It was around the year 2010 when I started getting into special diets.
Back then, it started simply with the Gerson Therapy (no, I wasn’t ill, just… bored, I suppose?) and I vaguely recall waking in the middle of the night shaking uncontrollably - likely because of removing all salt from my diet. Next, was plain vegetarianism, but with more of a homecooked flair (not the Boca burgers and Beanee Weanees from my college days). Then, living in a Zen monastery in northern Kentucky, I dove into raw veganism. Breakfast was something like a mango covered in maple syrup, a handful of blueberries, and maybe an avocado. It went well for quite a while until my blood sugar got WAY out of whack from eating too many sugars - natural or not - and nothing very substantial. I remember talking on the phone with my dad one day, shaky, weak, and feeling like I constantly had to eat something, and he laughingly recommended I go get myself a grill and “throw a big steak on there.” Full of guilt, I was so desperate that I actually took his advice and apprehensively made myself a tiny steak that evening.
Some years later, I maintained a keto/Paleo kind of diet for many years with decent results (but frankly probably too much protein).
More recently, I experimented with a whole plant foods diet, and then a Chinese Medicine diet on the recommendation of my acupuncturist.
Now at this stage in life, I find myself done with diets. Instead - I just eat real whole foods, and a variety of those.
What does that look like? Fish, eggs, veggies, fruits, grass-fed butter and ghee, raw grass-fed dairy products, sourdough breads, quality olive oil, oats, beans, nuts and seeds, wild game meats like venison and turkey, some grass-fed red meat from time to time, plentiful amounts of herbs and spices (turmeric on everything!), fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha, good clean filtered water, lots of herbal teas, and coffee roasted just down the road from here.
I love learning about what my Scottish and Scandinavian ancestors ate traditionally. I love learning the seemingly lost arts of baking sourdough, of soaking my grains before I use them, and brewing kombucha, to name a few. My kitchen and my cooking now bring joy, rather than guilt or confusion or over-analysis.
I give you this context in advance because my collection of favorite cookbooks is sure to be a miscellany. With the prevalence of diet culture; I know many people want a list of strictly this or that type of cookbook, but I hope you’ll find something that tickles your fancy.
“This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: Animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels. Sally Fallon dispels the myths of the current low-fat fad in this practical, entertaining guide to a can-do diet that is both nutritious and delicious.
Nourishing Traditions will tell you:
Why your body needs old fashioned animal fats
Why butter is a health food
How high-cholesterol diets promote good health
How saturated fats protect the heart
How rich sauces help you digest and assimilate your food
Why grains and legumes need special preparation to provide optimum benefits
About enzyme-enhanced food and beverages that can provide increased energy and vitality
Why high-fiber, lowfat diets can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Topics include the health benefits of traditional fats and oils (including butter and coconut oil); dangers of vegetarianism; problems with modern soy foods; health benefits of sauces and gravies; proper preparation of whole grain products; pros and cons of milk consumption; easy-to-prepare enzyme enriched condiments and beverages; and appropriate diets for babies and children.”
“Dr. Michael Greger’s first traditionally published book, How Not to Die, presented the scientific evidence behind the only diet that can prevent and reverse many of the causes of premature death and disability. Now, The How Not to Die Cookbook puts that science into action. From Superfood Breakfast Bites to Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca to Two-Berry Pie with Pecan-Sunflower Crust, every recipe in The How Not to Die Cookbook offers a delectable, easy-to-prepare, plant-based dish to help anyone eat their way to better health.”
My husband purchased a signed copy of this cookbook for me from a bookstore in Homer, Alaska. The cornbread recipe is so SO perfect.
“Eve and Eivin Kilcher, stars of the hit Discovery show Alaska: The Last Frontier, are experts in sustainable living. Homesteaders by choice, the couple has had to use their self-reliance skills to survive harsh winters in the Alaskan wilderness and raise a thriving family. In their debut book, the Kilchers share 85 original family recipes and advice on gardening, preserving, and foraging. The tips and techniques they have cultivated from their family and through necessity will help anyone looking to shrink their environmental footprint and become less dependent on mass-produced food and products. Stunningly photographed in and around their handmade home and farm, Homestead Kitchen illustrates that taking on small-scale sustainable projects is not only possible in a suburban/urban setting, but ultimately a more responsible and gratifying way to live.”
