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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Book Review: BEYOND THE GREAT WALL; recipes and travels in the other China

BEYOND THE GREAT WALL; recipes and travels in the other China
(Random House Canada, 2008, 376 pages, ISBN 978-0-679-31466-6, $70 CAD
hard covers) is by the team of Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, who
have authored many cookbooks (which double as travel books) about the
Far East: "Mangoes and Curry Leaves" (IACP Best International Cookbook
winner), "Hot Sour Salty Sweet", "Seductions of Rice". Plus two books
on bread and home baking. But it is hard to believe that, given their
elevated status as cookbook authors, they still need log rolling
endorsements from John Thorne (who seems to do nothing else but these
days) and Claudia Roden. Anyway, the book is out in time to cash in on
the Chinese popularity of the Beijing Olympics. And, of course, the
book includes Tibet, which at this writing is a contentious issue.
Other areas are Inner Mongolia, Guizhou and Yunnan, and parts of the
Silk Road. The book weighs in at 4.7 pounds, a hefty disadvantage for
the kitchen. My usual advice still stands: for recipes, make a fair use
photocopy to absorb the usual splattering and for ease of handling in
the kitchen. As with their other books, here is a mixture of stunning
photographs, compelling stories and history, and plenty of home
cooking. We've seen most of the recipes before in other cookbooks, for
these are classic peasant dishes that can be found in Tibetan, et al,
recipe books. The value is in the culturally distinct regions' approach
to food. The authors have been in the region many times over the past
25 years (they met there). Sources include families, street vendors,
local markets, and small restaurants: shaping noodles, making soups,
stir-fries, kebabs, teas, and flour and a few rice-derived desserts.
Photos are keyed to recipe pages. Avoirdupois weights and measures are
used for the ingredients, but there are conversion tables for
American/Imperial/Metric forms. There is a glossary, a bibliography,
and sources in North America for food and equipment.
Audience and level of use: arm chair travelers, dedicated cooks.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: grasslands herb salsa;
Tibetan tsampa soup; tomato-lamb noodle soup; beef-sauced hot lettuce
salad; ginger and carrot stir fry; ear lobe noodles; lhasa beef and
potato stew.
The downside to this book: lovely to look at, but unwieldy to use.
The upside to this book: a bright, well-defined travel book.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.

1 comment:

dana McCauley said...

I love Naomi and Jeffery's work! They write books that truly reveal the destination.