Having grown up with a dad who spent a lot more time in the kitchen than most men of his generation, I am very happy to see that he has proven to be a man ahead of his time. As more and more guys take on the responsibilities of getting a family meal on the table, or at least delve into obsessive preoccupations with baking bread or fermenting things, we can now add cookbooks to the list of Father's Day gift possibilities.
This season, there are several new volumes that will appeal to the dads on your list, and thankfully they offer a larger perspective than the clichéd slabs-of-meat-on-the-grill cookbooks usually marketed to dads.
1. Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden with Martha Holmberg, $35
This book, written by a chef whose food is deeply informed by his time spent on an organic farm in coastal Maine, will instruct and inspire any dad who wants to get more vegetables on the table and into his family.
Chef and author Joshua McFadden recognizes not four but six seasons, taking on two extra phases of summer when the vegetable harvest is at its most prolific. But he does not ignore the quieter winter and spring months, either, with plenty of recipes and inspiration for those times when seasonal eating might not seem easy and the choices not as obvious. The emphasis on seasonal growing and farm life would make this book an excellent choice for a frequent cook or gardener.
2. Five Ways to Cook Asparagus (and Other Recipes): The Art and Practice of Making Dinner by Peter Miller, $30
Simple and sophisticated, Five Ways to Cook Asparagus is for the home cook who is already comfortable in the kitchen and is looking for a fresh approach. The book is arranged by ingredient, so a busy dad faced with the task of getting dinner on the table can easily flip to a recipe based on what's on hand.
Using the number five as a focus, Miller covers larder basics, vegetables, legumes and grains, proteins, slightly more complex weekend recipes, basic skills, and more. Add beautiful photographs from Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton and the package is complete!
3. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton, $35
Confession: I already recommended this book in our Mother's Day cookbook post, but I have no qualms about bringing it back for Father's Day. All the reasons I recommended it for moms also apply to dads. It truly is an instruction manual, and many men I know are interested in cooking but just haven't been taught the basics. With humor and infectious enthusiasm, Samin will take your dad by the hand and give him everything he needs to be a crackerjack on-the-fly cook.
And if more straight-up recipe following is where he is at, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat has that, too. More than half the book contains recipes for classic and inventive takes on soups, salads, mains, sauces, and desserts. If you didn't get this for your mom, get it for your dad.
4. On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen by Jeremy Fox, $35
Yes, I know this list seems to have a lot of vegetable-related options, but stick with me. This is the perfect book for a dad who lives in an urban area where unusual ingredients and well-stocked grocery stores and farmers markets abound. The recipes are a bit chefy (read: involved) — perfect for anyone who likes to roll up their sleeves and really get into it. Fox plays with unusual flavors, textures, and combinations, which in the end results in deeply rewarding, innovative food. It's no wonder he has a following.
On Vegetables also chronicles Fox's tumultuous story from fame to ruin and back to (a much more sustainable) fame again. This, along with lots of instructional material, expands this cookbook into an interesting read and a very personal, beautiful, and useful offering from a talented chef.
5. Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy, $30
If your dad likes to explore new cuisines and be ahead of the trends, then this book will make him (and the people he cooks for) very happy. Bay Area residents and visitors can attest to the unique and addictive flavors to be enjoyed at the titular San Francisco and East Bay restaurants of the same name, where people line up for hours to enjoy the famous Tea Leaf Salad and Burmese curries. Now the queues can be skipped and, with a surprisingly simple list of pantry ingredients and produce, the party can be moved to the home kitchen where vibrant and evocative scents will fill your house and deliciousness will satisfy every belly.
More than just a cookbook, this handsome volume offers stories and insights into Burma, a country with a rich and intriguing culture that is still somewhat mysterious to many people. The photographs capture everything beautifully, opening up this world and making this book a true treasure to be enjoyed on many levels.
6. All About Eggs: Everything We Know About the World's Most Important Food by Rachel Khong, $26
It's so easy to take the ubiquitous egg for granted, but a quick glance at this book will convince you that the egg is actually a culinary luminary of the first order. There is just so much to know, understand, and celebrate about this (when you think about it) kind-of-bizarre food.
If your dad loves nerdy details and has an irreverent approach to life and cooking, then he will dive into this Lucky Peach-produced book with enthusiasm. It has history, interesting facts and anecdotes, charts and lists, and most importantly, egg-centric recipes from all over the world.
7. Praise the Lard: Recipes and Revelations from a Legendary Life in Barbecue by Mike Mills and Amy Mills, $25
Okay, this is my pick for the "sharp knives and lots o' meat" cookbook typically marketed to men because it can't be denied that clichés exists for a reason. A lot of guys like their meat and their barbecue, and there's nothing wrong with that.
This book has a special twist because it's a father/daughter project where the father is a world-renowned barbecue hall-of-famer and the daughter is the marketing and personality behind the family business. With almost 100 recipes ranging from spices and sauces to an entire chapter on a whole hog roast, this book moves beyond a family tale and into a credible resource for all things meaty and wonderful.