When it comes to giving a cookbook as a gift, there's no such thing as one size fits all -- sometimes you want a cookbook for a serious cook; sometimes you want a sweet-and-simple general-interest cookbook, and sometimes you want a cookbook for someone who doesn't actually cook but likes to read about cooking. We've asked T. Susan Chang -- food writer, cookbook reviewer for KitchenDaily and The Boston Globe, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Kitchen Window series -- to do the sorting for you. Here are her favorite gift-cookbook picks:
Cute little books for anybody:
• Tea and Cookies: Enjoy the Perfect Cup of Tea--with Dozens of Delectable Recipes for Teatime Treats, by Rick Rodgers (William Morrow, $21.99). Cookie cookbooks are a gift that keeps on giving, especially if you happen to be invited over for tea. A smart selection in a delightful package.
• Simply Ming One-Pot Meals: Quick, Healthy & Affordable Recipes, by Ming Tsai (Kyle Books, $29.95). Nobody likes cleaning pots. Keep it to a single one, with Asian-fusion how-tos from the cutest Chinese chef on TV.
• What's New, Cupcake? Ingeniously Simple Designs for Every Occasion, by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.95). Cupcakes shaped like hot dogs, apples, rubber duckies, and stuffed turkeys! Even if neither you nor your friends are personally crafty, you're sure to get a kick out of these trompe l'oeil confections by the KitchenDaily Creative Cupcaking team of Tack and Richardson. (Click here to see their cupcake-decorating how-tos and videos.)
• The Bartender's Best Friend: A Complete Guide to Cocktails, Martinis, and Mixed Drinks, by Mardee Haidin Regan (Wiley, $19.95). More than 850 stiff drinks to get you through the holidays, with a splash-proof cover! What's not to love?
• Alice's Tea Cup: Delectable Recipes for Scones, Cakes, Sandwiches, and More from New York's Most Whimsical Tea Spot, by Haley Fox and Lauren Fox (William Morrow, $24.00). Dear little sandwiches, charming cookies, jewel-like salads and colorful soups -- this is the closest thing to visiting the best tea shop in town.
• Absinthe Cocktails, by Kate Simon and Lara Ferroni (Chronicle Books, $19.95): Got a friend who cleans out all the velvet capes and jackest from vintage clothing shops? Here's the perfect gift for the romantic throwback in your circle. Warning: Must buy groovy pseudo-drug-paraphernalia (absinthe glass and spoon) to accompany book.
For Serious Cooks:
• Food Substitution Bible: More than 6,500 Substitutions for Ingredients, Equipment & Techniques, 2nd ed. (Robert Rose, $24.95) For your wildly experimental friend who insists on trying to cook obscure Thai dishes but then can't find betel leaf. Included here are thousands of everyday substitutions for both hard-to-find and common ingredients.
• Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best - Over 700 Recipes Show You Why, by Darina Allen. (Kyle Books, $40.00) For the foodie who thinks they know it all, instructions from the Irish Martha Stewart on how to prepare suet, cold-smoke a fish, and make a feather duster out of your extra goose wings.
For Cooking Voyeurs and Readers:
• Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, by René Redzepi (Phaidon Press, $49.95): How do you eat locally in Scandinavia? With rowan shoots and buckthorn juice, that's how. Gorgeous images of food you will possibly only ever eat with your eyes -- unless you book a flight to Copenhagen, and that's a mighty fine gift, too.
• Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy, by Diana Kennedy (University of Texas Press, $50.00): The American queen of Mexican cooking, Diana Kennedy gets into the delicious details of the regional cooking of Mexico. Thoughtful, heavyweight and accessible as long as you're already a pretty good cook.
• Thai Street Food, by David Thompson (Ten Speed Press, $60): A riotous magnum opus by this devoted Thai food acolyte, in which any single recipe has flavor equal to approximately 20 meals in the British Isles.
• What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets, by Peter Menzel and Faith d'Aluisio (Material World, $40): The book no one in your family will be willing to put down. Organized by calories (400 to 12,000!), the daily diets of various citizens of the world.
• One Big Table: 600 recipes from the nation's best home cooks, farmers, fishermen, pit-masters, and chefs, by Molly O'Neill (Simon & Schuster, $50): The New York Times writer offers the best bedside reading to be found in any cookbook. Recipes from all over the country and fascinating essays, including the social history of celery.