7. THE MODERN KITCHEN (Quadrille, 2017, 2018, 208 pages, $41.99 hardbound) is by Tim Hayward, also author of "Knife". It's a guide to the house kitchen. Every item in the kitchen has a story: he's got 70 of them, and tries to answer questions such as: has the accumulation of electrical appliances led us to cook and eat differently? The home kitchen is a snapshot of modern life with its notions about class, gender, wealth and health, design, set-up and contents. These are the objects that changed the way we cook, eat and live. He begins with the basics (potato peeler, kitchen knife, meat mallet, et al) moving through the non-stick frying pan, the wok, the timer, the kitchen appliances, and on through the environment. A really great read!
8.THE FLAVOR MATRIX (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, 310 pages, $42 hardbound) is by James Briscione with Brooke Parkhurst. It's a tome detailing the art and science of pairing common ingredients to create upscale dishes. He got turned on to taste profiling by working on the IBM Watson supercomputer to make inventive dishes using big data. Here he reduces about 150 of the most common ingredients to their local chemistry with infographics (the new millennial visuality). This promotes the compatibility among various foods to suggest new pairings such as "Garlic Honey" or "Lemon Curd with Crunchy Olives". A good tool for the adventuresome, although it only covers food pairing and not wine and food pairing. Maybe that's the sequel...A fab too for the jaded or bored cook looking for new thrills!
9.THE ULTIMATE KETOGENIC COOKBOOK (Castle Point Books; St. Martin's Press, 2018, 160 pages, $25.99 paperbound) is by cookbook author Ella Sanders, who manages here to give us the ketogenic diet in a nutshell. She's got some "easy to read" primer pages which describe what the diet is all about, including advice on seeking out a doctor first. This is the important part in which you trick your liver to burning ketones in fat instead of glucose. It's not for everyone as it is basically a paleo diet on "speed". But it does work effectively if you are trying to lose weight but not eventually change your lifestyle. Its one drawback is that you must stick to it or else the body reverts back to glucose burning – and you must start all over again. She's got 100 low-carb high-fat Paleo recipes to get you started. As her work is just about a process, then you can go on to other related recipes in the same mode from other sources.
10.APPRECIATING OYSTERS (The Countryman Press, 2018, 272 pages, $33.95 hardbound) is by Dana Deskiewicz, creator of "Oystour", an oyster guide and appreciation app. This is just what we need now: with the continuing emphasis on fresh seafood, the oyster's time has come. The handbook part tells you how to shuck (and how not to shuck), drink pairings, and tasting notes to about 85 types of oysters (there are some visual references here). As the subtitle says, It is an eater's guide to craft oysters from tide to table. So for the ubiquitous "Malpeque", the one most often seen in Eastern Canada, there is a tasting note with profile, some classification of texture, and a note about how the PEI cold waters give these oysters their wonderful flavour. Plus, an infographic on shell size and meat-to-shell ratio (very high). The recommended mignonette here is a pear and pickled ginger one, and the drink is a molasses-rich Caribbean rum.
11.HOW TO TASTE (Sasquatch Books, 2018, 223 pages, $22.95 hardbound) is by Seattle-based food writer-chef Becky Selengut. It has been subtitled as "the curious cook's handbook to seasoning and balance, from umami to acid and beyond -- with recipes". The preps illustrates the tastes. The text is a balance of hard science and wit as she explores the basic principles behind tasting, noting sweet, salt, bitter, acid, fat, umami, bite (heat), aromatics and texture in separate chapters. The most important thing about the work -- after understanding what taste and balance is all about – is how to determine and then identify when something might be missing and how to adjust for it, such as correcting a dish that may be too acidic or too salty or too sweet. Each chapter concludes with a section "Experiment Time" and this is where the recipes are kept. Great little reference tool.
12.SHARP (Chronicle Books, 2018, 256 pages, $37.50 hardbound) is by Josh Donald, who owns Bernal Cutlery in Frisco. It is a carefully crafted reference work that appears to be a definitive guide to knives, knife care, and cutting techniques, with some recipes from chefs. He tells us which knives to buy, how to care, how to sharpen, and the dozens of precise cuts. Chefs are mainly local and include Armando Maes, Melissa Perello, Jesse Kolde, and Tim Ferron – 15 in all with one recipe apiece. The world of knives seems to be evenly split between Europe (46 pages) and Japan (38 pages). Just pay attention to the differences in angle degrees. An excellent reference tool.
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…
13.IN THE RESTAURANT (Pushkin Press, 2018, 220 pages, $33.95 hardbound) is by Christoph Ribbat,an academic specializing in American studies. It was originally published in German in 2016, He addresses the issue: what does eating out tell us about who we are? This is a cultural history exploring celebrations and dining pleasures. He begins with the 18th century Paris establishments offering "restorative" food right through to modern day Nordic cuisine. Covered are Viennese cafes, obsessive chefs, lunch counters, fast food diners. The style is eclectic with page glosses of real stories. There are extensive end notes for sources and for further reading, plus an index.
14.THE ETHICAL CARNIVORE (Bloomsbury, 2017, 320 pages, $24 paperbound) is by Louise Gray, who decided to be an ethical carnivore for more than a year and learn to stalk, shoot, and fish. She begins with shucking oysters, catching trout, shooting pigeons, rabbits, and then deer. She looks at meat processing, including burgers, cheap chicken, supermarket bacon, and farmed fish. She goes to abattoirs and also looks into halal slaughter. She sources road kill (squirrel stir-fry), in vitro meat, insects, and plant foods. This is a well-researched tome, a Guild of Food Writers Award winner in 2017, a Guardian Book of the Year, a BBC Book of the Year, and has appeared on shortlists of other awards.
