Minnesota authors provide plenty of variety in new books that celebrate food, its history and flavors.
Fortunately, winter is long because there will be plenty of time for cooking and reading as we page through these culinary options from local authors.
"Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats That Shine," by Shaina Olmanson (Harvard Common Press, $16.95). Here's a book after my own heart: a celebration of single servings that covers the dessert world, from tres leches cake to crème brûlée to granita and individual apple pies -- all served up in a pretty jar for one. You can find more ideas from Olmanson at her popular blog, foodformyfamily.com, where she offers recipes and food philosophy as she meets the hungry demands of her four children with seasonal, local food.
"Growing With Purpose: Forty Years of Seward Community Cooperative," by Kari Cornell and Patricia Cumbie (Seward Community Cooperative, $23.95). Time flies. When the Twin Cities food cooperative movement began in the 1970s, Seward was a small storefront. By 2009 it had expanded far beyond the early dreams of its founders. The authors tell the engaging tale of Seward's evolution and those who were part of its legacy.
"The Minnesota Book of Skills: Your Guide to Smoking Whitefish, Sauna Etiquette, Tick Extraction, and More," by Chris Niskanen (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $19.95). Of course food should be part of a book of skills! How else would you know how to grow wheat, harvest wild rice, net whitefish, catch and fry a walleye, make pickles or field dress a deer? Niskanen shows us how, plus a lot more, as befits a former outdoors reporter who now works for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate," by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic (Perigree, $15). Is there a picky eater at your table? There has to be. We all have at least one. And, as Lucianovic will admit, she was, too. Then she went to culinary school and became a food writer who noted that there are a lot of picky eaters out there. One question led to another for this Minnesota native and before you know it she was researching the science of picky eating and food phobias.
"Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food," by Jeffrey M. Pilcher (Oxford University Press, $27.95). Even in the 1960s, tacos were rarely found outside Mexico beyond California or the Southwestern states. Today you can find them in Mongolia. Pilcher, a history professor at the University of Minnesota, tells the tale of the traveling taco, whose roots were in our nation's roadside stands until Glen Bell, in a cutting-edge move, started up Taco Bell. It's a tale worth reading.
"Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild & Wonderful Foods: An Intrepid Eater's Digest," by Andrew Zimmern and Molly Mogren (Feiwel and Friends,) $14.99. Do you want to eat maggot cheese? Dine on sour lung soup or stuffed lamb spleen? Zimmern will tell you -- or your child -- how in this folksy book with stories from his "Bizarre Foods" TV show, which has plenty of kidlike illustrations. The book flits so quickly from a subject to its many tangents that it's enough to make your head spin, though a child will stumble upon this trajectory of odd facts and find it compelling. Take the real-life story of the Masai and cow's blood, which goes on to quick hits on uses of cow's blood beyond food, to a graphic of trivia about cows, a collection of movies with a lot of blood, a recipe for DIY stage blood and a discussion of feeding malnourished children with a food alternative made from cow's blood. Whew.
"Eat More Vegetables: Making the Most of Your Seasonal Produce," by Tricia Cornell (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $27.95). What do you do with all that produce from your weekly CSA or farmers market? Cornell has the answer -- and the recipe. From asparagus soufflé in the spring to pan-fried Brussels sprouts in the fall, she offers tasteful options.
"Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875," by Phyllis Louise Harris with Raghavan Iyer (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $34.95). For longtime residents of Minnesota, many of the names will be familiar in this history of local Asian food businesses: from Joe Huie's restaurant in Duluth to Marvel and Stanley Chong's International House of Foods near the University of Minnesota (and Marvel's cooking classes) to Leeann Chin and her restaurants, Supenn Harrison of Sawatdee and Reiko Weston of Fuji Ya.
But it all began with Woo Yee Sing, who opened the first Chinese restaurant in the state in 1883, the Canton Restaurant on Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. The stories behind the restaurateurs who have changed our collective Midwestern palates, up to the present, are told by Harris, former food editor of Asian Pages newspaper, and Iyer, cookbook author and culinary instructor. Recipes and historical photos add furter insight.
"Memoir of the Sunday Brunch," by Julia Pandl (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $13.95). A lovely memoir by a Milwaukee writer about growing up in a restaurant family.
"Food Lovers' Guide to the Twin Cities: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings," by James Norton (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95). Whether it's looking for a purveyor of lutefisk, or a bakery, or a landmark restaurant, Norton -- editor of the online journal heavytable.com -- serves up options, with some recipes.
"Nourish: Winter," by Anna Dvorak (e-book only, $9.99). A seasonal book, the first of four parts by Dvorak, who leads cooking and wellness classes at the Wedge and Kitchen Window. Find her at www.annadvorak.com.
"The Cookie Book," by Lee Svitak Dean and Rick Nelson (Star Tribune, $2.99, e-book). Find 52 cookies and photos from a decade of the Taste section's holiday baking contest. Available via StarTribune.com/ebooks. Follow Lee Svitak Dean on Twitter: @stribtaste
Poll: Which 2013 Taste Holiday Cookie Contest entry do you most want to try?