I get more than recipes from cookbooks–I draw inspiration! In my goal of elegant spa cooking, I’m selective about the cookbooks I buy. They need to teach me about healthy eating and they need to show me in gorgeous pictures what the dishes should look like. It’s an added bonus of a book also tells interesting stories about the people and places behind the recipes.

I’ve added three new cookbooks to my small collection. I found the first one in the library at Maison d’etre, my friend Ann Lokey’s “gite” that we rented in St. Cirq Lapopie. It’s the wonderful house that I shared with friends and friends’ family members for two weeks in June. Ann has stocked the bookshelves with guide books, language guides, historical novels set in the region, and the occasional French cookbook. Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves, Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne (Kemberley Lovato and Laura Schmalhorst, Running Press, Philadelphia, 2009). I spent a lovely afternoon in the day bed at Ann’s house looking out at the view up the valley and the village, and browsing the lovely photographs, stories and recipes of this book.

Dordogne is near the region we visited. It is also known as Perigord. The culinary culture and history of the region is very similar to Lot Valley, with its forests of Black Walnut trees. It’s a lush book, with stories about the people who live and cook in the region. The recipes feature ingredients from the area, most of which can also be sourced here. Compared to my usual fare, many are very “fancy.” I will use this book to learn more about French ingredients and to see if I can “localize” and modify some of the dishes for my spa-style cooking.

In searching for this cookbook on Amazon under “French cooking” (I’d forgotten to write down the book’s name during my lazy days in France), I cam across La Tartine Gourmande. Many of you may be familiar with Beatrice Peltre’s glorious blog and cookbook of the same name. The subtitle of her book is “Recipes for an Inspired Life” and she does not fail in inspiration! The photos are beautiful, the recipes healthy and very do-able. I’ve been able to modify the recipes, usually for four – six servings, to the smaller portions I make for myself. Ms. Peltre’s French upbringing shines on every page. Introduce yourself to her through her blog!

Finally, while shopping in Eugene for French lavender to bring to my yard, I visited Down to Earth, a local housewares and gardening store. I found Dishing up Oregon, one of a series of state-based cookbooks, which also include Maine, Maryland, Vermont and Washington State. This well-photographed paperback book uses Oregon ingredients and presents short articles about the growers and artisan food crafters who create our wonderful food. In that way, it’s similar in style to Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves. I recognized photos of friends who are producing and cooking some of the best vegetables, fruits, cheeses and meats, from farm to table!

Having three new cookbooks will keep me inspired for months, working through these recipes. Along the way, I’ll learn more about French food, French cooking, and how to translate these ideas to Oregon terroir and ingredients and to scale them to spa cooking for one!