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Favorite food books from 2013

We get a lot of food-related books, in large part because I know many of the authors. This has been a rather spectacular year for them, and here's a few of the ones that we allow to occupy precious space in our pantry shelf. If you're here in San Francisco, please trek down to Omnivore Books and pick a few up, won't you? 

Cookbooks:

Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese
When I heard Stephanie and Garrett were working on a mac and cheese cookbook, I did not imagine that they would literally redefine the concept. Forget elbow macaroni and day-glow orange cheese sauce. With erudite information on artisan cheese and pasta, this book will make you think about the combinations of noodles and cheese in entirely new ways. I'll be cooking from this for a long time to come. 

Duck, Duck, Goose
Another blog friend, Hank Shaw returns with his second book (the first being the very useful Hunt, Gather, Cook), a compendium of recipes for duck and goose. Even if you're not a hunter, it's a great resource with tips on butchery and approachable recipes with a global influence. We haven't cooked much duck at home, and goose just twice, but we'll probably do more now. 

Homemade with Love
When Jennie's husband died abruptly a couple years ago, it rippled throughout the blog world. One of the ways she was able to put her broken life back together was through cooking, and this book reflects the heart and soul she has  been putting into the food she makes for herself and two young daughters in the wake of the tragedy. Jennie graciously hosted a few of us for a brunch; you truly can taste the love. 

Vegetable Literacy
Deborah Madison, famously of the vegetarian restaurant Greens, turned out this stunner that goes beyond mere cookery and into the realm of botany. By grouping vegetables into families, you understand more about how  their flavors complement each other, enabling you to become a more creative cook. Or, just leave it out as a gorgeous coffee table book. I won't judge. 

Southern Italian Desserts
I love Rosetta Costantino's first book, My Calabria, featuring one of Italy's most intriguing and overlooked cuisines, and moreover from one of the regions my family comes from. With her second, she focuses on the extremey diverse sweets of five southern Italian provinces: Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Sicilia. From the rustic to the extremely fancy, each of these recipes look amazing.

The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook
Kathy Strahs started her blog Panini Happy only a couple years after I started Hedonia. With her book, she busts out not only creative, crispy sandwiches (hello, Nutella, brie and basil sandwich? Yes, and it totally works) but clever ideas on using the humble panini press as a versatile tool in the kitchen. I got to sample a few 'wiches recently with her and Adam, the associate publisher, and am inspired.

Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook
I met Jessica Goldman Foung by sitting across the table from her in our local coffeeshop. Because of severe health issues, she must maintain an extremely low-sodium diet. What's a foodie to do? She took the bull by the horns and developed a book full of recipes that have little salt but big flavor. It's quite literally a life savor for those who must cut back on salt but don't want to eat cardboard.

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook We're big fans of the Beekman Boys, and it's not just becase we bear a mild resemblance to them and aspire to a similar existence to what they've undertaken. While the recipes look perfectly delicious, the photography is the star here, with moody overtones and compositions reminiscent of Dutch Masters' still lifes. A real beaut, the kind of cookbook you just want to sit and thumb through.

Non-cookbooks:

San Francisco: A Food Biography
Food is at the core of San Francisco's culture and identity, so what better way to tell its story than through the lens of food. From its earliest days, with windswept dunes and Indian villages, through the Victorian era and right to modern times, Erica Peters serves up plate after plate of the City by the Bay. Since I myself am a tour guide with Edible Excursions, I'll be mining this for relevant information as well as just plain good reading.

Inside the California Food Revolution
Of course California's modern era is what most people know best. Former chef Joyce Goldstein was present in the most influential years from 1970 to 2000, when California drove the culinary scene across the nation. Using material from interviews with some 200 people (!), Goldstein gets a holistic view on how and why California came to rise as a culinary power. I saw her speak on the book, and she really knows her stuff.

Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting
I hate dieting, and I'm terrible at it. I can follow a regimen for a while, but I always fail, because I hate denying myself delicious things. As Darya Pino Rose says, "seriously, screw that." A neuroscientist, Rose lays out a framework for a "healthstyle" that allows you to make simple choices that help you lose weight without losing your mind.

See also: Best DIY Food Books of 2013 (Punk Domestics)