- Lidia’s Celebrate Like An Italian
- Gumbo Love: Recipes For Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, And Savoring The Good Life
- Female Nomad And Friends: Tales Of Breaking Free And Breaking Bread Around The World
- My Portugal: Recipes And Stories
- For The Love Of Portuguese Food
- The Food And Cooking Of Slovenia
- The Food And Cooking Of Venice And The North-East Of Italy
- Mary Mac’s Tea Room Cookbook
- Norfolk Island Cookery Book
- Vineyard Harvest: A Year of Good Food On Martha’s Vineyard
- The Homesick Texan Cookbook
All this home cooking and not traveling has us pining for a taste of our favorite destinations. For me, that means lots of tropical flavors, curries, and, yes, fancy coffee drinks. And while lots of recipes can be found online, there’s something special about bringing a cookbook home from a great trip. In fact, TravelAwaits reader Karen Hubbard from Kent in the UK told us she’s a passionate cook who loves trying new dishes and recreating them at home, and she collects cookbooks from her travels.
We were inspired by this and wanted to know more about the cookbooks well-traveled people love and actually use. Here are 11 favorites that will inspire delicious home-cooked meals for years to come (including two of Karen’s suggestions!).
Obviously, an Italian cookbook belongs on our list, and Sandi Barrett’s recommendation does not disappoint. “I bought this cookbook because of the drink section, is that bad?” she asked. “The lead recipe in the book is for an Aperol Spritz.” (If you haven’t tasted this refreshing beverage, do yourself a favor and get your hands on the ingredients to make it. It is as delicious and sexy as it sounds.)
Sandi told us, “Our first European vacation without our girls was to Italy. We spent two romantic weeks traipsing around the countryside exploring the local food and wine. Every afternoon, we would find a sweet little cafe and have an Aperol Spritz while we planned our evening meal and passeggiata, the quintessentially Italian afterdinner stroll.”
She said, “The cookbook is filled with Italian classics like polenta, risotto, and pasta. My favorite dish is baked goat cheese, fava, and artichoke dip served with a crusty homemade bread. I was drawn to Lidia’s cookbook because we love to entertain and great Italian cuisine is always a crowd favorite.”
Sara Broers of Travel With Sara told us her favorite cookbook is Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life.
“I received this as a gift from Lucy while dining at Lulu’s in Gulf Shores, Alabama, which happens to be home to 32 miles of pristine beaches. This cookbook offers good home-cooking recipes that fill your soul. Lucy Buffett -- Jimmy Buffett’s sister -- owns Lulu’s Gulf Shores, and she serves up some great food, including gumbo and bread pudding.”
Kelly Hayes-Raitt, a full-time international house sitter and founder of Jump Start Your Book, told us her favorite cookbook, Female Nomad and Friends: Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World, is actually an anthology of travel essays with recipes included to enhance the writers’ stories about their destinations.
“The essays were compiled by Rita Golden-Gelman, who, in her 40s, sold all her stuff to travel the world full-time -- which she did for more than 30 years!” Kelly said. “Her memoir Tales of a Female Nomad inspired the essay and recipe contributors of Female Nomad and Friends to share their experiences, whether hilarious or heartbreaking or everything in-between.”
Kelly is especially fond of the book’s chiles en nogada recipe, but know that you’ll find inspiration from all around the world in this unique read.
Barbara Winard of The Baby Bloomer told us her favorite travel cookbook is My Portugal: Recipes and Stories by George Mendes. She discovered the book when she returned from Portugal early in March, just before stay-at-home and social distancing orders went into effect. Safe at home, she started Googling pasteis de nata.
“When I was in Lisbon and Cascais, I made sure that I had at least one pastel de nata every day,” Barbara said. She tried to get the “famous and delectable” Portuguese egg custard tarts from different bakeries and cafes so she could compare them. “And I have to say that I never had a bad one. There were a few that were transporting, though.”
“Mendes not only has a recipe for them,” Barbara told us, “he waxes poetic about them in his dessert introduction page” -- where Barbara said he calls them a national treasure. “His cookbook includes scores of other wonderful Portuguese dishes, including everything from the ubiquitous Portuguese dish bacalhau, or salt cod (with a receipt for salt cod, potato, and egg Casserole), to pigs ears with ramps and cumin yogurt. He adds his own personal reminiscences about each dish. Mendes is a well-known chef and restauranteur and owner of Aldea restaurant in New York City.”
“Do we have a favorite cookbook from our travels? We have many!” Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris, cofounders of Food Travelist told us.
“One cookbook from our travels that brings us both much joy is For The Love Of Portuguese Food written and photographed by Milena Rodrigues. We discovered it while exploring the many unique bookstores in Obidos, Portugal, a UNESCO designated City Of Literature. The book is a love letter to the author's heritage, family, and the beloved recipes she says all include the common ingredient of love.”
Sue and Diana note that, “In the section called ‘My Favorite Portugal,’ the author shares her top 10 favorite places in Portugal, including the one from which her family comes. Recipes include some of Portugal’s iconic dishes like caldo verde, Bacalhau a Bras, bifanas, and migas. There’s even a recipe for incredible homemade Portuguese bread rolls, papo secos. The photos are gorgeous and the recipes are easy to follow even for beginning cooks. Every time we dip into this cookbook, we think about how much we love Portugal and can't wait to go back to share more food and stories with its wonderful people.”
