by Brooke McDonough

It’s a tough task to choose only five of the wide array of excellent food books published in 2014. This list represents our favorites as well as some of the most important food books of the year. Each celebrates the type of food we love best: local, farm-fresh, and sustainable. For the food enthusiasts on your shopping list this year, these books will stand out.


American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood
by Paul Greenberg

This is perhaps the most important book on the list for our coastal lifestyle. Any good foodie understands that it is important to know where your food comes from, but award-winning chef and author Paul Greenberg points out it’s not just health and taste that matter, but economies as well. He questions why much of America’s seafood is farmed in other countries. For example, the seafood economy in our Southern states is threatened by Asian-farmed shrimp, which are cheap and abundant. Oysters in New York used to be plentiful, but now are all farmed out of state. Greenberg offers hope, though, and points to oyster restoration projects and other environmentally-based ideas that could bring the “American catch” back to American eaters.



The Third Plate: Field Notes of the Future of Food
by Dan Barber

There has been much publicity about Dan Barber’s carefully researched, thoughtful, and “revolutionary” look at the farm to table movement, which shows that although the movement has done some good as far as changing people’s eating habits, it’s not enough. Barber presents ways in which eaters and chefs can create a truly sustainable culture. Barber is a James Beard Award-winning chef and the executive chef of Blue Hill in Manhattan. The Third Plate is the book that everyone one is talking about, and it will continue to be at the forefront of conversation for years to come.



Cooking for Kids: From Babies to Toddlers; Simple, Healthy and Natural Food, 100 Recipes from the Master Chef
by Alain Ducasse

For the newest foodie, mega-chef Alain Ducasse gives parents a step-by-step guide for cooking delicious, wholesome foods for babies. Why should babies have to eat boring or bland food when instead they can have Cannellini Beans, Croaker Fish and Balsamic Vinegar (which takes 20 minutes and can be introduced at 18 months)? After all, if we had all started out eating this way, we might be better off today. Ducasse offers tips for freezing, storing, and adding flavor as well as helpful guidelines for when babies may be ready for each food. For example, at nine months, you can introduce a puree of pearl barley, pineapple, and mache. It’s loaded with omega-3, vitamins, and flavor for the little ones, and interesting enough to share with the whole family.



The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks
by Nina Plank

Nina Plank seems to know how people eat and what they want. The recipes are timeless, traditional, and even comforting. If you only had one cookbook in the house, and this was it, you’d be covered. Flourless chocolate cake, meatloaf, and “pasta with the cheese you have” will get you through the week and even your next simple dinner party. The approach is homey and elegant with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. Plank is a self-described farmer’s daughter and author of several other cookbooks, including one of our other favorites, Real Food: What to Eat and Why.



Fifty Shades of Kale
by Drew Ramsey, MD and Jennifer Iserloh

The title, a clever play on a popular fiction series that swept the best seller lists a few years ago, is enough to make you look twice at this book. But a closer read will reveal that the book is more than just a fun play on words. There are a few tongue-in-cheek recipe names that evoke the steamy novels, like Thai’d Up Shrimp, but more than that, this book is simply the authority on all things kale. There are many varieties of kale (though not quite 50), and each is explained and used creatively in the book. With recipes like spicy mussels with kale, black bean soup, and kale slaw, the authors do a good job of moving kale past smoothies and on to the main dinner plates. A perfect book for a healthy eater with a sense of humor.

Brooke McDonough is the manager of Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury and an avid reader of all things fiction. She has a soft spot for big, beautiful cookbooks and keeps the shop well stocked with them. She lives in Duxbury with her family.