FOOD AND DRINK BOOKS IN REVIEW FOR MAY 2019 [published monthly since 2000]
By Dean Tudor, Gothic Epicures Writing, email@example.com
I have been reviewing cookbooks for FIFTY PLUS years --
Reviewer Timeline: Cookbook Reviewer, Library Journal, 1969-1974; Cookbook Columnist and Lead Reviewer, The Booklist (American Library Association), 1974-1985; Freelance Cookbook Reviewer, 1985-1999; Gothic Epicures Writing Lead Cookbook Reviewer, 2000+
These food and wine book reviews are always available at www.deantudor.com and at http://gothicepicures.blogspot.ca
Most prices listed below are in Canadian currency as printed on the cover or listed at Amazon.ca.
It's the season for gifting books: parties, holidays, weddings, anniversaries, graduating, and the like....
TOP GIFT BOOKS
Art/travel/restaurant cookbooks might be some of the best books to give a 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. 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:
1.NEW ORLEANS CELEBRATIONS (Gibbs Smith, 2019, 192 pages, $30 hardbound) is by Kevin Belton, a local chef with a PBS New Orleans cooking show. It's detailed, with sections on specific foods such as oysters, gumbo, crawfish, boudin, catfish, hand pies, jambalaya, rice, blue crabs, fried chicken, beignet, shrimp. This is followed by celebrations for the BBQ, the jazz festival, Bastille Day, Oktoberfest, and the cultures of Greece and Sicily and Latin America with explorations of neighbourhoods. Quite a nice package, well-laid out, with useful directions.
2.THE IMMIGRANT COOKBOOK (Interlink Books, 2018, 224 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is a collection of recipes and stories edited by Leyla Moushabeck, with about 100 different contributors. Each prep section gives a recipe and the story behind the recipe. Many of the sources behind each dish are professional chefs, and their individual stories are related, from childhood to food success. It has been endorsed by top chefs – Ottolenghi, Waters, Deborah Madison, David Lebovitz, and the late Anthony Bourdain. The publisher will donate $5 from the sale of each cookbook to the ACLU. It's arranged from apps to desserts, and any of them certainly do beat the presidential mac and cheeseburger. 'Nuff said.
3.TORTELLINI AT MIDNIGHT (Hardie Grant Books, 2019, 256 pages, $35 USD hardbound) is by Emiko Davies, who is of mixed heritage but married a Tuscan man and lives in Italy. These are heirloom preps from four generations deep and many miles wide from Taranto in Puglia to Turin and then Tuscany in the north. It has a lot of memoir material, the food is comforting, and the photography a traveller's dream. There are great stories here for every dish. It is all arranged by one of the three regions followed by a series of seven menus for larger holiday events (New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, All Saints' Day, etc.), all with page references to the preps themselves. Recipes are in both metric and avoirdupois. Nifty gift package.
4.BALADI PALESTINE (Interlink Books, 2019, 256 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by Joudie Kalla, a UK professional chef who also wrote the cookbook "Palestine on a Plate". "Baladi" means "my home, my land". Here she takes us on a culinary journey through her homeland with rare Palestinian family recipes reflecting the diverse landscapes and seasons. It's arranged by geographic feature, which chapters on river and sea (salmon, sardines, sea bass, red mullet, monkfish, sea bream, squid), hills and orchards (lime, pomegranate, mango, lemon, ice cream, pastries), the farm (lamb, poultry), the earth (potatoes, beets, zucchini, fava beans, shallots), the markets (coffee, eggs, turmeric, eggplants, chili). Each dish has a story. Excellent photography too.
5.CATALAN FOOD (Clarkson Potter, 2018, 273 pages, $40 hardbound) is by Daniel Olivella, a Catalan chef who opened Catalan cuisine restaurants in San Francisco and Texas. His collaborator is Caroline Wright. Catalan cuisine is one of the culinary crossroads: passing through were Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Jews, and others. There is lots of material and photos about Catalonia and its food, followed by recipes arranged by menu, beginning with small plates (pica pica), veggies (verdur4s i legums), paella, seafood, meats (del corral), pork, breads and desserts. A very useful armchair travel tool with many Mediterranean dishes.
6.ETHIOPIA (Interlink Books, 2019, 224 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by Yohanis Gebreyesus, chef-owner of Antica in Addis Ababa and host of a weekly food program on EBS, Ethiopia's national television network. It's an impressive work on Ethiopian cuisine, with many recipes and traditions noted from the Horn of Africa. Its cuisine has been influenced by a religious mix of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Typical dishes include dor wat (chicken stewed with berber spice), siga ribs (fried beef), asa shorba (spiced fish soup), gomen (collard greens with giner and garlic), azifa (green lentil salad), dinich alicha (potatoes and carrots in onion turmeric sauce. Of course, the tome opens with
injera and flatbreads, found in every global Ethiopian restaurant, followed by seasonings, soup to nuts, through to drinks. Every prep is geographically located and has a story as well as terrific photos. Where appropriate there are thoughts from local artisans.
