clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Six Cookbooks That Will Make You a Better Cook, According to Julia Turshen

The much-loved cookbook author shares the books that have influenced her the most

If you buy something from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Photo illustration by Eater

Julia Turshen has long been a sought-after cookbook writer, collaborating with big names like Gwyneth Paltrow and Dana Cowin and famously turning in book drafts an entire year before their due date (unheard of in the cookbook world).

She redefined her career as a solo cookbook author with Small Victories in 2016 and Feed the Resistance in 2017, which went beyond recipes to serve as a tool for activism and building community. The recipes themselves are inviting, with plenty of room for variations and spin-offs; her Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs, one of the most popular recipes (and one of her own favorites) from Small Victories, captures her style of cooking: approachable, homey, and hearty.

Now Turshen’s back with Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers, a cookbook with the heart of a memoir, filled with personal essays and recipes (and spinoffs — leftovers is in the title). Divided by four seasons, Turshen walks readers through chapters of her life through 20 themed menus. The “Red-Checkered Tablecloth Late Saturday Lunch,” for example, touches on her shift from a self-proclaimed “New Yorker for life” to a country dweller, with recipes like Garlic and Anchovy Butter Toasts and Italian Flag Baked Pasta.

Already declared one of the best cookbooks this fall, Turshen’s new book cements her expert status — so we asked the cookbook author and collector to tell us her recommendations.

The ultimate essential: The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis

“This book is my all-time favorite cookbook, always and forever. It’s such a seminal book for so many reasons. What has always felt so particular about this book was that no one else could have written it. It’s so tied to her experience, life, and voice. It appeals to her as a writer and a cook. I think it’s one of the most important cookbooks.

I was introduced to this book when I was young. Growing up, I was practically surrounded by cookbooks because both of my parents were working in publishing, so I had a natural curiosity toward cookbooks and magazines. I’ve loved the book ever since I read it for the first time in middle school.”

Buy The Taste of Country Cooking, $15.56

If you want to get into baking: The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day

“I love Cheryl and Griffith Day’s cookbooks; they will make you feel comfortable with baking. The recipes are great, of course; both well-tested and well-written. Their bakery [in Savannah, Georgia] is such a comforting place to me, and eating their food and following their recipes would be great ways to taste their comfort in your own kitchen.”

Buy The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, $13.87
Salt Fat Acid Heat

If you want to master the fundamentals: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat

“Samin’s book is like getting to go to a cooking school. She does an incredible job of explaining why we do certain things when we cook. Reading that book and using it will leave you as a much more informed cook. She is also a fantastic writer, so her lessons will stick with you.”

Buy Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, $19.67

If you are short on time: Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry

“Who isn’t short on time?? The book is full of really creative, nourishing recipes and many of them are simple and quick. Plus it’s inspiring, which always helps you get a little energy in your kitchen.”

Buy Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed, $18.70
Lee Bailey’s Country weekends cookbook cover
Buvette cover

If you want something entertaining to peruse: Country Weekends by Lee Bailey

“I love flipping through this book. It feels like a time capsule of a stylish Hamptons weekender from the 1980s, and I always want to cook after looking through it.”

Buy Lee Bailey's Country Weekends, $44.80

If you want to snag Julia’s favorite, of all those she’s worked on: Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams

“I really cherish my experience working with Jody Williams for this book. Jody is an unbelievably funny person, and she is also extremely talented. I’ve admired her cooking and work for so long, so it was such a great opportunity to get to know her, her stories, and her food through the cookbook process. She is also a wonderful person to watch cook! She is so intuitive and has a great taste. She cares so much about the detail. It was such a joy to help her put her restaurant on the page.

Working with her was so much more than cooking; it was sharing moments and creating connections in general. Every time I get to work or interview someone, I do my best to create connections and a community, which is very important to me.”

Buy Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, $27.81