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Saturday, December 16, 2017


NOVEMBER 16, 2017
By Dean Tudor, Ryerson Journalism Professor Emeritus and Gothic
Epicures Writing, (World Wine Watch Newsletter).
          Twitter: @gothicepicures
There are always many new food and wine books out there for people who have picky tastes!! What to choose? I have cast about for material and have come up with a decent selection of materials published in 2017 to satisfy any pocketbook, any host, and any friend or relative. All books and book-like materials that are listed here are RECOMMENDED for gifting, and can be purchased at a discount via Amazon.Ca, Chapters.Indigo.Ca (with free delivery on a total purchase of over $25 or so), or even The Book Depository in Guernsey (free delivery and no GST from the UK).
Price Alert: because of US dollar fluctuations with Canada, all prices will vary.
A. Art/travel/restaurant cookbooks might be some of the best books to give a loved one (or to yourself, since you are your own best loved one). Most may cost you an arm and a leg. Books for the coffee table have their place in the gift scheme: just about every such book is only bought as a gift! And are often perused first by the donor (you). Don't let the prices daunt you. Such books are available at a discount from online vendors. Because of the "economy", not too many pricey food and wine books were released this year. Herewith, and in random order:
--DAVID TANIS MARKET COOKING (Artisan , 2017, 480 pages, $58 CAD hardbound) is by, well, Chef David Tanis. You know the chef has arrived when the publisher puts the name as part of the actual title. He's worked as a chef for three decades, notably at Chez Panisse and Cafe Escalera. He's also the author of several cookbooks, and is currently writing a weekly food column for the New York Times. Here is a collection of 200 recipes and thoughts, ingredient by ingredient, on food likely to be found at farmers' markets, or, as the French say "la cuisine du marche". As he says, it means: I go to the market, see what looks best, and then decide what will go in the meal. Fresh ingredients provide the inspiration, and the majority of the preps are veggie-based and global in scope. Indeed, the arrangement is by vegetable, with alliums (garlic, onions, leeks, shallot, scallions) having a chapter all to themselves. There is also material on seasoning and kitchen essentials (eggs, dairy, rice, pasta, noodles, et al).
--THE LAMBSHANK REDEMPTION COOKBOOK (Dog 'n' Bone, 2017, 144 pages, $29.95 hardbound) is by Lachlan Hayman, who also wrote Killing Me Souffle (a collection of music-based recipes). Here he has collated 50 movie-inspired recipes. Although Silence of the Lambs is here renamed Silence of the Clams (and comes in as a bacon and clam chowder), I think the original fava beans and liver with Chianti would have been  more appropriate. But chacun a son gout. Most of the dishes relate to a re-titling of the films, such as Bratwurst at Tiffany's, The Hummus Crown Affair, The King's Peach, or My Big Fat Greek Salad. Jurassic Pork also works for me.  Good idea for the movie mavens.
--ISTANBUL & BEYOND (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017, 352 pages, $50 CAD hardbound) is by food writer Robyn Eckhardt. It's an exploration of the diverse cuisines of Turkey, with excellent travel and food photography by David Hagerman. There is also material on stocking the Turkish pantry for the serious cook, and a glossary. This is the cross-roads country between Europe and Asia, and shows heavy influences from the surrounding countries such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria and Greece. All courses are covered, and there is a separate index to recipes by category. For example, breads include borek, tahini buns, pan bread, kete, corn breads, flatbreads, hand-pies, and bread rings. Plenty of meat, but no pork. Historical cultural and travel notes accompany just about every recipe.
--VENETO: recipes from an Italian country kitchen (Guardian Books/Faber and Faber, 2017, 288 pages, $42.95 CAD hardbound) is by Valeria Necchio, who grew up in the countryside of inland Veneto (not Venice itself). Here she tells stories of food, people and places, sharing recipes with credit. This is, as Alice Waters endorsed, regional home cooking at its best. The first part explores "then", the second part does "now" (both 125 pages each) while the third part is the Venetian seasonal pantry.  There's baccala mantecato, schie frite, sarde in saor, ovi e sparsi, maroni rosti, fritaja de erbe – and scores more. Good company for Brunetti when he travels inland.
--LISBON (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 256 pages, $50 CAD hardbound) is by UK freelance food writer and TV presenter Rebecca Seal who has written other food travel books (Istanbul, The Islands of Greece). She's got some culinary links to former Portuguese colonies such as Goa,Brazil and Mozambique, which have added to the local Lisbon food scene  Each recipe has a story. The classics are here: salt cod and chickpea seals, piri piri chicken, Goan fish curry, and, of course, clams with pork (or is it pork with clams?). Preps are titled in both Portuguese and English, and the index provided a comprehensive analysis. Travel and plated photos  are by her husband food and drink photographer Steven Joyce. A very worthwhile gift for people who have already been there and want to refresh their memories.
--RIVER COTTAGE A TO Z: our favourite ingredients and  how to cook them  (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017, 708 pages, $86 CAD hardcovers) is by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall plus contributions from eight others on the River Cottage team. They go to work with short notes and cross-referenced recipes for each ingredient (with writer attribution). It is this year's monster gift at this price and weight of just under six pounds (2.6 kilos). Not for the slight. It is a fine reference tool as well since there is a lot here that you may never see or use, such as puffballs, woodcock, winkles, purslane, or snipe. But the common are also covered, such as eggs, bacon, cheese, salt, and allspice.  Each mini-essay details  the origins, propagation, and culinary uses of vegetables, herbs, seafood, and meats. Beware, though, of the distinct British orientation (eg, aubergines).
--BANGKOK (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 360 pages, $47 CAD hardbound) is by Leela Punyaratabandhu, who writes about Thai food (she had previously authored Simple Thai Food). This one covers the food of Bangkok, her hometown. It's loaded with street food which, of course, needs a strong urban/tourist environment. In addition to the photos of plated recipes, there are many stories of Bangkok with photos of the landscape. Here are 120 preps ranging from curried chicken puffs, omelette rolls with crabmeat and shrimp paste relish, chicken matasman curry, noodles and desserts. She's got strong notes on pantries and rice, as well as the engaging stories of Bangkok foods.
--DALMATIA (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 224 pages, $57 CAD hardbound) is by Ino Kuvacic, who owns and chefs at  Dalmatino in Melbourne. It's this year's Croatian cookbook (there is usually one a year). These are preps from Croatia's  Adriatic coast, with four chapters covering veggies, seafood, meat and sweets. Most of the photos are of the plated foods, but there are some obviously tourist-y ones from along the coast. Try brudet (Dalmatian fish stew), crni rizot (black risotto) and duved (sauteed veggies with rice). Engaging...
--LURE (Figure 1, 2017,  240 pages, $38.95 CAD hardbound) is by Ned Bell, once executive chef of Four seasons Hotel Vancouver and other places but now heavily involved with seafood sustainability groups such as "Chefs for Oceans" which he founded in 2014. He's writing with Valerie Howes, food editor of Reader's Digest Canada and currently writing a work on edible landscapes and seascapes of Fogo Island, Newfoundland. These are sustainable seafood recipes from the West Coast of Canada. The recipe section is arranged by type: white fish, fatty fish, shellfish, and sea greens. It is headed by a recipe list by course, so you can always find a sandwich or soup or app. There is a 50-page chapter on specie profiles, so you can get the lowdown on what to look for when buying and how to prep. There's one dessert here (seaweed brownies), and one drink (seaweed vodka caesar) plus salads, mains, snacks, appetizers, sandwiches, and soups. He's identified all the healthy fish and shellfish species on the West coast, so it is a useful tome to assuage any feelings of irresponsibility.