7.TOKYO STORIES (Hardie Grant Books, 2019, 256 pages, $50 hardbound) is by Tim Anderson. It's subtitle is " a Japanese cookbook" . It is more – it is a tour through the various styles of food outlets in Tokyo: department store food halls in the basement; top floor hotel restaurants; noodle shops; sushi bars; yakitori shacks; convenience stores; vending machine foods; and street foods in general. You're goning to find cheesy fried chicken, gyoza, ramen, curries, udon, onigirl, and others. He's got 80 recipes with his memoir-like stories and "on location" photography. It's arranged by food type (street, local, national, global, modern) after a primer on depachika (Japanes ingredients). Good fun for anyone who loves Japanese food.
8.ANDALUZ (Interlink Books, 2019, 304 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by Fiona Dunlop, food and travel writer and photographer who has also written The North African Kitchen and Mexican Modern. Here, wit an endorsement from Yotam Ottolenghi she now covers the food, history, and culture of the south part of Spain by the coast. Moorish rule of nearly eight centuries has created a distinctly Arabian/Berberian influence on the food, with ingredients such as couscous, rice, eggplant, oranges, olives, apricots, marzipan, and a wide range of spices. With material on markets and both chef and home cook profiles, Dunlop gives us a pretty determined travel/food look at a specific region, from Granada (east) to Cordoba and Seville (south). Do try her mezquita salad (eggplant, tomato and olives) or mozarabic albondigas in almond and saffron sauce. There's a listing of recommended restaurants, a bibliography, and two indexes to the recipes (by course and by ingredient). And, of course, there are her own photographs.
9.FOOD OF THE ITALIAN SOUTH (Clarkson Potter, 2019, 256 pages, $40 hardbound) is by Katie Parla, an American Rome-based food and beverage journalist and author of the IACP award winner, "Tasting Rome" (2016). Here she moves on "south" to Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise and Puglia in a travel journey of classic and lost dishes of tomato-based pasta-heavy Italian food. Each rustic recipe has a cultural story to tell, and Parla does it well in, um, parlaying it with insights. The arrangement is traditional, from antipasti through dolci with a section on making your own amari and vermouths, and concludes with a bibliography, a resources list, and conversion charts. There is a whole section on the wonderful carrati con ragu di castrato (mutton sauce in winter) and carrati con ricotta e noci (cheese and walnut sauce in summer).
10.FROM THE LAND OF NIGHTINGALES & ROSES (Interlink Books, 2019, 318 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by Maryam Sinaiee, an Iranian-born political analyst but now full-time food blogger of Iranian food. It's casual home cooking of Persian dishes, arranged by season, beginning with Spring. Food history and culture are also covered, along with her own food styling photography and historical photos. Each season introduces memoir material about Iranian life while the preps themselves have more historical and detailed instructions. Each dish has a local name, such as kotlet for beef and potato fritters, Lamb preps include braised shanks, ground meat kebabs, sweet and sour lamb, lamb and eggplant stew, lamb and dried plum stew, rice with lamb and green beans, lamb stew with dried limes, and other variations. It all concludes with a glossary.
11.BLACK SEA (Quadrille, 2018, 280 pages, $50 hardbound) is by Caroline Eden, an inveterate traveller who gives us a hefty tome that is part travelogue and part cookbook. It's the tale of Odessa, Istanbul, and Trabzon. Covered are Bessarabia (65% of which is Moldova), Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey – as they border on the Black Sea. So it is a commentary on local foods, and embraces memoir material on the Jewish tables of Odessa, fisherwomen of Bulgaria, and White Russians in Istanbul. Of particular interest is the food of Trabzon (Trebizond) -- when did you last see a Trabzon cookbook? She gives us extensive food and cultural notes along with preps such as frontline pilaf, Trabzon kaygana with anchovies and herbs, bebe cake, Sumela brunch, and apricot and cinnamon hosaf.
