For the adventurer
THE NORDIC COOKBOOK, by Magnus Nilsson ($59.95, Phaidon)
The renowned Swedish chef looks beyond – way beyond – the cuisine of his remote, regionally influenced restaurant, Fäviken, in this 767-page tome designed to illustrate the similarities and differences between various Nordic and Scandinavian cuisines. The result is incredibly comprehensive: 13 cabbage presentations, for example, and a section on split pea soup with versions characteristic of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.
We Canadian city slickers might not have easy access to many of the signature ingredients (cow’s colostrum, lampreys, smoked reindeer back fat), but we can marvel at moody photographs of glacial landscapes or of foragers dangling off a sheer cliff in search of seabird eggs and glean valuable insight into how folks on the other side of the world eat.
For your sloppiest friend
YOU DESERVE A DRINK: BOOZY MISADVENTURES AND TALES OF DEBAUCHERY, by Mamrie Hart ($18, Plume)
On Mamrie Hart’s YouTube show, for which her book is named, the rubber-faced comedian makes celebrity-themed drinks between rapid-fire streams of clunky, bawdy puns (think a super-gross Mae West). But before YouTube, Hart supported her comedy career by bartending – and when it comes to technique, her cocktail recipes are shockingly polished.
Learn to make drinks she devised, like the ginger-spiced Bad Apple or the pumpkin-vanilla Bizarrgarita, and then inevitably snort them out your nose as you read about her college drinking escapades or the time she was chauffeured from L.A. to Vegas by Gabriel, the world’s worst Uber driver.
For the fantasy nerd
GAME OF SCONES: ALL MEN MUST DINE (A PARODY), by Jammy Lannister ($21, Harper Design)
This pocket-sized cookbook, a tribute to HBO’s favourite showcase for fur cloaks, gratuitous gore, softcore pornography and dragons, gleefully transforms the show’s most off-colour elements into tasty baked goods. I counted two strawberry “blood”-filled desserts ripe for the dismembering, Jaime and Cersei’s Family Mess featuring little meringue figurines (including one of a prone Joffrey with painted-on open eyes) and a Red (Velvet) Wedding Cake complete with edible direwolf arrows. Of all the recipes, the one for shortbread Tyrions, with purposefully exaggerated heads, was the only one that really offended my sensibilities.
Since Game Of Thrones is fertile ground for punning, there is also a Brienne of Tart. And an Iron Scone. The giftee might never make half of these, but who cares: as a gag gift or a stocking stuffer, it’s Baelish-ious.
For the mezzes obsessive
Zahav: A World Of Israeli Cooking, by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook ($46, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Michael Solomonov is quick to acknowledge, in the introduction of this brightly coloured volume, that most of the folks who take his book home will probably do it for the hummus recipes. The garlicky stuff is what put his restaurant, Zahav, on the culinary map in Philadelphia, and he kicks off the book with seven variations.
But that’s just a lead-in to Solomonov’s comprehensive culinary autobiography and love letter to Mediterranean cuisine, which takes the reader through 17 uses for tahini (in a semifreddo, in shortbreads, below sweetbreads or atop fried eggplant) before skipping ahead to the lentil soup he invented to wow a food critic, his grandma’s bureka recipe and his mom’s coffee-braised brisket. Buy this one for the friend who dragged you to Tabule or Fat Pasha 78 times this year.
For the bookworm
VORACIOUS: A HUNGRY READER COOKS HER WAY THROUGH GREAT BOOKS, by Cara Nicoletti ($34, Little, Brown)
Food and literature have taken turns as the chief love of first-time author Cara Nicoletti’s life: a butcher’s granddaughter, she became an insatiable reader and NYU literature major, then a pastry cook, blogger, butcher and finally, memoirist.
Each chapter, celebrating one of her favourite reads, is paired with a recipe. Iconic literary dishes (the author recalls hankering after foods like the Secret Garden’s currant buns or To Kill A Mockingbird’s biscuits, impossibly exotic to a tiny New Englander’s imagination) and mouth-watering turns of phrase meld into anecdotes, both breezy and moving, from Nicoletti’s life.
Tying the book together is humour and playfulness: a recipe for brown butter chocolate chip cookies accompanies the tale of how she gave a mouse a cookie in her squalid student apartment (spoiler alert: it ends badly) and a chapter dedicated to The Silence Of The Lambs includes a recipe for fava bean and chicken liver mousse.
For every other kind of nerd
THE NERDY NUMMIES COOKBOOK: SWEET TREATS FOR THE GEEK IN ALL OF US, by Rosanna Pansino ($39.99, Atria)
Look past the slightly irritating name of Rosanna Pansino’s YouTube channel and you’ll find massively viewed clips presenting some impressively elaborate nerd-themed confections. In her cookbook, she starts you off with a thorough grounding in basic dessert recipes – red velvet cake, sugar cookies, fondant – before translating them into geeky applications like UFO cake pops, cupcakes topped with rock-candy geodes or hard candies that look like the gems from Legend Of Zelda.
A lot of Pansino’s projects require a steady hand with decorations, but if giftees can pull these off, they’ll be heroes at their next LAN party.
Get more great gift ideas here.
firstname.lastname@example.org | @nataliamanzocco