Amish romances are such a sizable segment of Christian fiction that they have earned their own, unofficial subcategory as “bonnet books.” Now it could be time to recognize the Order's influence on cookbooks with an “apron books” tag. Titles drawing on Amish traditions make a strong showing in a bumper crop of recent and forthcoming cookbooks from religion publishers. There’s also a book from an even older old order that reveals the roots of Abrahamic eating; still other new releases celebrate Southern cooking.
A dozen-plus titles serve up food for thought as well as recipes, in a way that illustrates why cookbooks remain a healthy niche despite instant online access to recipes and directions. These books are not just about how to prepare food; they also celebrate a lifestyle that finds faith in the kitchen and around the table.
The Best of Amish Friends Cookbook Collection (Barbour, July) arrives with instant appeal to many readers—its author is bestselling Amish romance novelist Wanda Brunstetter. Drawing from two of her previous titles for Barbour, the book combines facts about Amish life with instructions for making breads, main dishes, desserts, sides, and jellies.
Subtitled “Plain and Simple Living at its Homemade Best,” The Amish Canning Cookbook (July) by Georgia Varozza follows the success of her 2010 The Homestyle Amish Kitchen Cookbook, with sales of almost 50,000 for Harvest House Publishers. In her new book, Varozza, as a certified master food preserver, offers a guide to equipment, instructions for safe canning, and recipes.
A true insider's guide is Simply Delicious Amish Cooking: Recipes and Stories from the Amish of Sarasota, Florida (Zondervan, May). Sherry Gore's guide to traditional Amish favorites like banana sour cream bread draws from her life as a member of the Plain community in Pinecraft, Fla., and experience as editor of Cooking & Such magazine.
The Amish don't have a lock on old-time eating, however. Jamie d'Antioc's God's Cook Book: Tracing the Culinary Traditions of the Levant (Arcardian Lifestyle, distributed by Midpoint Trade Books, October) includes text from the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, and the Quran as it examines nutrition teachings from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and shows how to recreate classical dishes.
With a background in the financial world that gave him a seat in some of the world's restaurants, d'Antioc was inspired to explore the traditional simple diets of the Abrahamic faiths, and their links to spirituality and longevity, through the food prepared by his 108-year-old grandmother. The book was developed from the pair's popular blog, whose subtitle—“A Butter Lovin' Mama & Vegan Eatin' Daughter Dish About Food & Life”—emphasizes they share a deep bond but have sometimes divergent views.
The Church Health Center in Memphis, Tenn., a faith-based clinic centered on “whole person care,” presents 200 recipes in the 40 Days to Better Living Cookbook (Barbour Publishing, April). It includes nutritional information, cost guides, and suggested mealtime blessings.
Nelson has also served up titles where the emphasis is on food, not faith, including Y'all Come Over: A Celebration of Southern Hospitality, Food, and Memories by Patsy Caldwell and Amy Wilson (October). Other Nelson books under that banner include The Southern Food Truck Cookbook by Heather Donahoe (May), which invites readers to “Discover the South's Best Food on Four Wheels,” while The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook by Justin Burks and Amy Lawrence (May) challenges the region’s reputation as a meat-lovers' paradise by offering flesh-free “Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table.” In a Snap!, subtitled, “Tasty Southern Recipes You Can Make in 5, 10, 15, or 30 Minutes” (May) includes how-tos for the likes of crawfish macaroni and cheese, and pineapple orange cheesecake.
Though the titles “might not have a 'Christian' theme overlay, they are still very much in tune with our mission,” says HarperCollins Christian Publishing's director of corporate communications, Casey Harrell. “We want our books and our authors to explore subjects that are inspirational in life,” she says, and “the very nature of a cookbook is to inspire those with a curiosity for this aspect of our culture.”