--THE CHILTERN FIREHOUSE: THE COOKBOOK (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 320 pages, $66 CAD hardbound) is from a London restaurant in a Victorian building which also houses a 26-suite hotel. The building, in Marylebone, was once the Manchester Square Fire Station, but was renovated by Andre Balazs (who also owns hotels in New York and Hollywood). He's on the title page, as is Nuno Mendes the chef. The Firehouse is strong on cocktails and snacks. Stephen Fry's faves are the Firehouse Sazerac, bacon cornbread fingers with chipotle maple butter and  fried chicken with smoky bacon ranch dip. Among the mains you will find the red mullet with endive hearts, mussels and marcona almonds. To conclude, Fry wants to die with the frozen apple panna cotta on his lips. A third of the (oversized) tome is cocktails and snacks, and if you add starters (which are actually large snacks or small plates), then you are up to page 170  -- more than half the book. Mains and deserts are about 100 pages. Add brunch and a lot of well-sited photos with a history of the establishment. Recommended strongly as a gift for the millennials.
--THE DESSERTS OF NEW YORK (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 242 pages, $34.99 CAD softbound)  is by travel cookbook author Yasmin Newman. It is a detailed survey guide to the various places one can find desserts in NYC, with info on places, people and areas. She's got the recipes for the "best" NYC cheesecake, NYC cupcakes, and NYC banana cream mille crepes – among others. For your NYC friends and visitors.
--THE GRAND CENTRAL MARKET COOKBOOK (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 256 pages, $40 CAD hardbound) is by Adele Yellin (her firm owns and has operate the GCM since 1984) and Kevin West. This is cuisine and culture  from downtown Los Angeles. The GCM has been here since 1917; this is its centennial year. The 34 stalls are a mix of legacy tenants and new vendors – all culturally diversified with a great ethnic mix of food. There are 85 recipes to make at home, plus pix of the buzz at the market. Narratives include behind-the-scenes stories and interviews with popular vendors and longtime shoppers. Preps have been sourced from the stalls and the whole book has been wrapped around excellent photography and illustrations.
--IN MY KITCHEN (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 286 pages, $42.50 CAD hardbound) is by the indefatigable Deborah Madison, one of the most important cookbook authors (14) with major awards (Beard, Fisher, IACP) working in the area of vegetarian food. More than 100 recipes here come from her personal selection of what she eats today in New Mexico. It's all organized by major ingredient, and each prep has some vegan and gluten-free variations. Consider the basic tomato and red pepper tart in a yeasted crust, or the Japanese sweet potato soup with ginger and smoked salt. She's got lots of cook notes and tips for the preps, complemented by sterling close-up photography. A great gift idea – in fact, buy two and keep one for yourself.
--PROVENCE TO PONDICHERRY (Quadrille, 2017, 288 pages, $50 CAD hardbound) is by Tessa Kiros, with photography by Manos Chatzikonstantis and food styling by Michail Touros. It's about the French threads in food and travel, and goes through Provence, Guadeloupe, Vietnam, Pondicherry, La Reunion, and Normandy – all within 300 or so pages. Part memoir and part recipes, with lots of photos. There's rougail tomate, coriander chutney, sticky rice with coconut and ginger, tapenade, fried shallots – and more. A great guide for the traveller.
--FRANCE: from the source (Lonely Planet Books, 2017, 288 pages, $34.99 CAD hardbound) is by Carolyn Boyd. Each chapter covers  a specific geographical area; there are four of these (northern, central, southeast and southwest France), plus recipe sources. These are the best local dishes from restaurant chefs, such as snails with butter and parsley  or salade lyonnaise or salade nicoise. And, of course, there are cultural notes about the dish, the region, and the chef. One of a very impressive series (which already has Japan, Spain, and Mexico).
--MEXICO: from the source (Lonely Planet Books, 2017, 288 pages, $34.99 CAD hardbound) is by five different authors, each to a region. There are five  geographical regions (Baja California, Yucatan, Oaxaca, Pacific Coast and Mexico City) plus recipe sources. These are the best local dishes from restaurant chefs, such as habanero salsa, tuna tostados, ceviche, chicken legs with red chile spices, pozole, and turkey soup with meat balls. And, of course, there are cultural notes about the dish, the region, and the chef. One of a series.
--STREET FOOD ASIA (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 306 pages, $60 CAD hardbound) is by Luke Nguyen of Saigon who travels through Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, with photography by Alan Benson. It's an oversized tome concentrating on both the street food (such as duck egg and beef martabak) and the vendors, with cultural stories about the food. It is all aromatic fragrant food, full of baguettes and banana leaves, pork and rice, tamarind water, tea and tofu. And now you can make the foods at home with the given recipes.
--DINNER (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 400 pages, $47 CAD hardbound) is by award-winning IACP and Beard author Melissa Clark, staff food writer for the New York Times. She's got 200 recipes that, in her opinion, "change the game". It's arranged by main ingredient: chicken, meat (but including duck and turkey), ground meats, seafood/fish, eggs, pasta, tofu, veggie dinners, rice, pizzas, soups, salads, and add-ons such as dips/spreads/breads. It is an oversized and heavy tome, very impressive as a gift.
--ACQUACOTTA (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 272 pages, $50 CAD hardbound) is by Emiko Davies, who has lived in Tuscany for many years. This is the cuisine of Tuscany's Silver Coast by the Tyrrhenian Sea (Monte Argentario, with its Port Ercole where she lived for awhile:  "Cucina Maremmana"). These recipes and stories are dominated by the water and lagoon, although there are preps from the surrounding woods and cultivated farms. The chapter "Dal Mare e Dalla Laguna" seems to have many ancient seafood dishes from the fishing towns. She's even got a bibliography for further reading. Lots of non-food photos and stories also makes this a travel work.
--THE COMPLETE ASIAN COOKBOOK (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 640 pages, $75 CAD hardbound) is by Charmaine Solomon. It was first issued in 1976 and extensively revised in 2011; over its life it has sold more than a million copies. The collection of 800+ recipes from Asiatic countries (India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Korea, and Thailand) has been translated into other European languages. This is its 40th anniversary celebration edition. It's a huge oversized tome but is very comprehensive and well-written – it is sure to please as a terrific gift.
--MY FRENCH COUNTRY HOME (Gibbs Smith, 2017, 208 pages, $50 CAD hardbound) is by Sharon Santoni,  whose blog is the same as the book's title.  It deals with entertaining through the seasons (beginning with spring), and comes with gorgeous photography by Franck Schmitt. Scattered throughout are easy versions of classic French cuisine, such as cherry clafoutis, quiche Lorraine, fougasse bread, tarte Tatin, and roast duck – about 15 in all. A  definite coffee table tome; indeed, it IS a coffee table – just attach legs (available separately). Her topics are universal: daily life in rural France (here, Normandy) with its ups and downs; French girlfriends; intricacies of village life; and searching for brocante treasure in the flea markets of Paris and the countryside. Well-worth a look.
--KING SOLOMON'S TABLE (Knopf, 2017, 386 pages, $47 CAD hardbound) is by Jean Nathan, multiple cookbook award winner (Beard, IACP, Child) and host of PBS cookery shows. For forty years she has specialized in Jewish cooking themes, and here gives us a culinary exploration of Jewish diaspora cooking from around the world. It is an informative guide to the international global scope of Jewish cooking, arranged by course and major ingredient: pantry matters, morning dishes, starters, salads, soups, grains, veggies, fish, poultry, meats and sweets. She's got socca, spanakit (Georgian spinach salad) and keftes garaz (Syrian meatballs). Most of the 170  preps are accompanied by detailed cultural notes and photos. There is also an in-depth bibliography and a thorough index. Well-worth perusing.
--PORTLAND COOKS (Figure 1 Publishing, 2017, 226 pages, $37.95 CAD hardbound) is by local cookbook author and food writer/blogger Danielle Centoni, who also has a Beard Award. It is another in the great series from Figure 1 detailing recipes from a city's best restaurants and bars. Having done the major cities of Canada, the Canadian publishers are expanding to contiguous locations such as Portland (can Seattle be far behind?). The series is fairly straightforward: there is an introduction to the restaurants and the local food scene, followed by a home version of the restaurant's recipe (usually one or two) and some detail about the establishment with pix. Copyright to the preps is normally held by the restaurant; they are loaded with ideas.   It's a great tome for any fan or resident of Portland.
