Is your giftee intuitive or analytical in the kitchen?

Head versus heart

Is your giftee intuitive or analytical in the kitchen?

Cooks can be divided into two broad categories: those who measure everything, and those who depend more on their senses, trusting their eyes, hands and taste buds more than numbers on a page or weights on a scale. Both approaches have their virtues, but it's rare that a person changes from one to the other – so it's good to know whether you're buying for a Nigella or a Harold McGee.


The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, by J. Kenji López-Alt (W.W. Norton & Co., 960 pages)
Underestimate Serious Eats at your own peril. Just because the site doesn't have a legacy print product or a web platform that mimics a magazine doesn't mean that Ed Levine's stable of food and drink obsessives is any less knowledgeable than the crowds at Food & Wine or Cooks Illustrated. López-Alt is managing culinary director of the SE team, a man with deep culinary knowledge at his fingertips and a love of technique that borders on unhinged. Luckily for the world, he doesn't keep it to himself (just peep that page count!) – this book is the gift of 2015 for anyone who hankers after perfection.

Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix: More Than 700 Simple Recipes and Techniques to Mix and Match for Endless Possibilities, by Mark Bittman (Pam Krauss Books, 304 pages)
Kitchen Matrix is not nearly so weighty a tome as Food Lab – neither in its conceptual approach nor its sheer poundage. But its cooking-by-diagramming methodology, borrowed from Bittman's long-running "Eat" column in the New York Times, appeals to a similarly brainiac cook. The tidy divisions are more logic-based than traditionally "cheffy" – e.g., a section on "Tiny Pancakes," another on "Picnic Baskets." Using one of Bittman's recipe generators not only helps a stumped cook improvise, it trains novices how to work from what they already have rather than shop all the ingredients of a recipe.


The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking With Pleasure, by Alana Chernila (Clarkson Potter, 320 pages)
Chernila, like Wilkins (below), emphasizes family as part of her love of food – the two are so entwined for her that she sees no division. This is a book for cooks who adore the feel of butter crumbling into flour, the aroma of a blackberry pie drifting from the oven, the perfect crackly gold skin on a roasted chicken – a perfect gift for anyone who thinks the pleasure of nourishing loved ones is the whole point of cooking.

Friends Food Family: Essential Recipes, Tips and Secrets for the Modern Hostess, by Sasha Wilkins (Quadrille Publishing, 192 pages)
Wilkins, a London fashion editor who rose to prominence through her blog,, is more of a hostess-with-the-mostest than an earth mama, but her cookbook is equally centered on the pleasure and necessity of simple nourishment – as she isn't a mother yet, she naturally focuses more on self-care and dinner parties than the family meal. Recommended for anyone who appreciates a healthy sprinkling of chia seeds on her steel-cut oats, but insists upon consuming it from the prettiest gilt-rimmed china bowl

Scroll to read more Holiday Guide articles
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.