“The traditional foods movement is a fad-free approach to cooking and eating that emphasizes nutrient-dense, real food, and values quality, environment, and community over the convenience of processed, additive-laden products that are the norm on grocery store shelves.
Based on the research of Weston A. Price, who studied the diets of indigenous peoples to understand the relationship between nutrition and health, a traditional foods diet avoids processed ingredients, but allows meat, animal fat, and grains. It embraces cultured dairy, such as kefir and yogurt, that contain beneficial bacteria; fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kombucha, that are rich in probiotics; and organ meats that are packed with vitamins and minerals. It also celebrates locally grown foods. By choosing ingredients from nearby sources, you create a stronger connection to your food, and have a better understanding what you’re eating and how it was produced.
In The Nourished Kitchen, Jennifer McGruther guides you through her traditional foods kitchen and offers more than 160 recipes inspired by the seasons, land, and waters around her. In the morning, fuel up with Eggs Poached in Fiery Tomato Sauce. On a hot summer day, Cucumber Salad with Dill and Kefir is a cooling side dish, and on a chilly fall evening, Barley in Broth with Bacon and Kale offers comfort and warmth. Old-Fashioned Meat Loaf with Gravy makes a hearty family meal, while Chicken in Riesling with Peas can be the centerpiece of an elegant supper. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Maple-Roasted Pears, and quench your thirst with naturally fermented Vanilla Mint Soda. With the benefit of Jennifer’s experience, you can craft a loaf of Whole Wheat and Spelt Sourdough Bread and stock your kitchen with Spiced Sour Pickles with Garlic.
The Nourished Kitchen not only teaches how to prepare wholesome, nourishing foods, but also encourages a mindful approach cooking and a celebration of old-world culinary traditions that have sustained healthy people for millennia. Whether you’re already a practitioner of the traditional foods lifestyle or simply trying to incorporate more natural, highly nutritious foods into your routine, you will find plenty to savor in The Nourished Kitchen.”
Initially, I bought this cookbook for the inspiring photography and culinary history of Scandinavia. Then, a friend recommended I watch an episode of Chef’s Table with Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson, and now I find myself utterly enchanted and drawn into Mr. Nilsson’s remote Swedish world.
“The Nordic Cookbook, richly illustrated with the personal photography of internationally acclaimed chef Magnus Nilsson, unravels the mysteries of Nordic ingredients and introduces the region's culinary history and cooking techniques.
Included in this beautiful book are more than 700 authentic recipes Magnus collected while travelling extensively throughout the Nordic countries – Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – enhanced by atmospheric photographs of its landscapes and people. His beautiful photographs feature in the book alongside images of the finished dishes by Erik Olsson, the photographer behind Fäviken.
With Magnus as a guide, everyone can prepare classic Nordic dishes and also explore new ones.The Nordic Cookbook introduces readers to the familiar (gravlax, meatballs and lingonberry jam) and the lesser-known aspects of Nordic cuisine (rose-hip soup, pork roasted with prunes, and juniper beer).
Organized by food type, The Nordic Cookbook covers every type of Nordic dish including meat, fish, vegetables, breads, pastries and desserts. These recipes are achievable for home cooks of all abilities and are accompanied by narrative texts on Nordic culinary history, ingredients and techniques including smoking and home preserving. Additional essays explore classic dishes made for special occasions and key seasonal events, such as the Midsummer feast.”
The most comprehensive source on homecooking from the Nordic countries.
Also by Magnus Nilsson, this book offers exclusive insight into Nilsson’s restaurant, Fäviken Magasinet, in remote Sweden.
“Fäviken is an exclusive insight into one of the world's most interesting restaurants: Fäviken Magasinet in Sweden. Narrative texts, photographs and recipes explain head chef Magnus Nilsson's remarkable approach to sourcing and cooking with ingredients that are farmed and hunted in the immediate vicinity of the restaurant, and how he creates a seasonal cycle of menus based on them. He runs the restaurant with the same ethos as the farm that the restaurant building once housed. The small team of chefs harvests and preserves all the food for the restaurant by hand using the most natural methods possible. They reject the popular contemporary cooking equipment such as low-temperature water baths and liquid nitrogen in favour of simple cooking methods of grilling and roasting over open coals, relying on the chefs' innate skills and knowledge of the product to get the perfect result. This approach results in the highly creative food they serve in the restaurant, the pure, intense flavours of which, far from seeming traditional, are remarkable.