--TORONTO EATS  (Figure 1 Publishing, 2017, 238 pages, $37.95 CAD hardbound) is by Amy Rosen, author of Toronto Cooks (2014) in the Figure 1 series. That  work sold pretty well, and as she says "now we're back for seconds". Here are 100 signature recipes from 50 chefs (some of whom were in the first one). Restaurants here include Boralia, Byblos, Honest Weight, Lena, Nota Bene, Pizzeria Libretto, Zucca Trattoria. There are stories from the restaurants (who hold the copyrights to the recipes)  and photos, plus pix of plated dishes.  A great addition to the Toronto scene, and a must-read for the Holidays.
B. And how about gift books for the beverage drinker? Try –
--HALLIDAY WINE COMPANION 2018 (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 776 pages, $57 CAD paperbound) by James Halliday, who has been at wine writing for about 47 years. This is the definitive guide to Australian wines. He gives us data about the wineries and their vineyards, deets on addresses, social media, opening hours, names and other numbers, followed by detailed tasting notes, vintage-specific ratings, advice on optimal drinking period, ABV, and prices. There are supposed to have been some 10,000 wines tasted for this edition, and he has full tasting notes for 3859 (couldn't he push it up to 4K?), ratings and prices for 2979 other wines, 1237 winery profiles (77 are new wineries), "best of" lists and five-star wineries listed. There are vintage charts and maps plus multiple indexes. But I am sure if he got together with his Kiwi counterpart, they could come up with some antipodean pocket guide at 256 pages to cover both countries and sell it in North America and the UK; it's sure to be a winner.
--THE CURIOUS BARTENDER'S RUM REVOLUTION (Ryland Peters & Small, 2017, 256 pages, $37.50 CAD hardbound) is by Tristan Stephenson, who has authored four other Curious Bartender books (Whiskies, Cocktails, Gin, plus one on Coffee) over the years. This is a guidebook to the rum revival, with cultural and historical notes and photos. Yesterday's grog has become a range, from white rum through aged and spiced varieties – just about all of it premium spirits. Sugarcane and molasses never had it so good! He's got notes on 50 or so rum distilleries throughout the world, 250 tasting notes, plus the stories behind the iconic drinks of Mai Tai, Mojito, Pina Colada, and Planter's Punch.
--THE CHAMPAGNE GUIDE 2018-2019 5th edition (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 368 pages, $50 CAD hardbound) is by Tyson Stelzer who covers 625 Champagnes from 113 important producers. It is as up-to-date as it can be, with new chapters on tips for buying Champagne this year, a  chapter on Champagne and food matching, and updated deets on 95 producers (a few have been dropped but 40 new players have been added). Houses and cuvees that did not make the cut are featured in the index only.  Some wines are tasted on the Champagne site while others were tasted in Australia (and can be indicative of travel and storage). Grape varieties and percentages are indicated as well as long tasting notes and points out of a hundred. Glossaries are also included. Great guide for travellers too. A posh book for a posh wine.
--ANCIENT BREWS REDISCOVERED AND RE-CREATED (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017, 291 pages, $35.95 CAD hardbound) is by Patrick E. McGovern, an adjunct professor of anthropology  at U Penn who has written two other "ancient" drink books: "Uncorking the Past" and "Ancient Wine". Here he looks at beer and the early experimentation with high-sugar fruits, honey, roots, cereals, herbs and tree-resins. He combines archaeology with science to cover China, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Scandinavia, Peru – and more – in their attempts at the perfect brew. Along the way he has the original recipes, the re-created preps (not guaranteed, says the publisher), and food pairing. Plus archival illustrations and a chapter-by-chapter bibliography.
--NEW ZEALAND WINE: the land, the vines, the people (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 376 pages, $85 CAD hardbound) is by geographer Warren Moran, professor emeritus at the University of Auckland, which originally published this tome late last year. Here is the international edition published in Australia and now being made available in North America. Moran has extensively covered the rural industries of New Zealand. This is a great introduction to the wines: the terroir, the grape varieties, the families and personalities, the companies, and the wines themselves. There's a brief history and then a swing through the eight wine regions. All with maps, archival photos, panoramic views, and the rise (and importance of ) sauvignon blanc on the world stage. Pricey, but definitive – and more than just a coffee table addition.
--NATURAL WINE; in introduction to organic and biodynamic wines made naturally. 2nd Edition. (CICO Books, 2014, 2017 $34.95 CAD hardbound) is by Isabelle Legeron, MW
There is a large argument raging in the wine world over what is a natural wine. Some believe that it should be applied only to organic and biodynamic farms; others think it should also mean "sustainable" or "green", etc. The key would simply be to get rid of the word "natural" and just have "organic or biodynamic" and "sustainable". It is only the organic and biodynamic wines that are certifiable. There are no controls over the rest of the "natural" wording on the label. Indeed, some organic wineries just press organic grapes and then use regular winemaking techniques. They can still call their wines organic. I know of many farms who use the term "natural" to reflect their organic practices, because they just do not have the money nor the wait time to apply for certification. Wine is a process, and it is also an industry. Wineries try to be consistent from year to year because they have a product to sell. The weather determines the  "corrections" the winemaker needs to take (more acid, earlier/later picking, more sugar, more irrigation, etc.), but a  natural O or  B winery rolls with the punches and produces wine "as is". The author takes us through the year and discusses wine faults, stability, health issues, taste, fermentation, sulphites, and a load of contentious issues. She gives notes on over 150 wines, sorted by types (bubbly, red, white, orange, rose, sweet). Not surprisingly, France has the most listings, followed by Italy: these are the two leaders by production.  Other additional sections cover a glossary, lists of associations and wine fairs, restaurants and stores for the US and UK, and a bibliography.
--THE ESSENTIAL COCKTAIL BOOK (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 342 pages, $24.99 CAD hardbound) is by a former wine editor at Food & Wine magazine, Megan Krigbaum. It is a guide to modern drinks with about 150 recipes. There is the usual primer on bar essentials covering ingredients and glassware plus garnishes. This followed by the classic recipes (170 pages) and then the modern recipes (130 pages), ending with a collection of syrups. All of the modern ones come from current bartenders at current bars, all of the preps being sourced. Good photos for the presentation and the garnishes. You won't need more than this charming tool unless you just want to improvise on your own...and why not?
C.Perhaps some reference books? Such as:
--KITCHEN SMARTS (America's Test Kitchen, 2017, 310 pages, $19.95 CAD paperbound) is from Cook's Illustrated magazine. It is in a Q & A format designed to draw in the curious cook. Topics deal with myths, substitutions, confidence, science, and terminology. There's a thematic table of contents, covering baking, coffee, meat, pasta, seafood, salt, equipment, veggies, dairy, etc. Plus an extended index.There are cheat sheets galore plus advice on how to better use your fridge and oven, among other appliances (such as ricers and food mills). It's a good tool, but a little awkward and heavy to hold. Great for two-minute reading.
--THE BOOK OF CHEESE: the essential guide to discovering cheeses you'll love (Flatiron Books, 2017, 406 pages, $56 CAD hardbound) is by Liz Thorpe who has been working with cheese since she left a cubicle in 2002, beginning with Murray's Cheese and now dealing with cheese in the New Orleans area. Along the way she has authored The Cheese Chronicles. Here she begins with exploring a world of cheese based on what you already like or love via what she calls the Gateway cheeses: Swiss, blue, Cheddar, Brie, and so forth. It's arranged by type, including Mozzarella, Havarti, Taleggio, Manchego, Parmesan, and "Misfits", with appendices on pasteurization, cheesemaking, flavours of gateways. Each type comes with vertical and horizontal tastings for comparisons (e.g., gouda made from goat, made from sheep, and made from cow milk).  There are also a few recipes using cheeses from each section. A nice, nifty, and new approach. Kudos!
