Every month participants in the Chowhound Home Cooking board choose a cookbook, cook from it, and post their findings on the board. It’s called Cookbook of the Month. They’ve been doing it for years (the archive is here), and you can see that they’ve built up quite a body of work.

Cooking is such an inherently social activity. You cook for people you love; you enjoy eating with people; you enjoy talking about what you’re cooking. So that’s why the Cookbook of the Month threads on Chowhound are such a treasure. Last month was the first time I joined in on the fun. I opened The Essential New York Times Cookbook, made some recipes that sounded interesting, and then posted my notes on the board. [Full disclosure: I worked at the New York Times Magazine with Amanda Hesser and tested some of the recipes that were published in the book. But I didn’t post about those.] I love reading the informative ideas people present—how they would tweak recipes to be better or what similar recipes they’ve liked more. For example, in a discussion of brownies between JaneEYB and greedygirl, I learned that they both like Nick Malgieri’s “Supernatural” brownies, but that the Bon Appétit, Y’All brownies and “Robert’s Best Brownies” from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert are also worth a try.

This month they are doing an homage to Jamie Oliver, focusing on four of his cookbooks. Sometimes they choose new cookbooks to feature, or they pick up an older, trustworthy one. That way you don’t have to commit to buying a cookbook before you’ve decided whether you like it or not; you can just borrow it from the library.

The best part of these discussions is that people continue to post to them well after the month is up. So they turn into incredibly helpful logs of some of the best cookbooks around. You will notice that there are die-hard members and others who come and go based on their availability or interest in the latest cookbook. That doesn’t seem to matter to this group. So, roll up your sleeves and join in!

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