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Are you having fun in the kitchen these days? Chances are what may have once been a creative outlet has become more of a chore. That happens even in the best of times — and these are not the best of times.

What if you could surround yourself with experienced, generous cooks who could teach you smart techniques, up your flavor and spice range and deliver near foolproof guidance through their recipes?

I’m writing Voraciously’s Essential Cookbooks newsletter to do just that — even if a virtual cookbook club can’t completely satisfy the sense of community we crave right now.

This 10-week series will give you the necessary tools for cooking, because you actually want to or need to feed yourself, and you don’t have all the time in the world, and you can’t chop an onion at lightning speed with your eyes closed, or debone a rabbit, or get the rice right every time.

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But it’s also going to help us cook together — to tap into and become part of a community.

Voraciously’s Essential Cookbooks is a 2-in-1 special. You get to reap the joys of a book club, with the bonus (and edible benefits) of a cook-along-potluck-style “cookbook club.” And you get to do it in a more physically accessible and cost-effective space: your inbox.


(Justin Tsucalas for The Washington Post; food styling by Nichole Bryant for The Washington Post)

A virtual cookbook club has its perks. It removes the pressure of perfectly executing dishes. You don’t have to change out of your sweats, deal with the stress that can come from hosting a gathering, or, phew, feed the results of your cooking to anyone but yourself. What you can share are your thoughts and experiences cooking them with other people who’ve done the same.

I’ll be rolling out my curated list of 10 desert-island cookbooks that I believe are essential to a modern home cook’s repertoire. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what “essential” means. In the history of culling cookbook lists, the “classic canon” has always implied a de facto white, Eurocentric bias. That has left us with a shortsighted recipe bank and omitted the cuisines of entire regions and cultures — and their delicious food and significant technical innovations along with them.

Let’s change that, starting now.

SIGN UP FOR VORACIOUSLY’S ESSENTIAL COOKBOOKS NEWSLETTER SERIES HERE

I’ve been in love with cookbooks for as long as I can remember. I have way too many, and I don’t care; they all inspire me. As a journalist, I’ve covered them consistently (for this newspaper, on occasion). I even started a wacky tournament to celebrate them, and I’ve written two myself.

From that experience, I’ve created an admittedly subjective list of cookbooks that reflect the way we cook now, and that take into account the variety of tastes, smells and flavors we crave — or will crave once we discover them.

Here’s what you can expect in your inbox each week, starting Monday:

  • You’ll get to know a cookbook that’s as cookable as it is memorable, and introduces you to techniques, ingredients and flavor combinations that you can apply beyond its pages so you can become a more confident, smarter cook.
  • Two recipes from each of the 10 titles that give you a sense of how these books can enrich your day-to-day cooking, while adding a few keeper recipes to your regular rotation.
  • The cookbooks won’t be revealed in rank order, because they’re of equal value and necessity.

When the 10 weeks are up, you’ll have the makings for a library that’s enough on its own, or at least a solid foundation. Whether these books will prove indispensable for all time is impossible to predict (and unlikely); what they are is essential now, and they will always be significant — and lovable.

I hope you’ll make room in your heart for one more list, and on your shelves for a few — if not all — of these books. Tell your friends to sign up, and you can discuss them and cook the recipes together.

SIGN UP FOR VORACIOUSLY’S ESSENTIAL COOKBOOKS NEWSLETTER SERIES HERE

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