--THE BOOK OF SPICE (Pegasus Books, 2016, 273 pages, $35.95 CAD hardbound) is by John O'Connell. It's a dictionary-arranged tool A – Z, from "ajowan" (used mainly  for Indian savouries and snacks, sometimes referred to as Ethiopian cumin) to "zedoary" (widely used in Indonesian and Thai food preps). Each is given a botanical name, none are illustrated, and there are internal cross-references.  Also, there are end notes and  a bibliography. The introductory chapter covers the importance and cultural history of spices; the last chapter is a directory of 36 spice mixes, such as apple pie mix, Cajun, Chinese five-spice powder, curry powder, harissa, quatre-epices, za'atar, and more. No recipes, except for some of the mixes.
--PEPPERS OF THE AMERICAS (Lorena Jones Books, Ten Speed Press, 2017, 342 pages, $47 CAD hardbound) is about as comprehensive as they come. Maricel E. Presilla is chef-owner of two restaurants, Cucharamama and Zafra in New Jersey. She was a Beard Best Chef, Beard Cookbook of the Year 2013, and has other accolades. As a food writer/columnist, she is eminently qualified to write this researched reference tool on the Latin American pepper. This the history of how "capsicum" traversed the various foodways around the world, from its home in the  Amazon. She describes in detail the 200 varieties, with illustrations (225 colour pix) and botanical terms, tasting notes, recommended uses, plus info on growing. Buying, storing, processing, and cooking. She's got the practical here: 40 recipes for ground pepper blends, vinegars, sauces, and sides. A terrific gift for your Scoville hound.
--HOW FOOD WORKS (DK, 2017, 256 pages, $26 CAD hardbound) is from the project art team at DK. The shtick: the facts are visually explained, So there are issues explored on nutrition basics, hunger and appetite, flavour, smell and taste, digesting nutrients, carbos, fibre, fats, proteins, etc. And more: water, fermentation, raw foods, processing, freezing, types of food, drinks, diets, and the environments. Millennials will go nuts over this multiple typeface, graphs, pix, timeline characterizations. Talk about rapid eye movements! Usually it is two pages a topic. So diabetes is covered in three body shots, a q & a, some graphs, and a lot of colour. Well-worth the price.
--THE FOOD LOVER'S HANDBOOK (Ebury Press, 2017, 319 pages, $31.99 CAD paperbound) is by UK grocer Mark Price, formerly of Waitrose. He deals with how history, geography and production affect quality and price, albeit from a British perspective. It's a good tool for uncovering data about beverages (tea, coffee, whisky, cider, beer), oils, preserves, desserts, butter-milk-flour-eggs-sugar, meats, veggies, fruit, salt, pepper, herbs and spices. Each has an invariable rationale about why the price varies. Typical answers here include which tea has expensive buds and needs golden scissors, how to  make the perfect cup of coffee, where to find the world's best beef, and others in this treasure trove. A bibliography and index concludes the tome.
--THE BAKER'S APPENDIX (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 112 pages, $24.99 CAD hardbound) is by Jesica Reed. It's a handbook of tables with conversions to/from avoirdupois and metric, fractions/decimals, unusual and historical  measurement conversions (pinch, drops, gill, tumbler, wineglass, dash, dram, jigger), sugar syrup temperatures, ingredient substitutions, DIY extracts and natural food colourings, sprinkles, decorating tips for cakes and cookies, adjustments for baking at high altitudes, and volume charts for baking pans of all sizes. She's also got some basic recipes for cakes, quick breads, cookies, frostings – all with variations.
--KNIFE (Quadrille, 2017, 224 pages, $41.99 CAD hardbound) is by food writer Tim Hayward. It's an appreciation of the culture, the craft, and the cult of the cook's knife. As log roller Anthony Bourdain manplains, it is "sheer blade porn". He details the "anatomy" of the knife, the grips, the strokes, knifemaking, knifemakers, and the differences and similarities of the major 40 knifes of the Western world, China , and Japan. Plus, of course, there is the issue and technique of sharpness. No bibliography for further reading, but there is a thorough index.
--9000 YEARS OF WINE; a world history (Whitecap, 2017, 438 pages, $19.95 CAD paperbound) is by Rod Phillips. It's a revision of his earlier work "A Short History of Wine" published in 2000, fully updated and extended to the 21st century. He's comprehensive in coverage, looking at different social classes and wine, trends in consumption, wine as a source of pleasure through history, and as a cultural product, It's an engaging reference tool noting dates, places and people, all with an index and a bibliography. Illustrated with a few historical engravings. Nice little gift package for your wine lover friends.
--THE NEW WINE RULES (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 152 pages, $19.99 CAD hardbound) is by Jon Bonne, award winning (Beards, Roederer) wine writer and wine book author. Here he delves into 89 new rules of the wine world, a tool which he says is a "genuinely" helpgul guide to everything you need to know. His first new rule is to "drink the rainbow" -- all the colours of wine from the clearness of Chablis through the ochreness of Syrah. His last rule (#89) is "don't save a great bottle for anything more than a rainy day". It's all wonderfully illustrated and can be read intermittently. My fave rule? #39 - "the best time to buy a wine is when it's out of style" (as he points out, "the upside to hating Merlot was that Merlot got much better").
D. For the more literate person, there are the histories, "memoirs", polemics  and humour of writers, chefs, and wine people. Some have called these memoirs "creative non-fiction", some with embellishments and gilding. And many of them may suffer from a lack of indexing, which makes it difficult to find what the writer said about another person or subject. But this also avoids the potential for lawsuits and disjointed noses. Nevertheless, they are rewarding to read. Who cares about poetic license? Here then are some that stood out from  this year's run, and any of them would make great gifts for the reader. Here we go, in no particular order…
--A HISTORY OF COOKBOOKS (University of California Press, 2017, 384 pages, $49.95 CAD hardbound) is by Henry Notaker, a literary historian who has taught food culture. His numerous books and articles cover European and Latin American food history and culinary literature. The dust jacket promises a "sweeping"  overview of the cookbook genre, from the Late Middle Ages onwards. It seems like a good survey text for the burgeoning series of gastronomy courses. He's good at tracing the transformation of recipes from brief notes with ingredients to detailed recipes with a specific  structure, grammar and vocabulary. Along the way he explores a lot of non-recipes found in cookbooks, that deal with nutrition, morals, manners, history,  menus, and reflections/memoirs. Sub-genres here include recipe naming, cookbook organization, didactic approaches, recipe forms, vegetarian cookbooks, Jewish cookbooks, and the role of cookbooks in promoting nationalism. There are also plenty of notes, bibliographic references, and an index. With illustrations based on pages from books and engravings of covers, this is a terrific tome for a gift.
--APRON STRINGS (Goose Lane, 2017, 380 pages, $24.95 CAD paperbound) is by Jan Wong, an award-winning journalist who has written about food off and on. Her father owned Ruby Foo's in Montreal. Here she crafts a memoir with the subtitle "navigating food and family in France, Italy, and China". These three countries excel at daily "haute cuisine" without batting an eye, taking it all in stride. As a true reporter, Jan Wong narrates the memoir of the journey she takes with her 22-year-old son Sam. She's full of observations about the  globalization of food, families and culture. In southeast France, they share with a family sheltering undocumented immigrants; in Italy's slow food country they pick up authenticity of style; in Shanghai they labour in the kitchen with some migrant maids of some of China's "nouveaux riches". As with many mother- son stories there are levels of disagreements, but they both share a central core. There are a dozen recipes per country, but that's not really the point of the memoir. Good stories, compellingly told.
