I believe that one of the greatest purposes of the written word is that it creates a common understanding. It's the "ohmygawd, you too?!" factor. It's finishing a book and feeling less alone in the world.
And it's a feeling that warmed my heart on page 11 of Alana Chernila's The Homemade Kitchen, where she writes:
"I am a brave home cook. However, I am not the kind who will always reliably feed you the most delicious meal you've had in ages, because if you are coming over, I have taken the opportunity to try something new. This courage leads to risk, and when the end result isn't looking quite right, this risk leads to panic, which I temper with wine."
And then I started flipping through the chapter headings, which are the most random--yet somehow some of the most useful--I've even seen in a cookbook. "Be a Beginner" for basics like roasting a chicken or making jam. "Put Your Hands in the Earth" for dealing with garden produce. "Be Helpful" for when a friend has a baby or an illness or a bad day. "Do Your Best, and Then Let Go" for navigating organic/local/etc. food.
Each chapter has just the right amount of encouragement, too. From "Be Helpful":
"It can be easy to talk yourself out of bringing dinner. Particularly when there's a birth, death, or illness, walking into someone else's experience can feel awkward. . . . But on the whole, we usually think people want more space than they actually do. You don't have to visit, or to fill the house with conversation. You only have to bring dinner."
It's been a long time since I've come across a cookbook with such a beautiful, old soul. I don't want to just cook everything in it, I want to meanderingly cook everything in it--savoring each recipe one at a time until at last I make the very end one (Maple Ice Cream) for some future grandchild's birthday soiree.
But one has to start somewhere, I suppose. And because I am an absolute whore for good stuffing, I went for the Broccoli Raab and Sausage Bread Pudding.
The Kitchn just did a big feature on this book, with this recipe and four others, so I'm going to point you there for the details, but you should definitely give this one a try. The addition of sausage--which is a variation from my typical bread and sage Midwestern stuffing--makes it complete enough to be a meal on its own.
And the smell as it's cooking....*happy sigh*.
Have some for dinner, have some for breakfast, and then go put The Homemade Kitchen on your list for Santa.
[I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books.]