You certainly shouldn’t judge a book by its cover -- but you can take the pulse of our food-crazed society by the cookbooks we read. Just as fashion, movies and politics shape culture, so too do what we eat and how we prepare it.
Whether you’re a page-staining Julia Child in the making or just like the way a glossy cookbook looks on your granite counter, it’s easy to see that culinary trends are embracing global cuisine, healthier eating and a swing toward the super-niche or super-nerdy.
Here’s what’s cooking for the coming year.
1. Stovetop Travel.
A combination of the high price of air travel and easy access to once hard-to-procure ingredients seems to be inspiring a desire for ever more authenticity in the kitchen. “In 2014, I'm seeing my cookbook list turn more international,” says Joy Tutela, an agent with David Black Agency in Brooklyn, N.Y. “With the proliferation of Whole Foods, online specialty ingredient retailers, and high-end food malls like Manhattan's Eataly, it is easier than ever to stock what were once hard-to-find international ingredients in your pantry. For years, people have been either going out or ordering in their international cuisine, but we are now seeing folks starting to cut out the middleman and take more risks with their home cooking.”
Look for books like "Return to the River"s by Vikas Khanna (Lake Isle Press, January), which features the finer points of Himalayan cooking, "My Irish Table" by Cathal Armstrong (Ten Speed Press, March), the far-flung memoir-driven recipe adventures of Kim Sunee in "A Mouthful of Stars: A Constellation of Favorite Recipes From My World Travels" (Andrews McMeel, May), and "The Peruvian Kitchen" by Martin Morales (Ten Speed Press, May) to take you to new aromas and flavors this year.
2. Live-Fire Cooking.
Stock up on charcoal and propane, because the grill is where it’s at. “We're expecting live-fire cooking to be a big trend this year,” says Sarah Armour, publicist for Storey Publishing, which is releasing "Cooking with Fire" by food historian Paula Marcoux in May. The cookbook, along with the requisite flame-licked recipes, delves into the history of live-fire cooking, as well as how to build your own fire pit and wood-fired oven. Also out this spring: "The Big Flavor Grill" by Chris Schlesinger and Cook’s Illustrated publisher John Willoughby (Ten Speed Press), which brings a spice-rubbed emphasis to outdoor cooking.
3. Farm to Fork.
“The trend began last year, when 62 percent of restaurant.com restaurants reported they’d feature locally sourced produce in 2013,” says Christopher Krohn, president at restaurant.com. “In 2014, the farm-to-table trend will accelerate, driven by diners’ growing eco-awareness and their desire for the wholesome simplicity of homestyle cooking and minimally-processed foods.”
But cookbooks will be more than just farmstand-focused; they’ll be taking the trend a little deeper in two books being released this spring by Ten Speed Press: "The Nourished Kitchen," by Jennifer McGruther, culled from her eponymous website and the Thirties Era “traditionalist foods diet” teachings of Dr. Weston A. Price, eschews processed foods for native, heritage, unrefined fare; "Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean & Southern Food Remixed," by chef and food activist Bryant Terry, rethinks the fried, high-fat category of foods and highlights the healthy and historically vegetarian based dishes from which they hail.
4. Healthy, Healthy, Healthy.
Speaking of eating well, the cleansing trends and Paleo diet-driven eating interests of the last year are coming to the page, too. “There continues to be a real push for healthy, whole, sustainable, and elevated home cooking,” says Erin Welke, cookbook publicist for Ten Speed Press, which will be releasing "Juice: Recipes for Juicing, Cleansing, and Living Well" by Hayden Slater, Carly Brien, and Hedi Gores in the summer. Even chefs like Wolfgang Puck are getting in on the clean-living trend, with the upcoming "Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy" (Grand Central, March). Puck pulled in personal trainer Chad Waterbury for a book that offers up a full-on health-conscious exercise and nutrition program in its pages.
5. Gluten-Free Living.
Celiac Disease is four times more prevalent today than it was 60 years ago, according to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, and cookbooks in 2014 will continue to address this growing malady. Look for titles like "100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes" by Carol Fenster and "Silvana's Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen" by Silvana Nardone, former editor of Rachael Ray Magazine, both due out in the fall from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, as well as the gluten- and dairy-free offerings in "The Blender Girl" by Tess Masters (Ten Speed, March).
6. Eat Your Veggies.
Whether it’s due to the rising price of meat or the proliferation of greenmarkets, vegetables are going to be a hot hard cover this year. “I have several vegetarian titles on the way that I'm excited by, including the Italian authority Michele Scicolone's "The Italian Vegetarian Cookbook," coming in the spring,” says Rux Martin of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. Also look for the farm-fresh re-release from Ten Speed of the classic "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by veggie guru Deborah Madison, with 150 new recipes among its glossy pages.
7. Nerdy Drinks Books.
Cocktails have gone academic in recent years, and it seems our thirst for the history, geography and finer points of tippling culture is only beginning to flow. While you’ll likely have to wait long past 2014 for the behemoth "Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails," edited by drinks historian David Wondrich, you will be able to cozy up with the intensely entertaining "Sherry" by Punch magazine editor-in-chief Talia Baiocchi in the fall, along with the astute, well-researched and wonderfully entertaining writing of New York Times drinks writer Robert Simonson in "The Old Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail, with Recipes and Lore," both from Ten Speed Press.
8. Un-nerdy Wine Books.
While cocktails get geeky, look for wine books to loosen up. Coming off the success of 2013’s best-selling, thoroughly genius scratch ’n’ sniff (really) "The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert" by master sommelier and sometime winemaker Richard Betts, former Washington Post columnist Jason Wilson is set to release two new volumes of his hilarious vinous, multi-volume learning tool, "Planet of the Grapes" from Smart Set Press. The downloadable-only volume 4, "Drink Pink," and volume 5, "Great Whites," will hit your tablet in the spring and summer of 2014.