There are many cool things about being a book reviewer. One of them is that from time to time, I get a cookbook to look over and review; as an amateur foodie and person who generally loves to cook, this is a super great perk… especially if it’s one of the more useful and interesting cookbooks. The Complete Tassajara Cookbook (named for the Zen Buddhist meditation center in California) definitely falls into that category.
While the book contains a collection of recipes like every other cookbook, this particular cookbook encourages the reader/cook to go beyond the recipes: to experiment and play with them in the spirit of love of adventure in cooking. Scattered throughout the book are various anecdotes and reflections on cooking and the process of spiritual and personal development through time spent in the kitchen. The book reads as much as a script from a (good) cooking show as it does a standard collection of recipes and how-to’s.
For the new (or even not so new) cook, there is a complete section on tips and techniques for everything from knife care to cooking techniques to working with various, specific ingredients. The recipes themselves (all vegetarian) are nicely simple and easy to follow, and I have to say that the results are pretty tasty. This is definitely a cookbook that should be on any cooking enthusiast’s shelf, vegetarian or not; it’s definitely going on my top books of 2009 list. From Shambhala Publications and available from your local, independent bookstore. (Shop independent, shop local, and tell ’em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)