2020 Cookbook Year In Review with Becky Krystal Staff Writer for Voraciously at Washington Post FoodPhoto credit- Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; styling by Marie Ostrosky for The Washington Post. Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the book with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors,Becky Krystal: I'm Becky Krystal, I'm a staff writer for Voraciously at Washington Post Food.Suzy Chase: So Becky it's been a year since we last chatted about cookbooks. And I swear, it feels like it's been 10 years.Becky Krystal: Yes!! I was going to say that, it doesn't feel like normal time.Suzy Chase: It doesn't! How has your year been?Becky Krystal: It's been interesting like everyone else's. Our office closed very early on, actually probably before a lot of other offices so we lost access to our food lab and our kitchen and everything else all of our thousands of cookbooks in mid-March and I've been home ever since cooking in my own kitchen testing in my own kitchen. We've had lots of logistical challenges with regard to photo shoots and I was sending and driving cookies around to everyone for our holiday package and for about six months, I had my three and a half year old home with me. So it's been a year - 21.Suzy Chase: What is one of the hardest things you had to conquer cooking in your own kitchen this year? It'll make us all feel better to hear it.Becky Krystal: I think just figuring out well there's a lot, I guess, but figuring out where to put everything actually has been really challenging because I was testing recipe and I recipes and I also have my own cooking supplies. I have the food I was cooking for my family. You know, sometimes I'd have meat marinating for work and other dishes in various states of preparation and my refrigerator and my freezer were just overflowing and I knew I was going to be doing a lot of baking for cookies so I bought 50 pound bags of flour so I have these massive industrial size buckets of flour, basically still sitting in my dining room. So, uh, space is a pretty big challenge, actually.Suzy Chase: You and the Voraciously team put together your favorite cookbooks of 2020. Can you read us the intro to the article?Becky Krystal: Sure. Like all of you, we’ve been at home for most of 2020, cooking more meals in our own kitchens than we ever expected to. Many of us have turned to familiar ingredients and recipes time and time again, when we just needed to get dinner on the table or couldn’t run out to the store. Thankfully, we’ve also had cookbooks to help us get out of the rut. They introduced us to new dishes, new people and new ways to “go somewhere” without actually leaving our homes. Great cookbooks do a lot of things. They inspire us. They make us think. In 2020, our favorite books were tasty and timely, providing us with satisfying meals and food for thought about underrepresented voices and cuisines, how to make do with what you have, and more. We think you’ll find these 12 cookbooks, each selected by a staffer, just as inspiring this year — and beyond.Suzy Chase: So each cookbook was handpicked by a staff member, which I love. And you can read the whole piece over on Voraciously.com. Could you take us through the process of putting this article together this year? What was the criteria you had to work with and who was included in this?Becky Krystal: Yeah, obviously it was a pretty different year this year. Usually we're in our office and we are getting cookbooks so many in hard copies that, I mean, we're literally tripping over them. So we had to obviously shift that because there's only so much we can pile up in our own houses. So we got as many digital copies as we could. We requested hard copies when we wanted to. And it was just, I mean, we had like a Dropbox file with tons and tons of cookbooks. Basically we asked whoever sent us, can you just send us a digital copy? So all year we were looking at cookbooks, we were cooking out of them. Um, my colleagues Ann Maloney and Joe Yonan, as well as myself, would sometimes feature recipes in our columns over the year and that sort of helped us get a jumpstart on what books we were most interested in. It was just a lot of looking over books. And we had a bunch of meetings where we talked about them and what caught our eye. And we were recommending books to each other and dishes to each other. And then we just sort of looked at our most promising ones and what really spoke to us and what we made dishes out of that we liked and was sort of representative of the diversity of what was out there. And that was kind of how we came around to our list.Suzy Chase: I found it was so hard to cook out of the digital copies this year.Becky Krystal: It's really hard to get as good of a feel for a book in a PDF, which is why when we found one that we thought was especially promising, we would go ahead and ask for a copy. I mean, I still don't really like propping my Kendall or my laptop or my phone up in the kitchen to cook with. So it was really nice when I did have books that I could either cook out of, or I even take my cookbooks down to my printer and scan the recipe and then just have the sheet in front of me. So yeah, it is different both in a tactile sense and just like almost emotional sense to not have tons of books in front of you.Suzy Chase: With the pandemic and some cookbooks being postponed or some canceled all together were you able to spot any cookbook trends this year?Becky Krystal: I think once we start talking about some of these books this'll get into it, but you know, there has been more, I think, of an emphasis and interest on spotlighting cuisines and voices we might not have heard about, or as much about things that have not received the attention they obviously deserve in the publishing