15.BEST BEFORE (Bloomsbury Sigma, 2018, 272 pages, $36 hardbound) is by Nicola Temple, who was raised on a farm in Ontario but now lives in Bristol UK. She's the co-author of Sorting the Beef from the Bull, which is about the forensics of food fraud. Here she continues in that vein by exploring food processing...as Francis Percival says, "from fresh cut vegetables to nanotechnology". It is all about the influence of convenience on today's modern eating habits. The ability to process food, to save it for future consumption, is the mark of an intelligent group that can overcome its environment. But it is one thing to leap ahead in civilization by preserving by fire or fermentation; it is another to exploit weak people by using chemicals and other science to extend a shelf life for a couple of months or years. Her work explores how processing methods have evolved in many foods, but at the hands of big business, consumer demand, health concerns, waste and war. Large type makes it easy to read, and there are selected references and even an index.
16.EATING WITH PETER (Arcade Publishing, 2018, 201 pages, $35.99 hardbound) is a gastronomic journey by Susan Buckley, a US young-adult and children's author. She was married to writer-photographer-gourmand Peter Buckley until his passing. This is her tribute to him: a series of wonderful memories and recalls of adventurous dining in Michelin-starred French restaurants, the souks of Morocco and the Middle East, plus the Caribbean and NYC. They looked at farmers' markets, French farms and Italian cheese makers. She's got 28 recipes of Peter's fave food. It's a good-looking and funny memoir of a life with food. An entertaining personal narrative gift.
17.MILK! (Bloomsbury, 2018 , 385 pages, $39 hardbound) is by Mark Kurlansky who has written a ton of books over the past decades (20 non-fiction). Here he returns to the topic of food (his previous books were on Salt, Cod, WPA food, Oysters). I could joke that the topics salt and cod are related (salted cod) to milk in that milk is used to soften the cod as in "brandade de morue", thus continuing the food theme perhaps for a fourth title – but I won't. This is a culinary, cultural, and economic history of all things dairy, with some 100 or so recipes from all time periods. "Milk became the first food to be tested in laboratories, and is now the world's most regulated food. Today milk is at the centre of food politics, raising questions about everything from industrial farming and animal rights to GMOs, the locavore movement, and advocates for raw milk. He's got a bibliography, and index, plus a recipe index.
18.BUTTERMILK GRAFFITI (Artisan, 2018, 311 pages, $39.95 hardbound) is by Edward Lee, author of Smoke & Pickles, and an Emmy winner for The Mind of a Chef. He owns several restaurants. He's a Korean-born, Brooklyn-bred chef who found his soul in Kentucky. Here in 16 chapters and 40 recipes he's travelled around the USA over a period of two years, exploring the cultural differences of the American foodways. This is a record of his journey to find the new melting-pot cuisine. Exceedingly well-written, covering recent migration food from Cambodia or Lebanon or Morocco, the inherent heritage Creole cuisine, and foods such as slaw dogs, kibbeh, pastrami, shrimp, cornbread, and more.
19.THE WANDERING VINE (Bloomsbury, 2018, 333 pages, $34 hardbound) is by Nina Caplan, a multiple Roederer winner in the UK. She's written on wine and travel for New Statesman, Times, decanter, Guardian, Time Out, and others. Here she follows the vine backwards into the past, back to the Romans via England, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhone, Catalonia, Andalusia, Sicily, Campania and thence to Rome. There are some black and white photos but no index. A full bibliography and more can be found at www.thewanderingvine.co.uk (although I am not sure why it was not printed in the book since there are 9 blank pages at the end).
20.TASTING THE PAST (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2018, 277 pages, $38.95 hardbound) is by Kevin Begos, formerly science writer for AP, It comes with eight log rollers, including Alice Feiring. Begos spent a decade seeing the origins of wine: the whole world of forgotten grapes, each with its own distinctive taste, Along the way he converses with a variety of archaeologists, geneticists, paleobotantist, and chemists. One of them is decoding the DNA of every single wine grape in the world, including clones. Another tries to pinpoint ancient vineyards. A third one is looking into what wines great historical figures drank. Begos explores the original wine routes, beginning with the Caucasus Mountains of 8,000 years ago, down to Israel, across the Mediterranean to Greece, Italy, France and Spain, and then to America. He's got end notes and a bibliography, plus a resources list, but no index.
21.A LITERARY TEA PARTY (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018, 146 pages, $29.99 hardbound) is by Alison Walsh who writes at www.wonderlandrecipes.com which is a food blog dedicated to book-inspired recipes. Tea and books are an apparently perfect pairing: sitting down to a good too on a great afternoon with a cuppa beside you. So here are 55 portioned inspired preps for teas, including customized tea blends and beverages to set up an elaborate tea party. You'll get Turkish delight while sipping on the White Witch's hot chocolate from "The Chronicles of Narnia", or Hannah's sweet potato bacon pastries and Jo's gingerbread from "Little Women". Walsh also has many photos and literary glosses from books such as "Vita Merlini", "The Hobbit", 'Wizard of Oz", "The Secret Garden", "The Phantom of the Opera", and more.