recipes from My Many Mothers by Kim Thuy (Appetite by Random House, $32)
Books have always had the power to draw their readers into different worlds, and cookbooks are no exception – although some use food to dive deeper into personal lives, politics and histories than others. Kim Thuy’s latest is her first cookbook, and yet it’s also part memoir, inspiring the reader to devour it cover to cover – it’s clear she’s not only a cook, but a celebrated writer.
Born in Saigon in 1968, Thuy left Vietnam with the boat people at 10 and settled with her family in Quebec. Between careers as a lawyer and a bestselling novelist, Thuy ran a restaurant called Ru de Nam in Montreal. Her debut novel, Ru, won the Governor-General’s Award for French-language fiction in 2010, and Vi (2016) was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Out this spring, Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen introduces the reader to the women in Thuy’s family – her mother and five “aunt-mothers.” In Vietnam, she writes, they often identify themselves by the number that represents their birth order in the family. As the number one is reserved for the most important person in the village, they start counting at two – Thuy’s mother is the second child in her family, so her sisters call her Big Sister 3, and Thuy’s aunts are identified by their numbers: 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.
Each of the women is introduced by way of a stunning portrait, followed by a personal story that connects them to chapters dedicated to vegetables, fried foods, sweets, bowls and stir fries. Beautifully photographed recipes are interspersed with quotes from past novels, and Thuy connects the dishes she shares with stories of the immigrant experience – from a teacher’s inability to understand the cultural differences between breakfast foods, to the cha bong – flavourful dried pork floss – Vietnamese women were able to smuggle to severely malnourished men imprisoned in re-education camps. Visual guides help the reader get to know and understand the fundamental ingredients in Vietnamese cooking: fragile rice noodles in a wide swath of sizes and thicknesses, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables, and barrels of fish sauce. There are food and wine pairing suggestions contributed by a sommelier friend, and music pairings remind us that good food is always part of a bigger story.
10 other new cookbooks for your shelf
Oven to Table by Jan Scott (Penguin Canada, $32)
Jan Scott, a mother of two teenagers and a toddler, reduces dinnertime stress by focusing on all-in-one dishes that are easy to assemble and bring to the table. It’s the sort of go-to cookbook that will quickly settle in to regular rotation if you have a family to feed.
The Little Island Bake Shop: Heirloom Recipes Made for Sharing by Jana Roerick (Figure 1, $34.99)
Jana Roerick is the baker-owner behind Jana’s Bake Shop, a Salt Spring Island bakery with the sort of nostalgic charm visitors are drawn to when visiting the idyllic gulf island. The book is filled with beautiful yet unintimidating pies, cakes and cookies, as well as savoury dishes and condiments you’ll want to make and set on your windowsill.
Modern Lunch by Allison Day (Appetite by Random House, $29.95)
Allison Day sees lunchtime into an opportunity to eat well, whether you’re at home or at the office. Recipes for inspiring, portable food, creative packing suggestions and tips for organizing workplace lunch clubs ensure we all make the most of our midday meals.
Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl (Random House, $32)
In her latest book, celebrated food writer, memoirist and former New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl brings us on a journey through her tenure as editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, chronicling the glamorous yet volatile world of magazine publishing.
Vegetables First: 120 Vibrant Vegetable-Forward Recipes by Ricardo Larrivée (Appetite by Random House, $32)
Beloved Québécois celebrity chef Ricardo Larrivée focuses on vegetables in his latest book; 120 recipes celebrate the wide range of textures, colours and flavours in the produce aisle, with introductions to less familiar veggies such as chicory, kohlrabi and celeriac.
Bake the Seasons by Marcella DiLonardo (Penguin Canada, $32)
Inspired by the farms, gardens and orchards of her childhood, food writer Marcela DiLonardo shares her favourite sweet and savoury baked treats inspired by the seasons: think fruit pies, celebratory breads and festive cookies.
Let Me Feed You: Everyday Recipes Offering the Comfort of Home by Rosie Daykin (Appetite by Random House, $35)
The founder of Butter Baked Goods focuses on the pleasure of feeding others with a humorous, unfussy book of home cooking, full of recipes to comfort, nurture and celebrate.
The Domestic Geek’s Meals Made Easy: A Fresh, Fuss-free Approach To Healthy Cooking by Sara Lynn Cauchon (Penguin Canada, $32)
The debut cookbook from YouTube superstar Sara Lynn Cauchon focuses on healthful, no-fuss recipes with vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, and wheat-, dairy- and gluten-free options that make them work for everyone at the table.
Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40)
A tribute to author Priya Krishna’s mom, Ritu, Indian-ish is a guidebook for home cooks who aren’t overly fussed about authenticity – it’s a collection of unique, flavour-packed American-inspired Indian hybrid recipes for every day.
Peace, Love & Fibre by Mairlyn Smith (Appetite by Random House, $29.95, out May 7)
The queen of fun and fibre, Mairlyn Smith has made it her mission to demonstrate that food can be high in fibre and deliciousness. In her latest book, Smith breaks down what fibre is, and why we need more of it – one section is titled Fibre 101 or How to Get an A+ on Your Colonoscopy – and follows with all-occasion recipes, from breakfast to dessert, with nutritional breakdowns and icons to identify vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free and gluten-free options.
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