--IN VINO DUPLICITAS (The Experiment, 2017, 248 pages, $37.95 CAD hardbound) is by Peter Hellman, a long time journalist with writing credits at Wine Spectator, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and others, along with a string of investigative books (e.g. Kitty Genovese). Here he tackles the "rise and fall of a wine forger extraordinaire", the Indonesian Rudy Kurniawan, who, with a skilled palate, began promoting a limitless supply of the rarest wines in the world. It reads like a crime novel, with tens of  millions of dollars at stake in what later became spurious wines. Rudy slipped when he tried to sell a particular red burgundy from 1945:  the winery was actually first producing wine in 1982. Hellman does many skilful interviews to come up with the story, which had appeared earlier as the 2016 documentary "Sour Grapes".  (Duplicitas is a play on the word Veritas; it is actually a medical term related to siamese twins). A fascinating read.
--SWEET SPOT (Dutton, 2017, 309 pages, $35 CAD hardbound) is by Amt Ettinger, free lance writer. Here she  crosses the USA looking for the best artisanal ice cream brands. In addition, she evokes childhood memories of her love for ice cream, writes a few chapters on the cultural-social history of ice cream in the USA, and attends seminars on making it. Her trips include a visit to the one place in the USA that makes real frozen custard in a huge machine known as the "iron lung", turf wars among ice cream trucks, artisanal competitions, and even extreme flavours such as foie gas and oyster. It comes complete with end notes that can serve as a bibliography, and a great topical index.
--WHAT SHE ATE: six remarkable women and the food that tells their stories (Viking, 2017, 307 pages, $36 CAD hardbound) is by culinary historian  Laura Shapiro (Pefection Salad, Something from the Oven). Here are stories about women who, apart from Rosa Lewis, have a tenuous relationship with food. Yet good memoir writers can relate fascinating stories about anybody from a specific angle, whether it is their relationship to driving a car, doing home repairs, or just simply eating. Eva Braun is here, with the food angle of Hitler; Eleanor Roosevelt and the menus at the White House; and writer Barbara Pym. Also: Dorothy Woodsworth and Helen Gurley Brown, and, in an Afterword, Laura Shapiro herself. Parts of the work have appeared in The New Yorker. There are end notes, sources and bibliographies, and even an index. Marvellous gift book.
--THE TEN (FOOD) COMMANDMENTS (Penguin, 2017, 140 pages, $15 CAD paperbound) is a worthy commentary. The "original" Ten Commandments do not offer much in the way of food advice, so Jay Rayner (restaurant critic for the Observer for 15 years, multiple appearances on UK TV) has stepped in. In separate chapters, he deals with 10 Thou Shalts (e.g., eat with thy hands, honour thou leftovers, not cut off the fat, celebrate the stinky,  honour thy pig). Something decent to read on the commuter train...
--GIVE A GIRL A KNIFE (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 311 pages, $35 CAD hardbound) is by Amy Thielen, a Beard cookbook winner and host of a TV show on the Food Network. This is a food memoir about her life's journey from the US Midwest to New York City and then back again. It's a humourous coming-of-age story, made all the better by the inclusion of a index for retrieving specific stories, such as those about women working in restaurants (many references here). Check out the work in  top end NYC restaurants. Nicely written and worth reading, a good gift for the holiday spirits.
--MEXICAN ICE CREAM (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 174 pages, $29 CAD hardbound) is a delicious cookbook by Mexico City native Fany Gerson. These are stories and cultural histories of the ice cream tradition in Mexico: tropical fruits, chiles, and nuts. The range is from the ice cream parlours (heladerias) to the mobile carts and roadside stands. Classic recipes include Oaxacan lime sherbet, chocolate-chile ice cream, and horchata (almond) ice cream with cinnamon. Added attractions include preps with spicy and boozy flavours, plus an unusual assortment of toppings and sauces. Great niche cookbook gift.
--CATHARINE PARR TRAILL'S "THE FEMALE EMIGRANT'S GUIDE": cooking with a Canadian Classic (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2017, 540 pages, $39.95 CAD paperbound) has been edited by academic Nathalie Cooke (editor of "What's to Eat?") and Fiona Lucas (co-founder of the Culinary Historians of Canada). It is an amazing work. Originally published in 1855, the Traill classic is full of recipes and advice, with tips on local food sourcing (in 1855) and  describes daily domestic and seasonal routines of settler life: make your own cheese, butcher your own hog, collect your own eggs, drink your own homemade beer (reserve dregs for bread yeast risings). The book has been annotated for modern living, with updated preps, conversion charts, a large glossary, and an index for retrieval. Not only is it about survival in Victorian Ontario, it is about the emigrant experience. Very difficult to put down, and a perfect gift for the millennial to understand context in life.
--IN MEMORY OF BREAD (Clarkson Potter, 2016, 262 pages, $35 CAD hardbound) is by Paul Graham, an academic who teaches English. He's an essayist, and these 20 gems take us through his new life as a celiac victim and forced to rethink his eating and cooking patterns. It's a paean to the memory and to the cherishing of food.  Gluten-free eating  is his journey. He's got end notes and a bibliography, and there is even an index!  But no recipes.
--TASTES LIKE CHICKEN (Pegasus Books, 2016, 273 pages, $36.95 CAD hardbound) is by Emelyn Rude. It is a history of North America's favourite poultry. The first 50 pages covers the essentials of the bird in history; the rest of the book is about the US development of the bird through the fast food movement and the military might of  Colonel Sanders and General Tso, leading up to the Freedom Rangers (my own term for free-range chicken). Eggs are also discussed, and there are extensive end notes and bibliography. Older recipes (and some modern ones) are used and cited. In the middle of the book there is a collection of archival shots of ads and people and farms from the past.
--THE NEW FOOD ACTIVISM (University of California Press, 2017, 336 pages, $37.95 CAD paperbound) is a collection of 11 major essays on opposition, cooperation and collective action on food issues of today. In addition to statements about pesticide regulatory-reform in California, there are essays on food workers and food justice, Boston's emerging food solidarity, and cooperative social practices in Chicago. There's even a chapter on how Canadian farmers fought and won the battle against GM wheat. The collection has been curated by Alison Hope Alkon and Julie Guthman, both west coast US academics. They provide an introduction and an epilogue for constructing a new food politics schematic. There are also end notes and references plus a description of the contributors and an index to tie it all together. Engaging, and well-worth reading over the holidays as a reminder of what we are and how privileged we all are in North America within the current global food structure.
--THE MEATY TRUTH (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017, 224 pages, $ 25.99 CAD paperbound) is a polemic by Shushana Castle and Amy-Lee Goodman, outlining why our food is destroying our health and environment – and who is responsible for the massive problems caused by the food supply chain. Water, meat and milk-dairy are filled with toxins, antibiotics, growth hormones, ammonia, and animal waste. Eating organic is not enough – because there is not enough organic food for the world. So what to do? One possibility is to shift to a plant-based diet.
--MY MOTHER'S KITCHEN (Henry Holt and Company, 2017, 306 pages, $39 CAD hardbound) is a combo biography and autobiography by prolific author Peter Gethers. His mother Judy Gethers was the daughter of a restaurateur (Ratner's) in New York and a cookbook writer. In her 80s she suffered a bad stroke and could no longer cook. Son Peter eventually decided to prepare a birthday meal for her. But first he had to learn how to cook better! He visits her regularly, they share meals together, they talk about the meal that he will cook for her to tell the story of her life. His mother's friends and  family will be brought to the table one last time. She passed on but not before  tasting most of his food. She did not experience the salmon coulibiac, filet mignon, tarte tatin or the challah. Scattered throughout there are some recipes. This is a terrific memoir about how food and family can do much more than feed us.
--EAT THIS POEM (Roost Books, 2017, 206 pages, $24.95 CAD paperbound) is by Nicole Gulotta. She's got 25 inspirational poems dealing with food and 75 recipes that were relevant to the poem. For example, to Mary Oliver's "Mushrooms", she has preps for truffle risotto with chanterelles, mushroom pizza with taleggio and thyme, and mushroom and brie quenelles. Great fun for the poetry lovers among your friends. Recipes are indexed and there is a listing by category for breakfast, soups, mains, etc.
