Cookbooks Of The Third Kind (Starting With Momofuku)
Sometimes you read a cookbook to find a recipe for a dish that you already have in mind. Examples on my shelves: Joy Of Cooking, Larousse Gastronomique.
Sometimes you read a cookbook to find a dish for a flavor or theme or ingredient that you already have in mind. Examples: Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook (bistro), The Greens Cookbook (vegetarian), Fish & Shellfish by James Peterson (self-explanatory).
And sometimes you read a cookbook to find out what you have in mind in the first place.
That third kind of cookbook is what I'm looking for now. Part inspiration, part recipes. Usually there is a compelling story, about a person or a people, that gets you intrigued about their food. Context, to help you place the tastes and smells and colors. Recipes and dishes, to help you bring a little of those people and their passions to life in your own kitchen. Challenges, techniques you haven't tried, or ingredients you think you don't like.
I'll mention one I am reading now, and then ask if you might have others to recommend.
Momofuku, by David Chang. I had only heard of him in passing, but his substantial-looking book caught my eye in City Lights bookstore on my last trip to San Francisco. Leafing through it, I immediately got interested in the story: raw young Korean-American kid with a passion for ramen goes to Japan, knocks around some good New York kitchens, then starts a hole-in-the-wall noodle joint serving halfbreed lovechildren of Asian street food and high-end culinary school riffs. The ingredients and dishes all sounded like big-flavor late-night stoner munchie food. Miso butter. Bacon dashi. Pickled shiitakes. Apple, kimchi, and maple syrup. Oysters and riesling gelee. Pig head torchons. I don't know what I'll make from this book, but that's because there is more that I want to make than I can hope to make, and that means the book is doing its job.
There is my contribution to what I hope will be a thread full of the third kind of cookbook. Can you please suggest some other books?