ON THE DEAN'S LIST:
MY 24th(!!) ANNUAL SURVEY OF FOOD AND DRINK-RELATED BOOKS
SUITABLE AS HOLIDAY GIFTS FOR THE 2020 COVID-19 PERIOD
DECEMBER 1, 2020
By Dean Tudor, Ryerson Journalism Professor Emeritus and Gothic
Epicures Writing, www.deantudor.com (World Wine Watch Newsletter).
Reviewer Timeline: Cookbook Reviewer, Library Journal, 1969-1974; Cookbook Columnist and Lead Reviewer, The Booklist (American Library Association), 1974-1985; CBRA Cookbook Reviewer, 1975-1985; 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 http://gothicepicures.blogspot.ca
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 2020 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 UK (free delivery and no GST).
Price Alert: Books are in CAD, but because of USD fluctuations, all prices may vary.
Part One: TOP GIFT BOOKS
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:
--MAN'OUSHE; inside the Lebanese street corner baker (Interlink Books, 2020, 200 pages, $43.95 hardbound) is by Barbara Abdeni Massaad, a food writer whose family owned a Lebanese restaurant "Kebabs and Things" in Florida. She has since located back to Lebanon, and here gives us a stunning document about kitchen rituals and traditions of Lebanese culture. The national pie is man'pushe, and she has 70 recipes for the perfect style of pies as found in a Lebanese bakery. It's a great snack, and she goes through the range of fillings, from cheese, yogurt, egg, chicken, meat preserve, and Armenian sausage. Photography is by her and by Raymond Yazbeck. She tells stories about the bakeries, the places, and the types of pies. She's got a pantry description as well as kitchen tools and techniques for making/baking the dough. And of course it all starts with za'tar and wild thyme pie. It's a work of art, not just a cookbook, and has been been endorsed by both Alice Waters and Paula Wolfert.
--TRAVELS WITH MY SPATULA (Ryland Peters & Small, 2020, 144 pages, $27.95 hardbound) is by Tori Haschka, a food and travel writer-blogger from Sydney. She's got you covered for eating fresh sardines with Campari, peach and fennel in Venice, and apple fritters in the Swiss Alps, or maybe some different breakfasts for when you wake up. It's a mix of food and travel, as that is what Tori is. Good enough as a host gift for the inveterate traveller. The photography is all plated food while the travelling is all text. You'll have to use your imagination in this lively book. Check her out at www.eatori.com
--VENETIAN REPUBLIC (Interlink Publishing Group, 2020, 256 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by Nino Zoccali, chef-owner of some Italian restaurants in Sydney Australia. He has written before on diverse cuisines of Italy. These recipes here come from the days when Venice was a world power, the centre of the spice/salt/silk trade routes. The four key regions were: Venice and the lagoon islands, the surrounding Veneto, the Croatian coast, and the Greek Islands (Santorini, Cyprus, Crete, Corfu, et al). Hence, we have Venetian Prosecco and snapper risotto, Croatian roast lamb shoulder with olive oil potatoes, Cretan sweet and sour red mullet, Corfu's zabaglione, and Dubrovnik's ricotta and rose liqueur crepes. It's all arranged by the regions, with sub-arrangement by course (from antipasti to dolci). And it has a whack of history/culture behind each prep. Loaded with mostly pictures of finished plates, but there are also some maps and tourist attractions.
--THE SICILY COOKBOOK (DK Publishing, 2020, 240 pages, $39 hardbound) is by Cettina Vicenzino who was born in Sicily and grew up in Germany. She is a cook, food photographer, and writer, and has written several books on Italian and Sicilian cuisine. Three types of food are here --cucina povera (peasant food), cibo di strada (street food), and cucina dei monsù (sophisticated food).
It's part cookbook and part travel, with loads of her own photos and cultural/gastronomical notes emphasizing local chefs and food producers.. The arrangement is by course, primi (Sicilian cuisine doesn't include antipasti) pasta, through secondi mains and piatto unico, intermezzi, and dolci. She's got a few non-alcoholic drinks and some wine. In all, the vast majority of her 70 preps use local spices, citrus, cheeses, olives, tomatoes, eggplant and seafood. This is a real treat for Sicilian food lovers, featuring ricotta dumplings in an orange and tomato sauce, stuffed sardines, salt cod, and grilled octopus with ricotta hummus.