--FOOD, HEALTH AND HAPPINESS (Flatiron Books, 2017, 232 pages, $45 CAD hardbound) is by Oprah Winfrey She's got 115 recipes for great meals and a better life. Her preps, some with seven named chefs, are paired with personal essays and memoirs from her life. There is also an insight into her kitchen and how she works. Lots of it is simple, such as "unfried chicken" or "kale and apple salad". She strongly believes that food is a ritual to be shared in life, although I suspect that there is unfortunately  strong competition from "texting". WeightWatchers SmartPoints are in each recipe.
--EMPIRE OF BOOZE (Unbound; Random House Canada, 2017, 291 pages, $27.99 CAD hardcovers) is by Henry Jeffreys, a freelance UK wine writer. His premise: "if not for Britain, most of the world's favourite drinks would not exist, not even the French ones." His history of  the British Empire is told through the filter of how the fave alcoholic beverages came to be. He starts with cider, port, marsala, beer, madeira, gin, cognac, "claret", champagne (with a direct connection to cider), and whisky. Compelling evidence, or is it just coincidence? Also covered is the impact of alcohol on literature, science, philosophy, and culture – quite a big overview here, with interesting trivia and nicely written.
--AN IRISH COUNTRY COOKBOOK (Forge Books, 2017, 368 pages, $24.99 CAD paperbound) is by Patrick Taylor, originally from Northern Ireland but now living in BC. It's a collection of ten new short stories with Kinky Kincaid, Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, and others, complemented by 140 authentic family recipes such as champ, potted herrings, sweet mince, potato and pumpkin seed bread, and classics such as colcannon and soda bread. For your Irish friends, or Irish lovers.
--THE VEGETARIAN'S GUIDE TO EATING MEAT (Greystone Books, 2017, 240 pages, $22.95 CAD softcovers) is by Marissa Landrigan, a professor of creative writing. It is the story of a young woman's search for ethical food, told in memoir form. She grew up in a food-loving Italian-American household, but transformed into a vegan activist at college. She says that eating ethically was far from simple and cutting out meat was not the answer. She then realized that the most ethical way of eating was to know her food (meat or veggie) and prepare it herself. Read how she found the ethical approach.
--PRESERVING ON PAPER: 17TH century Englishwomen's receipt books (University of Toronto Press, 2017, 352 pages, $34.95 CAD softcovers) has been edited by Kristine Kowalchuk. It's a critical edition of three handwritten "receipt" books that includes culinary recipes, medical remedies, and household tips which document the work of women at home. This was shared knowledge that was passed on from generation to generation. Her study offers insights into early women's writings and the original sharing economy. Typical preps include stewed calf's head, boiled capon larded with lemons, and plague water.
--BADDITIVES! (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017, 181 pages, $22.99 CAD softcovers) should win  the award for the best play on words in titling. Food safety journalists Linda and Bill Bonvie take on food corporations with their notes about the 13 most harmful food additives in our diet. Then they tell us how to avoid them. A well-researched account of toxicity: aluminum, artificial colours, aspartame,  BHA/BMT, GMOs, High Fructose Corn Syrup, MSG – and more, about 15 pages on each, along with an index, end notes and bibliography. Well-worth reading.
--A GEOGRAPHY OF DIGESTION (University of California Press, 2017, 222 pages, $43.95 CAD paperbound) is by Nicholas Bauch, an academic at the University of Oklahoma. It's all about biotechnology and Kellogg cereals, number 62 in the California Studies in Food and Culture. It's scholarly, of course, with many end notes, bibliography, and an index. Kellogg was experimenting with nutritional and medical science at his sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. He believed that good health depended on digesting the right food in the right manner. He created a relationship between food, body and the environment. This is his story, as researched and told by the author, and involves Seventh Day Adventists, the Sanitarium, modern nutrition and health, and the rise of new medical technologies. Fascinating.
--CORK DORK (Penguin Books, 2017, 329 pages, $23 CAD paperbound) is by Bianca Bosker, who writes about food and wine for major US and UK magazines and newspapers. The subtitle pretty well says it all -- "a wine-fueled adventure among the obsessive sommeliers, big bottle hunters, and rogue scientists who taught me to live for taste." It is also about a wine epiphany: tasting wine. She looks at what drives people's tastings – pursuing flavours through underground tasting groups, sommeliers at restaurants, large wineries, neuroscientists, and the like. She briefly alludes to the concept of "supertaster": one-quarter of the population has a higher concentration of taste buds on the tongue, and with training, can pick out a larger variety of flavours. I'm a verified supertaster; unfortunately, she is not. So that makes it harder for her, and she spends 18 months pursuing this goal of tasting. Does she succeed? Well, read the book, it's worth a shot.
Stocking stuffers should be at the very top of everybody's gift list: something affordable from under $10 up to $25, and that can also double as a host gift, being something small and lightweight. Most of the books here are paperbacks. And of course, they can all stuff an adult stocking.
Typical for food are:
--EATING (Vintage Classics Minis, 2017, 132 pages, $5.99 CAD paperbound) is by Nigella Lawson. It is a collection of extracts from her 1998 title "How to Eat" and her 2010 title "Kitchen".  There are a handful of recipes plus advice on how to handle food in season, such as grouse or white truffles. As if...There is also text on cooking in advance, cooking for one or two, and weekend lunches and dinners. Solid read, if you don't already have her books.
--THE CHICKPEA COOKBOOK (Ebury Press, 2017, 112 pages, $21.99 CAD hardbound) is by Heather Thomas. There have been a rash of chickpea books the past year including one on just chickpea flour. And there are more to come next year. Meanwhile, this handy "gifter" is meant for omnivores and explores 50 preps using this superfood legume, ranging from salads to GF foods to stews, and desserts too.
--SWEET POTATOES (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 144 pages, $22.99 CAD hardbound) is by Mary-Frances Heck, food writer and developer (formerly of Bon Appetit). It even comes with five log rollers. Her emphasis is on roasted, loaded, fried, and made into pie versions. The full range of courses, from apps through desserts is presented. Side dishes is one of the best chapters here, with risotto, grilled, tamales, and palak aloo.
--SMALL BITES (Gibbs Smith, 2017, 128 pages, $20.99 CAD hardbound) is by Eliza Cross, who also wrote "101 Things to do with Bacon". Here she's got a collection of sliders, skewers, and other party eats that will take two or more bites. The basics, from scratch, include baby sesame slider rolls, pastry cups, golden crostini, and choux puffs. Then it is on to finger foods, e.g., pinwheels, mini-pizzas, cucumber rounds,  corn cakes, mini-BLT, drumettes. Just about everything is savoury, but there are some salty-sweets such as prosciutto, pear, fig and brie toasts.
--BERRIES (The Countryman Press, 2017, 232 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) is by Roger Yepsen, who also wrote "Apples". It's a revised and  updated version of his 2006 edition. He also did the 50 watercolours of various berries and their leaves. His 13 chapters cover blackberries to strawberries, almost alphabetically, with material on mulberries, rose hips, and juniper berries – each with data on locating, identifying, growing your own, and preserving. He's got almost 100 classic berry recipes plus a sources list.
--OPEN FACED (Gibbs Smith, 2017, 127 pages, $27.99 CAD hardbound) is by Karen Kaplan, with log rolling from both Curtis Stone and Guy Fieri. These are some single-slice sandwiches from around the world, divided by country: tartines (France), bruschette and crostini (Italy), montaditos and tomato toasts (Spain), smorrebrod (Scandinavia), butterbrote and butterbrodi (Germany and Russia), rarebit, hummus, molletes, various egg toppings.