12.SPICE (DK Books, 2018, 224 pages, $32 hardbound) is a publisher's reference work on spices. The scientific aspect has been written or overseen by Dr. Stuart Farrimond, science and health writer, while British food writer Laura Nickoll co-ordinated the non-science content of the spice profiles (the bulk of the tool). The 120 pages dedicated to profiles divides all spices into phenols, terpenes, acids, aldehydes, pyrazines, and compounds, with sub-divisions. Each of the 60 profiles is connected to one or more of the 40 regional guides presented. There are also 65 top-notch recipes. Eight other food writers, mainly British, worked on the profiles, the regions, and the recipes. Great team work for a food reference tool!
13.WHERE TO DRINK WINE (Quadrille, 2018, 288 pages, $42.99 hardbound) is by Chris Losh, editor of Imbibe (UK). It's a guide to the world's must-visit wineries. It you've got the big bucks to travel, there is enough here for a lifetime (but start early). He opens with France and moves through Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Greece, North America (including both three places in the Okanagan Valley and nine in the Niagara Peninsula), South America, South Africa, the Antipodes, plus China, Georgia and Lebanon. Oh, if only they weren't so scattered!! Basically, it is a descriptive work for each wine region with some commentary on those welcoming wineries such as, for Champagne, Pommery, Taittinger, Mailly, Moet & Chandon, and more. He gives us multiple reasons for each visit but no tasting notes. There is much to be seen at each winery, such as visitor centres, museums, art work, knowledgeable staff, etc. It's a must have reference too for the bucket list!
14.THE CIDER INSIDER (Quadrille Books, 2018, 224 pages, $26 hardbound) is by Susanna Forbes. It is a fairly comprehensive guide to over 100 international craft ciders and their global styles. It's arranged by country, with the UK getting the lion's share followed by France, and then Spain, Europe, North America, and then the antipodes. There are glossaries and flavour guides throughout, with a good bibliography of resources. There is not much for Canada (four from Quebec and one from BC) which is probably as it should be since cider production was not made legal in Canada until the 1970s. Its main contribution is the glorious "ice cider" made like ice wine. Each company gets a detailed description with deets on location and apples used, and where to go next for more in that style. Currently, it is a pretty unique reference tool, well worth reading.
15.THE DEVIL'S DINNER (St. Martin's Press, 2018, 296 pages, $36.50 hardbound) is by Stuart Walton. It's a gastronomic and cultural history of chili peppers. He also manages to go into depth about the biological impact, beginning with Mexico and South America. Spaniards returning to Europe brought chilis back with them, and this produced piri-piri and pimientos (Iberia), paprika in Austro-Hungary, and permeated the Indian sub-continent. There is much detail here in this look, culminating with a discussion on the hotness of chilis and how it became a guy thing. Notes and a bibliography complete the work.
16.WHAT MAKES A WINE WORTH DRINKING (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, 182 pages, $36 hardbound) is by Terry Theise, an importer of boutique wines from Germany, Austria and Champagne. He's also authored the title "Reading Between the Wines" and has written wine articles for magazines. Here he concentrates on praising the sublime in wine. It's in a somewhat autobiographical tone, but he does tell us how to find and appreciate exceptional wine and how it can lead to a richer and fuller life. Just the perfect gift for the oenophile in your life. What makes a wine worth drinking is its authenticity: it's usually small-scaled artisanal wine of subtlety. Taste matters, so that is first on the table in his tome – what does a good wine actually taste like? Enjoy...and try also https://hosemasterofwine.blogspot.com/2018/11/what-makes-wine-worth-drinking-in.html
17.BELLA FIGURA (Appetite by Random House, 2018, 284 pages, $29.95 hardbound) tells us how to live, love, and eat the Italian way. It's by Kamin Mohammadi, a now-British journalist and broadcaster living and working outside Florence and in London. Living in Florence had changed her life, and she makes it a great spin on armchair travel. It's the "slow food" approach to life – taking the time to do things well. Her memoir opens in January 2008 and moves through, monthly chapter by chapter, to the end of that year. Topics include: how to taste the sweetness of life, how to celebrate being a woman, how to eat and not put on weight, and how style has nothing to do with money. Recipes are scattered throughout, and at the end there is a summary of 21 different "rules".
18.RITZ & ESCOFFIER (Clarkson Potter, 2018, 312 page, $35 hardbound) is by Luke Barr who wrote the amazing bestseller "Provence, 1970". He deals with the hotelier Ritz and Chef Escoffier in the context of the rise of the leisure class. In essence, he covers not just the two men but also the social aspects of the hospitality industry in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Savoy in London was the first hotel with electricity and elevators; all rooms had baths. "Toute le monde" stayed there, and Escoffier ran the first restaurant in Europe to welcome unaccompanied women. Barr covers the relationship between the two, and (after disaster and opulence) follows them to Paris and the Hotel Ritz. Notes and sources, plus an index, are included.