industry and even in food media. So we get into all the different African cuisines and In Bibi's Kitchen and obviously even the Russian cuisine and Beyond The North Wind and Korean food in My Korea so I think that's really refreshing. There was still a lot of obviously chef driven books, but like some of those books I just talked about, there's also more, I think of an interest in regular people cooking, right? You know the recipes coming from the Bibi's, the recipes coming from the home cooks in Russia, that's obviously appealing to a lot of home cooks who maybe are intimidated or even put off by these really chefy books. Pie. There was a lot of pie this year, which I think is just wonderful. I love that. So that obviously jumped out to me and bread too, especially sourdough, you know, there were books, I think that were already in the works that just happened to coincide with this uptick of people doing sourdough for the first time myself included. Um, so we had New world Sourdough by Brian Ford. We had Living Bread by Daniel Leader and Lauren Chattman. So I think those are the things that jump out at me in terms of what we could sort of spot this year.Suzy Chase: Okay. So we're going to chat about five of the cookbooks on your list. First off is your personal pick One Tin Bakes by Edd Kimber. What drew you to this cookbook?Becky Krystal: Well, it's baking book and I am a passionate baker. It's definitely my strongest suit. I love the idea that as the title says, everything is made in a 9 by 13 pan, which is not the most glamorous pan it's, you know, the brownies and the blondies and in England, they talk about the tray bakes and stuff, homier things but Edd just had so many different ideas for how to use this one piece of equipment that is inexpensive and really versatile. I mean, I looked through and I wanted to make almost everything in there, which is always a good sign. And I felt like I could, the recipes are really approachable and extremely well-written, which I think is not always the case in cookbooks. And it's not the like sexiest thing to talk about, but a well-written recipe is just absolutely priceless and it's a beautiful book to look at Edd shot all the pictures so it really draws you in. And I just, I think it's lovely. It's not huge, which I also like, because I can feel overwhelmed when I sit down with a book that's like 200 recipes, but there are 70 and you think I could make a lot of these and everything I've made has turned out really great so far.Suzy Chase: Well, baking is not my strong suit. So I loved this cookbook because it seemed super accessible. It wasn't intimidating for me at all.Becky Krystal: Yeah, no, that's, that's definitely true. I mean, they're really, really easy kind of one bowl, couple of ingredient recipes. There are ones that if you feel confident in your skills, you can tackle those. You know, there are a couple of rolled cakes or the layer cakes that sort of stand on their side. So there's a spectrum, but most of it is really approachable even for, I would say beginning bakers really.Suzy Chase: It's funny cause we were talking about the term tin and I said, you know, here in the U.S. we say the word pan and he told me the story about how he actually pitched the title one pan bakes to the publisher. And they were like, um, no, the word pan does not sound nice in the title.Becky Krystal: Yeah. Well, it's also like, it sounds a little more savory almost, you know, there's a lot of talk here people love one pan meals and stuff like that so probably if I heard that, I guess even if you said one pan bakes, but there's something more lyrical about one tin bakes. I agree.Suzy Chase: And I made my very first Dutch Baby out of this cookbook. Did you make the Dutch Baby?Becky Krystal: I did. I actually highlighted it in my regular recipe column a couple of months ago. And it was super popular. I mean, it actually is one of our most popular baking recipes of the year. It's great. I did it with berries. I even tried it with apples. It's so fun and so easy. I thought it was such a delightful recipe.Suzy Chase: I'm going to make that on Christmas morning because it's so easy and it's kind of a showstopper.Becky Krystal: Yeah. You got to get the picture right after it gets out of the oven because it does tend to start to like collapse a little bit. So get your Instagram picture right when you pull it out.Suzy Chase: That's a really good tip now too In Bibi's Kitchen by Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen. So I think this book is a real gem of 2020, because it fills the void in the cookbook market for African cookbooks. So who chose this cookbook on your staff and why did they choose it?Becky Krystal: Yeah, this was the pick of my colleague Olga Massov who's an assignment editor with us. She is a cookbook author and co-author in her own right so she knows a good cookbook once she sees one. I mean, she just raved about this book. It's an extremely practical book because that's the type of cooking that these women do. It's a lot of pantry ingredients. It's not very long ingredient lists. There aren't a lot of expensive ingredients because often these are people just cooking at home. And even in some parts of the world where these women are from or where they live, they can't access certain ingredients. Even in some places, meat is a rarity. So it's approachable also. I mean, I keep using that word, but it's true. Obviously also with the Black Lives Matter movement, it was incredibly timely to showcase these women who are in Africa or who have immigrated to other places. It was very human, right? Cause each chapter highlighting each of the eight countries has interviews with the women. It's not like, you know, one of these glossy lifestyle books, it teaches you about the