--THE ARTISANAL KITCHEN Series – VEGETABLES THE ITALIAN WAY (96 p.), PERFECT PIZZA AT HOME (96 p.), PERFECT PASTA (96 p.) all hardbound and line-priced at an affordable $17.95 CAD. Each covers a specific aspect, drawn from Artisan's backlist of expert-written cookbooks. The pizza book goes from the essential dough to the latest style of toppings; the veggies are seasonal. Most preps come from Frannie's Restaurant in NYC.  About two dozen preps in each, and there are actually Metric Conversion Charts included! HOLIDAY COCKTAILS (112p., 47 easy seasonal recipes), HOLIDAY COOKIES (112p., 30 preps for holiday classics of linzer cookies, ginger cookies, shortbread) and PARTY FOOD (112p., includes 10 cheat sheets for hors d'oeuvre, 5 cheat sheets for entree salads, and 30 other recipes) are also hardbound but at $19.95 CAD.
--FALAFEL FOREVER (Ryland Peters & Small, 2017, 64 pages, $23.95 CAD hardbound) is by cooking teacher/chef Dunja Gulin. It's a collection of 25 preps for different and versatile versions: fried, baked, raw, and vegan. There is also a concluding chapter on dips, sauces  and salsas. Fried in a pita pocket is traditional, of course, but there are so many more intriguing preps. Do try the charred falafel burgers or the falafel coconut curry.  They are both addictive and healthy!
--QUESO! (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 136 pages, $20 CAD hardbound) is by Lisa Fain. These are regional recipes for chile-cheese dip ("chile con queso"). There are more than 55 queso-centric preps here, including historical but modernized recipes, Tex-Mex classics, Border classics, global variations (e.g. Indian queso, Greek queso, queso burgers, plus six accompaniments.
--DIG, SHUCK, SHAKE; fish and seafood recipes from the Pacific Northwest (Gibbs Smith, 2017, 128 pages, $26.99 CAD hardbound) is by John Nelson, chef at an Oregon country club. These are stories from childhood (his mother had a chowder shack) with harvesting and cooking techniques for the West Coast recipes: salmon, tuna, crab, shrimp, rockfish, sole, mussels, clams, sea urchins, oysters, bay clams, trout, smelt, sturgeon, crawdads, calmari and assorted sides and condiments. A nifty tool for your West Coast friends.
--EAT THIS, MY FRIEND (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 130 pages, $25 CAD hardbound) is by Jade O'Donahoo, owner of the tiny Switch Board Cafe. It's a collection of 60 vegetarian recipes originally meant for her loyal customers and friends, along with her own hand-drawn illustrations. So here we get a collection of fuss-free and versatile everyday vegetarian preps, ideal as a small gift during the Holiday season.
--THE WORLD'S BEST SUPERFOODS (Lonely Planet, 2017, 208 pages, $20.95 CAD paperbound) is edited by Jeanette Wall with a slew of contributing writers. These are health-boosting recipes from around the world, lovingly photographed, and arranged by food category (seeds, legumes, fruits, etc.). The 66 recipes are indexed both by ingredient and by country. Each prep is headed by some notes on origins and some tasting notes (e.g. Injera = bitter and rubbery at first, etc.) .
--SIMPLY SOUP (Gibbs Smith, 2017, 128 pages, $20.99 CAD hardbound) is by multiple cookbook author Madge Baird. There's just under 100 recipes covering a range of veggie- based soups, creamy and cheesy soups, potato-based soups, meat-poultry-fish soups, and of course a primer on broths and dip sauces. A nice book of easy classics for beginners.
--SALAD IN A JAR (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 160 pages, $19.99 CAD softcovers) is by Anna Helm Baxter; it was originally published in France in 2015. Her collection of 68 recipes are nifty for layering as green and gourmet salads to "take and shake" on the go. Only wide mouthed brims need apply for this great enhanced salad package to take to work.
--EASY ONE-POT (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2017, 240 pages, $24.95 CAD softcovers)  has been reissued from 2009. It has over 100 preps for international dishes, using a Dutch oven or large cast iron pot, etc. It covers soups, salads, omelettes, tortillas, frittatas, noodles, stir-fries, risottos, paellas, curries, tagines, bakes, gratins, casseroles and stews, plus an array of one-pot desserts.
--THE WORLD'S BEST SPICY FOOD (Lonely Planet, 2017, 224 pages, $20.95 CAD paperbound) is edited by Lucy Doncaster and Christina Webb, with a slew of contributing writers. There are 100 preps from around the world, all of them spicy, most of them hot, but with notes on how to slide the heat scale. The range is from Szechuan hotpots to Malaysian lakkas, curries, and Mexican salsas. Arrangement is alphabetical by domestic name of the dish, and each prep comes from origin  notes and tasting notes.
--LITTLE BOOK OF JEWISH APPETIZERS (Chronicle Books, 2017, 136 pages, $26.95 CAD hardbound) is by Jewish cookbook Leah Koenig, who presents a variety of single bites and small plates (Persian zucchini and herb frittata, mushroom piroshki, za'atar garlic pita chips. spinach  bulemas, fried artichoke hearts). It's the first in a series of thematic Jewish cookbooks.
--CHIPS WITH EVERYTHING (Ebury Press, 2016, 128 pages, $21.99 CAD hardbound) has text by Denise Smart. There are 60 recipes for french-fries, including: chip pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, leek and chip soup, chip monsieur, chip moussaka, tuna chip melt, various wedges, sauces, dips and seasonings. Life after poutine (also included here). Most of all of these preps call for "baked" chips, so that cuts down on fat and calories.
--THE POKE COOKBOOK (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 96 pages, $22.99 CAD hardcovers) is by Martha Cheng. Poke is a Hawaiian snack of raw fish seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil. It seems to be a new craze in North America (and why not? It is dead simple to make and enjoy). Here are 45 recipes for traditional, contemporary, and bowls of food: crunchy, salty, fresh and flavourful.
--PANCAKES & WAFFLES (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2014, 2017, 64 pages, $23.95 CAD hardcovers) comes from Hannah Miles. A few years back she wrote Pancakes, Crepes, Waffles & French Toast. This work collates the pancakes and waffles section with some other preps from the RPS stable.  Savoury and fruity waffles and pancakes are also covered (potato waffles with BBQ beans is delicious). 28 ways in all, very well chosen.
--SUPER SMOOTHIES (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 160 pages, $19.99 CAD softcovers) is by Fern Green; it was originally published in France in 2016. She's got a collection of 61 recipes and 12 detox plans to help aid digestion, clear skin, bolster metabolism, and enhance well-being. Another meal-in-a-glass.
--THE DUMPLING GALAXY COOK BOOK (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 128 pages, $25.99 CAD hardcovers) is by Helen You, chef-owner of Dumpling Galaxy in Flushing, NYC. Chinese dumplings are but one large aspect of dim sum, and her arrangement here is by type: classic, green, global, dessert, and sauces. About 50 preps are presented, as well as a large techniques chapter. Most recipes are for 24 portions.
--101 THINGS TO DO WITH CHILE PEPPERS (Gibbs Smith, 2017, 128 pages, $15 CAD spiralbound) is loaded with tips and advice on how to handle the peppers. Arranged by course, the peppers include the Hatch, the Ancho, the Cayenne, Chipotle, Habanero, Mulato, Jalapeno and eight others. Want some excitement in your life? Try a chile pepper dessert such as peanut butter bombs or Aztec chocolate cream pie.
