We’ve all spent lots of time in our kitchens the past few months. Whether you are ready to throw in the dish towel or you are eager to take your sourdough game to the next level, cookbooks are a great escape from the pile of dishes in the sink.
Three Rivers Cookbook series
You might remember the “Three Rivers Cookbook” from your childhood. My mom kept her copy of the spiral-bound book on a shelf below the microwave. This series started in 1973 as a fundraiser for the Child Health Association of Sewickley. They are currently soliciting recipes for the fifth edition.
Saturday mornings with Chris Fennimore
I was a quiet child who volunteered at her local library and pretended I was a character in “Little House on the Prairie.” It should come as no surprise that I spent a lot of weekend time with WQED. My mother would leave the TV on for hours as we watched Chris Fennimore and his rotating local guests chop and mix and bake and taste. While Fennimore has edited or authored over 100 (!) community cookbooks during his “QED Cooks” tenure I chose “Simple Pleasures” co-authored with Daniel Agüera for this roundup because I think what we really need now is comfort food and this book delivers childhood food memories and their grandmothers’ recipes.
Two wedding cookie table books
Since COVID-19 wrecked weddings this year, our collective intake of cookie table treats is probably a little lower than usual. I have no plans to marry, but would consider it for the cookies (my grandmother once told me she would only bake Italian rainbow cookies for me twice: once when I graduated from high school and again when I got married). Thanks to “The 25 Must Have Cookies At Your Wedding Cookie Table” I could just bake my own cookies and keep my ring finger bare.
Belt Publishing also has a cookie table book, which features recipes and stories from nearby Youngstown, Ohio. Get both and compare.
No gluten, no problem
If all this talk of baking makes you a bit itchy, check out “The Gluten-Free Grains Cookbook” by Quelcy Kogel. It’s not just finding a replacement for flour, it’s about using unique alternative grains such as teff and amaranth to make food that doesn’t feel lesser than. My personal favorite is the spicy cod and chorizo bake, which uses millet for the fish breading. This book is beautiful, and it is easy to see Kogel’s experience as a food stylist reflected in its pages. For more about this book and some great Pittsburgh recommendations, check out this interview from last year.
The Suffragist Cookbook
This year marks 100 years since women were granted the right to vote. In addition to attention grabbing tactics such as newspaper takeovers and World Series stats, suffragists used cookbooks as a means of furthering their cause. Published in 1915, “The Suffragist Cookbook” was a fundraiser that featured recipes with strategically interspersed political vignettes in support of the cause. It was compiled and published by notable Pittsburgher Mrs. L.O. Klebler. Of the almost 60 contributors, 30 were from Western Pennsylvania. In 2019, the book was reprinted, and you can buy it here. If browsing is more your thing, you can click through a digital version thanks to John Schalcosky aka Odd Pittsburgh. To learn more about the history of the suffrage movement in Pittsburgh, check out our podcast interview with Eliza Smith Brown, chairwoman of the Pittsburgh Suffrage Centennial Committee.
A local woman with a national food blog following
If you came of internet age in the early era of food blogs [raises hand], you certainly will remember How Sweet Eats from your RSS feed. Jessica Merchant has been cooking and writing recipes from here in Pittsburgh since 2009. She is the author of two cookbooks “Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Love Food” and “The Pretty Dish: More Than 150 Everyday Recipes and 50 Beauty Diys to Nourish Your Body Inside and Out”. P.S. She is still blogging regularly.
Our city’s spiral-bound food stories
I probably could have made this entire listicle about vintage cookbooks and written a thesis about the importance of community cookbooks. Instead, I remind you to search on eBay, on Etsy and on the shelves of your favorite local bookstore for cookbooks that tell our city’s story via recipes. From The University of Pittsburgh’s “Nationality Rooms Recipe Book”, to “Once Upon a Table” by the Women’s Auxiliary of the American Cancer Society of Pittsburgh, to “The Blue Book” recipes from the East End Baptist Church, to the “Pittsburgh Chefs Cook Book” (which features recipes from now-defunct restaurants), there is a treasure trove of cooking inspiration if you take a little time to dig.
From boilermakers to the Electric Banana
If you’d rather drink your dinner, no judgement here. “Pittsburgh Drinks” by Cody McDevitt and Sean Enright dives into the history of drinking here in the city and offers accompanying cocktail recipes. The book spans decades, highlighting the shot and a beer favored by steelworkers, the jazz clubs of the Hill District, the nightclubs of Oakland. And if you are curious about the Fussfungle, Pittsburgh’s lesser known cocktail export? We have an article for that.
Want someone else to do the cooking for you?
We aren’t able to head out and hit up a bunch of restaurants like we used to right now, but bookmark this for later. Shannon Daly has authored a book of local food tours organized by neighborhood. Missing your Pittsburgh favorites? You can drool over the photos (Gaucho! Pamelas!), or plan a modified afternoon outing. “Pittsburgh Food Crawls: Touring the Neighborhoods One Bite and Libation at a Time” might also be good for new Pittsburgh residents.