--ARAN (Hardie Grant Books, 2019, 240 pages, $42.50 hardbound) is by Flora Sheddon, who became the youngest ever semi-finalist on The Great British Bake Off Baking Show in 2015. She runs Aran bakery in Dunkeld, Highland Perthshire. She has also written a weekly baking column for the Sunday Telegraph. These are recipes and stories from a bakery in the heart of Scotland. Material includes the origins of the bakery (aran is Scottish Gaelic for bread or loaf) and a day in its life from dawn to dusk. There is location photography plus a slew of recipes for breakfast, lunch and High Tea. Typical are a pork, apple and sage sausage roll, and apricot and almond frangipani. Try also chocolate oat cookies, pear, coffee and hazelnut cake, and pomegranate and raspberry financiers. An impressive giftbook for the baker in your life.
--PALESTINE ON A PLATE; memories from my mother's kitchen (Interlink Publishing Group, 2020, 240 pages, $34.95 paperbound) is by Joudie Kalla, a UK chef who specializes in Palestine food. She earlier had also written the cookbook "Baladi Palestine". This is the home-cooked food of her heritage, paying homage to the Palestine that her family knew and remembers. She starts off with her world of ingredients before moving on to the courses (breakfast, desserts) and the major ingredients: grains, legumes, veggies, lamb, chicken, fish. There's also a bibliography and a list of suppliers. First rate photography with strong memoir-ish cook's notes and travel info.
--MOSQUITO SUPPER CLUB (Artisan, 2020, 367 pages, $51.75 hardbound) is by Melissa M. Martin, a longtime native of the Louisiana coast. She had opened the Club for serving family-styled Cajun dinners in 2014 as a sustainable restaurant, preparing Cajun recipes from a disappearing bayou scene. It's arranged by major ingredient, beginning (after the primer on the Cajun pantry/larder) with shrimp, then crab, oysters, crawfish, gumbo, poultry, meat and rice, fish, salt pork, beans, veggies, sweets and breads. Very comprehensive, with a resources list for both ingredients and equipment, such as file, Louisiana rice, and crawfish boilers. She's also got some interesting comments and discussions about Creole and Cajun food similarities and differences. Superb photography of the travel area, techniques of handling crawfish and crabs, and the final plated dish. An excellent gift package!
B. And how about gift books for the beverage drinker? Try –
--THE GOODE GUIDE TO WINE; a manifesto of sorts (University of California Press, 2020, 233 pages, $24.95 hardbound) is by the renowned UK wine writer Jamie Goode, who visits a lot of wine regions. It's a collection of observations and opinions about wine absurdities, excitements, interests, and how things could be better in wine culture. Of late he has been doing and saying nice things about Ontario wines, but there 's nothing here about that. There is, however, an illuminating article on how to succeed at wine writing by writing boring articles. It's a great book for the knowledgeable wine lover who has almost everything.
C. Perhaps some food and drink reference books? Such as:
--THE ART & SCIENCE OF FOOD PAIRING (Firefly Books, 2020, 388 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by the team of Peter Coucquyt (chef), Bernard Lahousse (bio-engineer), and Johan Langenbick (entrepreneur) who together co-founded "Foodpairing", a creative food-tech agency that works with chefs and bartenders to provide new food combos. They analyze foods to identify flavour components and have created the world's largest ingredient/flavour database. The pairings have been validated by 14 top chefs. Here they present 10,000 flavour matches such as chocolate on cauliflower and kiwi with oyster. It's all based on aromatic molecular properties of foods (80% of the taste is via the nose, the rest is vua the tongue). The matches that they give us are graphed as taste wheels and colour keys. You look up one ingredient and you wil find 10 food pairings with a colour wheel that states the taste results. They cover key food characteristics ( a Modal Varietal Character, which I use in my wine reviews), aroma profiles, classic and contemporary combos – all with scientific explanations. The top 150 ingredients are listed (maybe there is more to come?) along with their wheels and keys. This is a great book at a decent price for that foodie at Christmas.