cultures. Each intro also includes facts about the countries like their economy and the religion and language geography, stuff like that. It doesn't feel clinical though. It feels like you're just learning something. And it also fights this misunderstanding that African food is all the same. It gets lumped together a lot. And there are obviously differences and each of these countries deserves to be looked at on its own as opposed to, I mean, a massive continent, right? I mean, you would never dream of saying, Oh, European food, but that's what happens with African food.Suzy Chase: Totally. That was my biggest takeaway. Just the diversity of the food on the continent. And it's not a country. Like people think it's a country. It's not.Becky Krystal: I mean, how many more people are in Africa then all the other countries and other places combined I mean, it's unfortunate that it gets lumped together. And I think we all need to do better about making sure we highlight these different cultures and recipesSuzy Chase: Now to My Korea by Hooni Kim.Becky Krystal: Yeah. My Korea was actually the pick of our restaurant critic, Tom Sietsema. It's funny because Tom loves doing stuff like this because he is always, well, I was going to say dining out, he's doing mostly takeout these days. So he loves being able to dive into a book that he can cook at home. And he went shopping at H Mart and got ingredients. And he loved the fact that this is such a great book for people to get a better idea of Korean food. You know, it's not quite the same as Africa, but a lot of us, we think, okay, Korean barbecue, maybe some kimchi, whatever. And there's so much more to this cuisine. And it's just a beautiful book to, you know, Tom, it's a very visceral book. When you look at the photos, there are lots of little things you can start adding to your pantry to add flavors like, you know, the goguchang and the chili flakes and dried anchovies. And a lot of this frankly, is very appealing to me right now in this winter weather, you know, he's got stews and short ribs and dashi. I actually talked to him when I, we ran his bulgogi recipe in conjunction with the story and he said, I wanted to write a book to introduce people to Korean food and I think he succeeded incredibly well.Suzy Chase: I had him on the podcast in late April when we were like the epicenter of the pandemic. And it was a really hard time for him, but he was so smart because he pivoted with his two restaurants to do meal kits and my family and I have gotten his meal kit about almost every week. It has gotten us through this pandemic. It's so good and it's so much food!Becky Krystal: It's also really smart because especially now when so many of us are not doing a lot of grocery shopping, not everything is going to be available when you take your one little trip to the grocery store so if he's helping people get access to these ingredients and dishes, they might not otherwise be able to do in their streamlined kind of shopping then yeah that's a really great idea.Suzy Chase: This is my favorite kind of cookbook because it tells his personal story and then weaves in the recipes.Becky Krystal: Yeah, no, that's really refreshing. I mean, if you want someone to commit to reading and cooking out of your cookbook, I think there has to be some kind of relationship with the reader. I think at least I personally enjoy that voice of the author and learning something about them and why this matters to them. I think it makes you want to invest in it more too.Suzy Chase: We love Hooni.Becky Krystal: Yeah. He's, he's great. I learned a lot from him just inspeaking to him, you know, about his, his recipes.Suzy Chase: Totally, I had him on again in September because I wanted to get an update and he's just so wonderful to chat with.Becky Krystal: Yea he is.Suzy Chase: So next is Beyond The North Wind by Darra Goldstein.Speaker 2: Yeah. This was the pick of Tim Carman who's one of my fellow staff writers. It's such a beautiful book to look at and to read. And like I said, there is a lot that I think people don't know about Russian cuisine and like some of the other books too, the recipes often don't have a ton of ingredients they're usually pretty accessible. You know, not a ton of us around here have access to buckthorn, which is like one of her favorite things to call for but she makes a point of saying like, okay, if you don't have like the horseradish leaves or currant leaves it'll be okay. And one of the things Tim pointed out and something that she sort of alludes to in the book is that, you know, how long, like Rene Redzepi has been teaching everyone about fermenting and foraging and stuff and that sort of caught our attention. People in these places in Russia have been doing stuff like this for a long time, fermenting things and kombucha and all this stuff and I think that's probably not something many people know about and you know, it's just the classic making do with what you have nd that's what these people have been doing for hundreds of years, especially in these places that are very far North.Suzy Chase: My two takeaways from this cookbook, um, were Russians love the taste of sour and they also love honey. I made her honey cake.Becky Krystal: Yeah. Honey cake is also think maybe having a little bit of a moment, you know, there was the Baking At The 20th Century Cafe book, which also had like a really famous honey cake recipe. I mean, I think that's incredibly timely. They've been doing honey using honey for, you know, hundreds of years. And, and I get questions from readers who don't want to use refined sugar and I feel like I should just refer them to a lot of the recipes in here because before they had access to the beet sugar and stuff, they were cooking with honey and it's trendy for some