I don't do much in the way of shopping suggestions here, but I used to love producing the gift guides that are a staple of magazine land. So this year I'm going to throw ideas out there as I see them--because yesterday I saw a book from Abrams that I flipped out over! Home Made: The Ultimate DIY Cookbook, Featuring Over 200 From-Scratch Recipes, by Yvette Van Boven, a Dutch author.

Clever marketing, that. Of course most cookbooks are DIY, and most feature "from-scratch" recipes. But this is a signal to a new generation of cookbook buyers--and it puts cooking squarely in the DIY trend. But let's get to the really good stuff.

The book is gorgeous. This matters--not only because it inspires, but because part of the appeal of a great cookbook is that you can read it with the satisfaction you might get from a novel. This one goes right onto my bedside table, till I'm ready to get into the kitchen with it. I'm a reluctant, easily intimidated cook. Great photography gives me a safety net--especially pictures illustrating techniques. The photographs in Hand Made were taken by Yvette's husband, Oof Verschuren. Many recipes are simple--starting with "Bread Without Working the Dough" a technique my son Alex turned me on to last summer. Then there's "Ginger Coffee"--I can't wait to brew a cup. "Oeuf Cocotte" brought back childhood memories, and I can definitely handle her risotto recipes. In fact, they all look...unintimidating. But there's plenty here for the advanced cooks. I'm told by one of those that these recipes test out beautifully.

The design of Home Made just glows with love. Every single page is wonderful. Where there aren't photographs, there are paper cut illustrations, or drawings. There are two ribbons to mark places (I am a huge fan of book ribbons, and note that they are making a comeback. Yippee!) Yvette makes a few cameo appearances; she looks like she is having fun in the kitchen. The book feels hand made, and it gives you a sense of Yvette's aesthetic--the way she cooks is the way she sees the world, and that is with a sense of wonder, generosity, pleasure and affection.

There's even a section called "Do Not Forget the Dog." Need I say more? Home Made is a perfect gift at any time of the year, but with all of us cozying up in the kitchen for the holidays, I'm hoping that anyone I buy Home Made for will treat me to some home cooking.

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