--ALPHABET COOKING from Quadrille Books in the UK is an exciting new line priced series covering the A to Z of cuisines from around the world in about 50 recipes each – so far they have  C IS FOR CARIBBEAN (Quadrille Books, 2017, 144 pages, $27 CAD hardbound) with jerk ribs, fried okra, saltfish fritters, creole pelau, curry goat, and more;  K IS FOR KOREAN (Quadrille Books, 2017, 144 pages, $27 CAD hardbound)  with kimchi, bibimbap, Korean fried chicken (KFC), street food crepes, BBQ ribs, and more;  M IS FOR MEXICAN (Quadrille Books, 2017, 144 pages, $27 CAD hardbound) with ceviche, pulled pork tacos, chilli barbacoa, churros, grilled corn, cochinta pibil; S IS FOR SRI LANKAN (Quadrille Books, 2017, 144 pages, $27 CAD hardbound) concentrating on string hoppers, radish sambol, samosas, mango lassi, dhal fritter;
--101 BAR BITES (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2017, 144 pages, $29.95 CAD hardcovers) contains a variety of nibbles, snacks and small plates to complement drinks. But only beer is mentioned, and then as a flavouring and rising agent. So you are on your own as to what food goes with what. It is arranged by course: cocktail canapes, beer food, meaty munchies, mezze, finger food, fish, and five sweets. Worth looking at.
--HIGH-PROTEIN PANCAKES (The Countryman Press, 2017, 127 pages, $19.95 CAD softcovers) is by Pamela Braun, who makes her pancakes with protein-rich materials such as oatmeal, eggs, nuts, protein powders/ The advantages of consumption are a sharper mind, weight loss, stronger bones, and a satisfied appetite.  She's got 50 of them, plus variations. Very useful for once a week (e.g., brunch) but daily?
--TRADITIONAL PUB GRUB (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2017, 240 pages, $24.95 CAD softcovers) was originally published as Traditional British Cooking in 2007. Under its new name, it has downscaled a little to the British pub style that is so popular. It's got the full range of soups, apps, snacks, fish, poultry, meats, sides, breads and desserts. About 120 recipes, which includes fish pie, Irish carbonnade, steak and kidney pudding, roast venison/rabbit/beef/pork, chestnut stuffing, bread sauce, Yorkshire pudding, etc.
--MY ZERO-WASTE KITCHEN (DK Books, 2017, 72 pages, $11.99 CAD hardcovers) is by Kate Turner and Ruth O'Rourke-Jones. It's a great book for Christmas time as it emphasizes how to deal with food waste. "Easy ways to eat waste free", the publisher says, with material on how to re-grow veggies, bake a fruit peel cake, freeze avocados, layer leftover lunches into a salad jar, use last night's pasta into today's salad. Excellent tips on storage and freezing.
--MATZO (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 112 pages, $19.99 CAD hardcovers) is by Michele Streit Heilbrun, of the Streit matzo family, and NYC chef David  Kirschner.  They have material on the seder and the role of matzo. And there are 35 recipes for the faves: classic chicken soup with matzo balls, chocolate caramel matzo crunch, smoked whitefish and matzo ball croutons. The stuffer is meant for Passover, but of course it can be used all year long.
--THE AVOCADO COOKBOOK (Ebury Press, 2016, 112 pages, $21.99 CAD hardcovers) is by Heather Thomas. She's captured 50 preps inspired by the fruit: arranged by courses of breakfasts, brunches, snacks, starters, mains, and desserts. It's global in scope, ranging from Mexico to Japan to Italy. Shrimp-noodle-avocado salad is a real winner.
--DELICIOUS DIPS (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2017, 64 pages, $23.95 CAD hardcovers) comes from the RPS stable 0f food writers, specifically 13 names writers such as Hannah Miles and Ross Dobson. Fifty preps cover all manner of foods – meats, fish, legumes, veggies, herbs, olives, nuts and seeds, as well as yogurt and cheese (warm olive and artichoke, Romesco, marinated feta, muhammara, roasted red pepper raita). As you can see, the flavours are international and upfront. A good quick collection.
--MELTS (Hardie Grant Books, 2017, 160 pages, $27.99 CAD hardbound) is by Fern Green. She's got over 50 toasted and grilled sandwich recipes, along with suggestions for types of bread, meltability of cheese types, different butters and some sides. The classic, of course, is tuna melt, but there is also a shrimp-bacon-garlic melt or ricotta and pumpkin melt. For dessert, try the peanut butter and banana melt. Another fun book with pix of a lot of melty-messy looking sandwiches!
--THE DATE NIGHT COOKBOOK (Storey Publishing, 2017, 130 pages, $22.99 USD hardbound) is by Rebecca Warbis. These are romantic recipes and easy ideas to inspire from dawn to dusk – and beyond! The range is from first dates through anniversaries. Ideas? Try her Indoor Tent Night or Dining in Paris or Dusk Beach Date. There are 9 suggested themes with three courses each. Great fun for all...
--BEST SIMPLE SUPPERS FOR TWO (The Countryman Press, 2017, 128 pages, $19.95 CAD paperbound) is by food stylist Laura Arnold, author of "Best Sweets & Treats for Two". Here she has 50 dinners for two or so people: basic steaks, skillet chicken, slow cooker pulled pork, glazed salmon, and veggie bread pudding. Prep times and cook times are indicated, but like all books of this type, you'll need a pantry or mise-en-place or at least first have the ingredients to hand.
Other little books, for beverages, include those on beer, wine and spirits:
--THE BLOODY MARY (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 168 pages, $24.99 CAD hardbound) is by Brian Bartels, writer-bartender-beverage consultant in NYC. The Bloody Mary is (besides Champagne) possibly the only drink that's consumed anytime of day or night, beginning the AM as a hangover treatment. This is a cultural history of the drink that originated in the 1920s, possibly in France, while Prohibition had taken over the USA. You can read his half-dozen theories of name origins and when/where it was invented. In fact, you can make up a bunch of Bloody Marys (there are 50 preps here) to compare and contrast while debating/considering with others, and then try one or more of the hangover cures. Lots of spicy mixtures here.
--PROSECCO COCKTAILS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2017, 64 pages, $17.95 CAD hardbound)  is timely with the boom in prosecco sales around the world. Here are 40 tantalizing recipes put together by Laura Gladwin. There are brunch cocktails, aperitifs, summer coolers,  and party drinks.
--THE CURIOUS BARTENDER'S HOME BAR KIT (Ryland Peters & Small, 2017, $27.95 CAD) includes a wealth of data. There's a deck of 30 recipe cards for both classic and modern cocktails, each one featuring a full-colour photograph of the finished drink. There is also a 64-page paperback book offering expert advice on all aspects of setting up a home bar, from choosing equipment and glassware to making drinks. And there is also a metal bar jigger to measure your spirits. One for the millennial newbie wanting to create the perfect drink for the first time.
--HUGH JOHNSON'S POCKET WINE BOOK 2018 (Mitchell Beazley, 2017, 336 pages, $18.99 CAD hardbound)  is a guide to wines from all around the world, not just to the "best" wines. Johnson claims more than 6000 wines and growers are listed. News, vintage charts and data, glossaries, best value wines, and what to drink now are here. His book is arranged by region, with notes on the 2016 vintage and a few details about the potential of 2017, along with a closer look at the 2015. He's got notes on what wines are ready to drink in 2018.   Johnson is  also moving into food pairing: there is a 13 page section on food and wine matching. He also has a listing of his personal 200 fave wines.
--A YEAR OF GOOD BEER 2018 PAGE-A-DAY CALENDAR (Workman, 2017, $19.99 CAN) has a combined Saturday and Sunday page. Most of the beers appear as imports in Canada, but otherwise there are few Canadian brews included. Lights, wheat, lagers, ales, porters, stouts, seasonal beers, and lambrics – they're all here, 165 or so craft beers. Check out Brew Dog's The End of History at 55% ABV. Other material in this PAD includes beer festivals, beer facts, food and beer pairing, tasting notes, label lore, trivia, and vocabulary. There are also "must-try" US beer recommendations. If you buy any of the PAD calendars, then you can go online to the website and pick up other, free stuff, at


Dean Tudor, Ryerson University Journalism Professor Emeritus
Treasurer, Wine Writers' Circle of Canada
Look it up and you'll remember it; screw it up and you'll never forget it.

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