people, but not for these people who it's their tradition.Suzy Chase: This cookbook is almost like a trip to Russia. Her photos are extraordinary.Becky Krystal: Yeah. Actually I was reading it last night and it was called and I was under my blankets and I felt like this feels very appropriate and I could almost see, you know, the Northern lights and the snow. And you know, it's the same with My Korea also and In Bibi's Kitchen, I mean the photography itself also is really important to setting the mood and helping you feel like you're really going somewhereSuzy Chase: The last cookbook we're going to chat about as Modern Comfort Food. I mean, God love Ina for pushing up this publication of the cookbooks so we could all have it mid pandemic.Becky Krystal: So Modern Comfort Food was the pick of Mary Beth Albright, who is our food video guru. And I mean, it's delivers on what it promises, right? It's nothing in the right way. It's nothing that you're like, Oh, I've never heard of that. Right. I mean, she says, she likes to find the things that appeal to us and puts her twist on them. So yeah, tomato soup and grilled cheese. She's got a shrimp and linguine fra diavolo. She uses that same spicy sauce to do the spaghetti squash bake, which I've really been wanting to do since I have one from my farm box, it's friendly and it's not intimidating. And I think for those people who are turned off by extremely novel things or people who are just devotees of Ina, they're not going to be disappointed in this book.Suzy Chase: She's just so real. Like in the cookbook, she wrote about the evolution of a recipe with her Boston Cream Pie that she'd been trying to perfect for years. And I was like, you know, she didn't have to tell us that she's been like struggling to perfect this for years. So I was so thrilled to read that story, how she was chatting with Christina Tosi and she suggested something like a syrupy glaze that you brush on the cake to give it lots of flavor and it also keeps it moist. And so I love that story and how real Ina is.Becky Krystal: Yeah. I mean, we've all been there. Like, there's just this thing that's bugging us and we're trying to master a recipe. And so yeah, I found that very relatable and I found the idea of an orange scented cake and pastry cream in Boston Cream Pie, just, I mean, yeah, 10 out of 10 we'll eat.Suzy Chase: So I had on Trent Pheifer and he has his Instagram and blog called Store Bought Is Fine and he's cooking his way through all of Ina's recipes. Are you familiar with him?Becky Krystal: I am not actually. I think I need to, I know but yeah, it's like he's pulling a Julie & Julia thing, but with Ina which sounds really fun.Suzy Chase: Exactly. Oh my gosh, you have to follow him on Instagram. He's amazing. And he was so much fun to talk with. So what are you looking forward to eating in the new year and what cookbooks are you looking forward to in 2021?Becky Krystal: I am looking forward to eating anything that I don't cook. Um, I've been doing, you know, we've been doing takeout, but, uh, I definitely miss eating what my colleagues make for me. Um, I sometimes will get things that they drop off or if I take home from a photo shoot, but I definitely miss that. And yeah, sitting in a restaurant meal, definitely. Cookbooks. Obviously my list is a little baking heavy because I love baking. Uh, so the things that jump out to me there, Roxanna Jullapat who contributed one of the cookies to our holiday cookie issues has a book called Mother Grains coming out. A lot of whole grains. We previewed a recipe from there, with Linzer cookies that are made with corn flour and we're really excited about that one. The Cookie Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, who I know you've talked to I think. I mean, of course that's going to be good. Zoë Bakes Cakes by Zoë François who is someone who I absolutely adore. She's great on Instagram and I swear by her. Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day that she's done with Jeffrey Hertzberg, To Asia With Love by Hetty McKinnon, who also contributed a cookie to our package. She's great. I mean, she's one of those people who also seems to be always churning out books and recipes, and they're all interesting I mean, I just, and people are always making her recipes. I'm really excited about that one. Life Is What You Bake It by Vallery Lomas who is also really fun baker and she was a previous winner of The Great American Baking Show. Got a shout out to Dorie Greenspan who I know, and also just absolutely adore Baking With Dorie Sweet Salty & Simple, sort of more on the savory side. Julia Turshen who we talked about with In Bibi's Kitchen and she has a book coming out Simply Julia 110 Easy Recipes For Healthy Comfort Food. And then one of my other favorite people, Pati Jinich has another book coming out, Pati Jinich Treasures Of The Mexican Table Classic Recipes Local Secrets. I think that also has the potential to do a lot of what we've talked about with these other books in terms of introducing people to different ideas and sort of more home cooking. So those are some of the things I'm really jazzed about for 2021.Suzy Chase: For me, in 2021, I'm looking forward to eating a chef cooked meal inside a restaurant, not on the street or take out and I'm eagerly awaiting Water, Wood and Wild Things, Learning Craft and Cultivation in a Japanese Mountain town by Hannah Kirshner. I can not wait for that. So head on over to Voraciously.com to check out all 12 of their favorite cookbooks of 2020, and thanks so much, Becky for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.Becky Krystal: Thanks Suzy. Let's do it again next year!Outro: Subscribe over on CookerybytheBook.com and thanks for listening to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book.