Two Portuguese cookbooks in a row? In addition to recreating pasteis de nata, caldo verde, and delicious rolls at home, eating local in Portugal probably deserves a place on our bucket lists. These are the best food and drinks to try.
Carol Colborn’s favorite cookbook is The Food and Cooking of Slovenia. “It was given to us by our Slovenian friends whom we met on a tour of Palawan in the Philippines,” she told us. “We then hosted them in our RV in Florida and, in turn, they hosted us at their bed and breakfasts in Ljubljana and Bled. Her mother owns the National Slovenian Cuisine Restaurant on the ground floor of the bed and breakfast in the capital city.”
Carol told us she loves the book “not only because it was a gift but also because of the five introductory chapters: ‘Geography and Landscape,’ ‘Slovenian Culture,’ ‘Festivals and Celebrations,’ ‘Slovenian Cuisine,’ and ‘Classic Ingredients.’”
She also loves three particular recipes that she and her husband enjoyed eating in Slovenia: “the cover dish called slow-braised pork and barley, the staple buckwheat dumplings, and the amazing dessert, Bled cream slices.”
Inspired? Intrigued? Learn more about traveling and eating well in Slovenia here.
TravelAwaits reader, Karen Hubbard from Kent, told us she bought The Food and Cooking of Venice and the North-East of Italy on “the trip of a lifetime.”
“Venice is only a short flight away from the UK, but what made this trip special is that my husband and I traveled over on the Orient Express for my father-in-law’s 70th birthday,” she told us. “It was a lifetime’s ambition fulfilled. The food was sublime and the atmosphere indescribable.”
“Venice itself was beautiful. We stayed in a hotel overlooking the canal and left the shutters open so we could hear the city coming to life around us -- we got bitten to pieces by gnats though and the bites took about six weeks to heal!” Even that was worth it.
“On the morning that we were due to leave, my husband and I got up early, before the shops opened, before the tourists arrived, and walked the city. It felt like it was ours alone!”
“I found this book on that trip” Karen said. “It contains recipes specific to Venice and the northeast region of Italy. My favorite dish is pappardelle with chicken livers. It also contains some fantastic seafood and meat dishes. There’s not as much pasta in it as you might expect!”
Melissa Klurman told us she has cookbooks from all over the world and that she agrees: They’re great souvenirs.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room Cookbook is one she picked up in Atlanta and has in most current rotation. “I ate at Mary Mac’s, an Atlanta institution, when I was visiting the city a few years ago,” Melissa told us. “Everything was so decadently delicious, I wanted to share it with my husband at home, so I bought him the book. And now, honestly, he's the one who uses it to cook!”
“One of our favorite recipes we’ve tried is the shrimp gumbo. I love all the stories and photos from the last 75 years and the origins of recipes such as fried green tomatoes and Brunswick stew.”
Planning a getaway in Atlanta? Pencil in a meal at Mary Mac’s and don’t miss the city’s best-kept secrets: nine amazing places to visit in Atlanta.
Nadine Cresswell-Myatt’s travel-inspired favorite is the Norfolk Island Cookery Book, which has been in print since 1970. She bought the book during a vacation and has written about Norfolk Island here.
“A mere spot in the Pacific Ocean,” Nadine said, “Norfolk Island is home to the descendants of the bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives. There is no port, so even today, it is difficult to get food supplies in, and the supermarket shelves often look post-apocalyptic empty. But tourism is their number one industry and their food is incredible. The islanders have a history of baking brought in by the American whalers. Coconut pie to die for.”
Nadine told us Norfolk Island is “one of the few places in the world outside the U.S. where Thanksgiving is a public holiday. It is celebrated with gusto and with bountiful food as part of the Norfolk Island Food Festival.
What she likes best about this cookbook is its sense of social history. “The ingredients reflect the islanders’ ingenuity and resilience in surviving seasonally. Everyone has a home garden and swaps produce with others, and even tourists cater for themselves by buying produce from roadside stalls, although there are also some great restaurants. There are recipes for pilah, a baked dish of grated fruit and vegetables -- anything that is around -- often moistened with coconut, and a cake recipe which is simply 1 dozen ripe mashed bananas, a cup of self-raising flour, and pinch of salt cooked for an hour.”
As someone who enjoys tropical flavors, particularly bananas, this definitely has me saying, “Yum!”
TravelAwaits’ VP, Missy Glassmaker, told us, “My husband and I fell in love with Martha’s Vineyard almost 20 years ago.” She also told us the island’s reputation as a getaway for celebrities and politicians often overshadows its comfortable, no-frills atmosphere.
“The seafood is fantastic, but the island also is home to livestock and vegetable farms. Vineyard Harvest: A Year of Good Food on Martha’s Vineyard by Tina Miller is my go-to vacation favorite. It reminds me of just how diverse the island really is. Narrowing down a few favorite recipes is difficult, but the lobster corn fritters, winter pizzas, mushroom fricassee, and duck are all fantastic.”
Karen also told us, “An honorary mention goes to The Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain. I picked this up during a three-week trip to Texas. I’m a huge country music fan and loved the fact that it was widely played in Texas. I absolutely adored the hearty food. It felt like the kind of thing you’d share with family and friends. I fell in love with the laid back vibe of Austin and bought some gorgeous cowboy boots there! Another fantastic trip!”
Want to make yourself an airport-layover-worthy coffee drink? Check out the international coffee craze that’s easy to make (at home or on the road).