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Monday, December 27, 2010


B. For the more literate person, there are the "memoirs" of writers,
chefs, and wine people. Some have called these memoirs "creative non-
fiction", many suffering from embellishments and gilding. And most of
them 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 last year's run, and any of them would
make great gifts for the reader. Here we go, in no particular order…
--THE SPICE NECKLACE; a food-lover's Caribbean adventure (Doubleday
Canada, 2010, 461 pages, $32.95 CAD hard covers) is by Amy Vanderhoof,
a long-time Toronto food and travel writer. Her previous travel memoir
was "An Embarrassment of Mangoes". She continues to tap her exploits in
the Caribbean with her husband, detailing aspects of local islands and
culture, with about 70 recipes. She goes through markets, rainforest
gardens, family gatherings, and more. Here she travels from Haiti, the
Dominican Republic, and St. Kitts south to Grenada and Trinidad. As is
typical in travel or memoir books, there is no index, not even to the
recipes. There is no way to check on "seacat" or to "provision". But
there is a listing of the preps, from starters to sweets, plus drinks
and spice blends.
---ENTERTAINMENT IN THE FRENCH STYLE (Gibbs Smith, 2010, 144 pages,
$22.99 CAD hard covers) is by Eileen W. Johnson, owner of FlowerSchool
New York and author of books on floral arranging. Here she branches out
with personal stories and recipes from French cities to the provinces.
It is also a memoir of sorts as she writes about the everyday lives and
foibles of French farmers, chefs, cheese makers and others. For her,
entertaining in the French style is all about food and customs.
--EVERY DAY IN TUSCANY; seasons of an Italian life (Broadway Books,
2010, $29.95 CAD hard covers) is by Frances Mayes, who had earlier
penned "Under the Tuscan Sun" (1996) and "Bella Tuscany" (1999). Here,
she continues with her Tuscan rambles from winter through summer at
Bramasole, her second Tuscan home. It is now 20 years since Cortona,
and she begins again in foraging her new locality, describing the new
foods and the new characters. Some recipes, but of course not indexed.
--AVEC ERIC (John Wiley & Sons, 2010, 295 pages, $41.95 CAD hard
covers) is by Eric Ripert, who owns four restaurants in NYC (Le
Bernardin), Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Grand Cayman Island. It
is derived from his TV show, "Avec Eric". He's also written Le
Bernardin Cookbook and On the Line. It's a travel-cooking TV show, and
so is the book. There's a chapter on Tuscany, another on California, a
third on seafood, another on wine. They come with appropriate recipes,
about 100 in all. There's a lot of pictures of Eric and others, as well
as landscapes. The index coves both recipes and memoir-travel pieces.
--THE HUNGER; a memoir of an accidental chef (Ecco HarperCollins, 2010,
233 pages, $15.99 CAD paperback reprint) is by John DeLucie, chef of
the Waverly Inn in Greenwich Village, NYC. He changed careers to be a
cook (didn't we all?) and spent 15 years in and around Manhattan
restos. In 2007 he opened Waverley Inn. This is a memoir about everyday
life in New York city kitchens. No recipes.
--MEDIUM RAW; a bloody valentine to the world of food and the people
who cook (Ecco, 2010, 283 pages, $32 CAD hard covers) is Anthony
Bourdain's complete turnaround and turnabout from his earlier "Kitchen
Confidential". Since that book, he has hosted "No Reservations" on TV
and has gone mainstream. Medium Raw is a collection of his latest
thoughts about some of the characters in Kitchen Confidential, plus new
topics such as confessions, rants and rages, investigations, and chef
mafia summits. It is extremely readable and engaging as he takes on
"Top Chef" television shows, Alice Waters and David Chang, and others.
Currently, then, put him in the Michael Pollan column. But wait and see
if his attitudes change in his next book…
--CHEF; a novel (Vintage Canada, 2020, $19.95 CAD paperback) is by
Jasprett Singh. It is about a young Kirpal Singh who arrives at a
Kashmir military camp. He is immediately apprenticed to the camp's
chef, and he begins to learn all the intricacies of Indian cooking. He
eventually rises as a chef to a top general. There's a lot of local
flavour and character, particularly in descriptions of war and
terrorism. It's not a memoir, but it does seem very autobiographical,
and it is written in  memoir-like style.

C. Family values Christmas gift cook books would have to include:
--TIME FOR DINNER; strategies, inspiration, and recipes for family
meals every night of the week (Chronicle Books, 2010, 272 pages,
$$24.95 US hard covers) comes from the editors of Cookie magazine, an
American parenting publication. It is chock full of advice and ideas
for food-stressed families, ranging from preparing the one meal that
everybody will want to eat to keeping the kids distracted while you
cook to planning and prepping to avoid scrambling to mastering the
basic techniques. Nice layout, with scads of notes and ideas for using
leftovers. Over 225 recipes and variations.
--VERY MERRY COOKIE PARTY; how to plan and host a Christmas cookie
exchange (Chronicle Books, 2010, 248 pages, $19.95 US paper covers) is
by Barbara Grunes, food writer and author of over 45 cookbooks, and
Virginia Van Vynckt, a writer who hangs out at
Here are 100 preps – brownies, spice cookies, nut balls, Xmas
ornaments, stamps, molds, cutters, and presses. Good organizational
material on how to do it all as a cookie exchange with your friends.
--A GREENER CHRISTMAS (DK Books, 2010, 352 pages, $19.95 CAD paper
covers) is another of Sheherazade Goldsmith's books to cross the
Atlantic. At least here, the directory of resources is North American.
Topics include decorating the house, doing the Christmas tree and
decorating, making gifts (such as Advent calendars), decorating and
displaying the table, plus some 30 recipes that are eco-friendly. It's
part Christmas craft book and part Christmas cookbook.

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