The restaurant is near Järpen, 600km north of Stockholm, in a remote part of the country, an area popular with cross-country skiiers. The restaurant is in a traditional Swedish farm and caters for only 12 people each evening. The menu is the same for all the guests, and each dish is served to all the guests at the same time, introduced by Magnus himself. The dishes sometimes involve the use of traditional implements such as a nineteenth-century ice-cream churn or an old sourdough bread basket, which is still used for proving the dough.
Even though not everyone can visit Fäviken, Nilsson's approach to working with ingredients in the most natural, intuitive way possible, and making the most of each season, will inspire all cooks and food-lovers to think differently about the ingredients that are available to them. Many of the basic recipes for yoghurt, bread, porridge, vinegar, pickles and preserves are simple and straightforward enough for anyone to attempt at home, and the advice on natural preservation methods can be followed by anyone.
The texts will provide inspiration for chefs and food lovers all over the world and are fully accessible to the general reader.”
”At Noma—four times named the world’s best restaurant—every dish includes some form of fermentation, whether it’s a bright hit of vinegar, a deeply savory miso, an electrifying drop of garum, or the sweet intensity of black garlic. Fermentation is one of the foundations behind Noma’s extraordinary flavor profiles.
Now René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma, and David Zilber, the chef who runs the restaurant’s acclaimed fermentation lab, share never-before-revealed techniques to creating Noma’s extensive pantry of ferments. And they do so with a book conceived specifically to share their knowledge and techniques with home cooks. With more than 500 step-by-step photographs and illustrations, and with every recipe approachably written and meticulously tested, The Noma Guide to Fermentation takes readers far beyond the typical kimchi and sauerkraut to include koji, kombuchas, shoyus, misos, lacto-ferments, vinegars, garums, and black fruits and vegetables. And—perhaps even more important—it shows how to use these game-changing pantry ingredients in more than 100 original recipes.
Fermentation is already building as the most significant new direction in food (and health). With The Noma Guide to Fermentation, it’s about to be taken to a whole new level.”
“This is the first new edition of The Scots Kitchen for over thirty years. Beautifully laid out for a new generation of readers and with charming line illustrations by Ian Macintosh, it is introduced by the well-known cookery writer and broadcaster, Catherine Brown. She describes the impact this pioneering book has had on the whole of Scottish cuisine and traces the fascinating life story of Marian McNeill herself. Notes explain how to use the book so that its treasure trove of recipes can be explored in the modern kitchen. As well as being a practical guide to all aspects of Scottish cooking, this is above all a book to be read for pleasure, to refer to and savour again and again.”
Catherine Brown's classic book charts the history of cooking and food in Scotland from the late 17th century to the present day, with over 650 recipes. Chapters such as The Simplicity of 1690 Cooking, The Highland Table of 1715, The Edinburgh Tavern eating of 1786, Historic Orkney of 1988, and others offer an exciting look at the evolution of Scottish foods and cooking principles.
A wonderful book for anyone, but especially those of us with Scottish ancestry to get a look at how our ancestors lived and ate.
I was intrigued by Francis Mallmann when I saw him on Chef’s Table, charring foods over fires in remote Patagonia.
“Elemental, fundamental, and delicious” is how Anthony Bourdain describes the trailblazing live-fire cooking of Francis Mallmann. The New York Times called Mallmann’s first book, Seven Fires, “captivating” and “inspiring.” And now, in Mallmann on Fire, the passionate master of the Argentine grill takes us grilling in magical places—in winter’s snow, on mountaintops, on the beach, on the crowded streets of Manhattan, on a deserted island in Patagonia, in Paris, Brooklyn, Bolinas, Brazil—each locale inspiring new discoveries as revealed in 100 recipes for meals both intimate and outsized. We encounter legs of lamb and chicken hung from strings, coal-roasted delicata squash, roasted herbs, a parrillada of many fish, and all sorts of griddled and charred meats, vegetables, and fruits, plus rustic desserts cooked on the chapa and baked in wood-fired ovens. At every stop along the way there is something delicious to eat and a lesson to be learned about slowing down and enjoying the process, not just the result.”
Please - leave me some of your favorite cookbooks in the comments below!
My husband and I are working to build a Nordic-inspired homestead in the Washington wilderness slowly with cash and no debt. You can follow the journey here!
I write about:
our homestead journey
health & wellness
wild food foraging
DIY & craft projects
making a living online from home (or anywhere)
my own recipes from scratch
and much more