Cookbooks With Stories

Barbara Vey -- October 12th, 2012

I couldn’t believe that I’ve already seen people walking around with winter coats, hats and gloves.  I am so not ready for winter.  But I have noticed that winter foods are already creeping into the kitchen.  Instead of grilled brats and potato salad, I made a big pot of chili the other day.  I haven’t done that since last winter.  Of course, chili was always what my mom would make when it was time for the football game, so I’m sure some instinct was in there.  But I’m always on the lookout for some new, easy thing to throw together.


We’ve all seen the books the fiction books that incorporate recipes in them, Diane Mott Davidson, Joanne Fluke, Louisa Edwards, Jennifer Ross and Krista Davis, to name a few.  But what about cookbooks that include a story?


There’s the celebrity cookbook,  Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood.  You not only get that country music cooking, but also personal anecdotes and they even include some recipes from her hubby, Garth Brooks.  A cookbook from First Lady Michelle Obama, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.  A kitchen garden planted at the White House provides ingredients used by the chefs there.  Stories about her gardening experience and glimpses in the White House kitchen.










Author Pat Conroy offers The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes and Stories of My Life.  He even includes a section on cooking for a funeral.  In The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier, Ree Drummond includes pictures of her family and life on their ranch.  Homey and makes you yearn for wide open spaces.











Ok, here’s my favorite, easy recipe for vegetable soup that tastes surprisingly good:

1 can minestrone soup

1 can whole kernel corn

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can mixed vegetables

1 can black beans

1 cup of beef or chicken broth or water

Dump all cans (don’t drain) in a big pot and heat.  You can mix it up with salsa or add some cheese to make cheesy vegetable soup.

What about you?  Favorite recipe you’re dying to share?  Favorite cookbook?  Do you like cookbooks better when they incorporate a story?  Or story books that include recipes?


Bottom Line:  The best recipe is the one a friend cooks for you and brings over to your house.




58 thoughts on “Cookbooks With Stories

  1. Rosalie Donlon

    My favorite cookbook with stories is “Bruculinu America: Remembrances of Sicilian-American Brooklyn” by Vincent Schiavelli. It has great stories that brought to mind the stories I heard from my grandparents, older family members, and their friends in Bridgeport, CT, as I was growing up. It also has recipes for some of the foods that I remember from my childhood. It’s a great read, even if you never use the recipes.

  2. Virginia

    I’ve always loved An Invitation to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey for its ability to put the recipes in context. It made great bedtime reading. Great recipes, too.

  3. Kimmerie

    There are two very cool part story/part recipe books that I, as a movie lover, love. They are The Dead Celebrity Cookbook by Frank De Caro and the newer one, Christmas in Tinseltown (same series). And, they make me laugh! Movie trivia and food, what could be better?

  4. Jennifer Perry

    “Back In St. Olaf. . . An Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Stories, Idiotic Sayings & Home Cookery” is a love letter to Rose Nylund, Betty White’s character on the TV sitcom The Golden Girls. My client, Jody McFerren, has written and illustrated this book with all the stories, characters and foods that Rose told her roommates.
    While reaching out to publishers and agents, we are creating events to build a fanbase to support the book. As a book publicist, I advised Jody to create a facebook fanpage and build a following to demonstrate that there is a market for his book. The Back In St Olaf With Jody McFerren events have Golden Girls Trivia contests, readings by Jody, plus food and specialty cocktails from the book.We also raffle some of the illustrations with the proceeds benefiting a local charity that Rose would approve.
    We’ve had these events in Atlanta, Asheville, Jacksonville, with more to come in New York City, Charlotte and more.
    Can anyone suggest a publisher or agent that would be interested?

    1. Stephanie Scott

      I’m not able to help you get it published, but it sounds awesome! I know people my age (30s) and younger who love Golden Girls thanks to years of reruns. It’s one of those shows that despite seeming like a niche genre, the writing is strong that it crosses generations. I saw an episode recently and it’s still funny.

  5. Susan Carlisle


    I love giving afternoon teas and luncheons. I’ve been doing them for years. For promotion of my books I always give away a tea tray. Last year I combined all my tea recipes into a cookbook called Sharing Tea with Susan. I give these away as favors to my readers and include one with my tea tray. I’ve had so much fun with them. Below is one of my favorite recipes from Sharing Tea with Susan

    Chocolate-Lemon Creams

    2(8 ounces) packages cream cheese, softened
    2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 teaspoon lemon extract
    1 cup sifted powdered sugar
    12(2 ounces) chocolate candy coating squares
    2(2 ounces) vanilla candy coating squares

    Beat first 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth; cover. Freeze 2 hours.
    Shape cream cheese mixture into 1-inch balls and place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet; cover and freeze 1 hour. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes.
    Microwave chocolate candy coating in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 ½ minutes or until melted, stirring twice.
    Dip balls into coating; place on wax paper. Let stand until firm.
    Place vanilla coating in a zip-top plastic bag. Seal and submerge coating in warm water until melted. Snip a hole in 1 corner of bag, and drizzle coating over chocolates, if desired.
    Makes 6 dozen

  6. Suzanne Fass

    As a cookbook copyeditor, proofreader, and indexer, and sometime teacher of cookbook writing, I always pray that the writer will make proper use of the recipe headnote to tell a real story beyond just “This is really delicious.” Separate stories/essays are good, too, but I like it best when each recipe has its own story.

    BTW: everyone here who loves cookbooks with stories should let publishers know! I have a writer friend who has had two cookbooks commercially published already, but is having a tough time selling a third because the publishers who have looked at her proposal think a book with recipes and accompanying essays won’t sell. Can you believe that?!

  7. Stephanie Scott

    I’m looking forward to Carla from Top Chef’s cookbook. She was one of the contestants who told stories about her food as she was on the show. She is southern-born but French-trained, so she has this great mix of soul food and classic French cuisine.

  8. Judy Paolini

    The literary cookbooks I’ve been working with have been getting fabulous reception. Kate Shaffer’s “Desserted” and Kathy Gunst’s “Notes from a Maine Kitchen” both mix stories and recipes and people can’t seem to get enough.

  9. Lori Narlock

    As the founder of a new-media publishing company (Hang Time Press), I believe cookbooks with stories will be extremely important as ebooks grow in prominence. Currently, the design and delivery of cookbooks with illustrations as ebooks can be limited and costly–the larger the file the greater the delivery fee by retailers. We have begun to encourage our writers to tell a story enveloping recipes into it and to make it as personal as possible because information/recipes are prolific, but a good story is rare.

    BTW, I love that you have Pat Conroy in this roundup. One of my favorite quotes from him is so fitting for this story is: A recipe is a good story with a meal at the end.

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