One of my oldest friends orders books for the public library. She, being a foodie herself, enjoys encouraging my own foodiness, and will occasionally come across a cookbook that she thinks I'll like. She then puts it on order on my library account. I then get a call from the library, saying the book I requested has arrived. When I get there, I discover that I haven't requested the book at all, but rather it has been requested on my behalf by my thoughtful friend, who is so far two for two in nailing the kinds of books I'd like to read.
The first one was The Flavor Thesaurus, a collection of 99 essential flavours, and a discussion of how those flavours work together, with examples of chefs who have used them and/or recipes where they have been used together. I immediately fell in love with it, and tried to renew it, but it had already been requested, so I had to return it before I could finish with it. I haven't yet gone out and purchased my own copy, but I'm definitely going to—it's a book I will use as a resource, I'm sure.
The second is Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, by Jennifer McLagan, author of Bones: Recipes, History and Lore and Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient. I have only flipped through Bones, but loved the idea of the book. When Odd Bits turned out to be my "library gift," I couldn't wait to dig into it. In fact, I couldn't resist flipping it open while stopped at a light on the short drive home.
I know I'm at risk of alienating myself from my vegetarian friends by getting into this, but I regularly have 'odd bits' in my freezer. My dad delights in passing on some of the more obscure meats that he ends up with from butchering his own animals, and friends will often line me up with their weird meat connections. Until this evening, I had a beef heart, beef liver, soup bones, chicken hearts, and pork hocks in my freezer, along with the usual hamburger, chicken, sausage, steak and so on. The heart is no longer in the freezer, because it has been transformed into a gorgeous Moroccan braise with dates and preserved lemon, served over couscous, thanks to McLagan's beautiful book, and most importantly, thanks to my girlfriend, who saw a cookbook with raw pig's feet on the cover, and thought of me.
I'll be inviting my girlfriend over for Sweet and Sour Pork Hocks with Savoy Cabbage and Capers to thank her.