--BOWLS; vibrant recipes with endless possibilities (America's Test Kitchen, 2020, 246 pages, $35 hardbound) is just one a series of ATK books, now numbering in the seventies. They always take a theme and look at it from every angle, to produce the absolute best cooking ideas and recipes, taking into account kitchen equipment and varying cooking skills. This one produces presp on salad bowls, grain and bean bowls, noodle bowls, and soup bowls. There are master meal preps with make-ahead components, some mix and match items, and handy use of leftovers. There are 63 toppings and sauces, making enough here for a year full of bowls, many of them customized. This is probably the only bowl cookbook you will ever need. Great ideas, with service ranging mostly from two to six, and with full nutritional information for each. There are tables of conversions and equivalents. Just perfect for the zoomer starting out in life.
--BIG FLAVORS FROM ITALIAN AMERICA: family-style favorites from coast to coast (America's Test Kitchen, 2020, 278 pages, $35 hardbound) is by the crew at America's Test Kitchens in Boston, where their motto is "recipes that work". The cookbook celebrates the basic red sauce (ragu gravy) cooking found in America, and also included here is a short history of Italian American food. Created here were spaghetti and meatballs, cioppino, and scali bread. Pizza shops, pasta shops, and sandwich shops came to every town., sustained by those customers who wanted simple and inexpensive meals – usually with garlic bread and modestly-priced baskets of chianti, often lasagna. As the years went by, new items appeared: risotto, polenta, different ravioli. This work also covers minor variations in restaurants across the USA – Philadelphia pork sandwiches, Utica greens, Detroit-Chicago-St Louis pizzas, eggplant pecorino, garlic knots and zeppole. Good holiday reading, from marinated olives through calamari, Sunday suppers, breads and desserts.
Part Two: STOCKING STUFFERS
Stocking stuffers should be at the very top of everybody's gift list: something affordable from under $10 up to $25 or so, 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:
-GLUTEN-FREE HOLIDAY COOKIES (Artisan, 2020, 96 pages, $17.95 hardbound) is part of the Artisanal Kitchen series of small handbooks. This one is by Alice Medrich with Maya Klein. They've got over 30 recipes "to sweeten the season" . Not all then preps are exclusively Christmas: the standards here reflect both the classics (chocolate chip, ginger, double oatmeal, nutty thumbprint, et al)
and the festives (buckwheat walnut or hazelnut tuiles, toasty pecan biscotti, chocolate sables, ginger-peach squares, et al). Sure to be a winner in the hostess gift sweepstakes, for it even includes conversion charts.
--DELICIOUS DIPS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2017, 2020, 64 pages, $13.95 hardbound) is a publisher's collection of some 50 recipes for dips from fresh and tangy to rich and creamy, using meats, legumes, veggies, herbs, olives, nuts, seeds, yogurt and cheese. Something for all, from 13 different UK food writers, principally Hannah Miles (with 15 preps).
--HOW TO DICE AN ONION (Dog 'n' Bone, 2020, 128 pages, $14.95 hardbound) is by Anne Sheasby. These are hacks, tips and tricks for the home cook, originally published in 2007 as "Kitchen Wisdom". Scores and scores of fail-safes will reward the budding home cook, offering assistance in all aspects of cookery. The best tips are those that try to correct your mistakes; next best are those tricks that employ substitution. It's an easy read, but try to dip into it often for reminders.
--JEWISH HOLIDAY BAKING (Artisan, 2020, 112 pages, $17.95 hardbound) is part of the Artisanal Kitchen series of small handbooks. This one is by Uri Scheft with Raquel Pelzel. They've got over 25 preps for inspirations dealing with Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, Purim, Passover, and more. The savoury section includes challah, potato hamantaschen, spinach burekas; the sweets have date mamoul, chocolate rugelach, sufganiyot. Another great hostess gift, which also includes conversion charts.
Other little books (and calendars), for beverages, include those on beer, wine and spirits:
--PINK GIN (Ryland Peters & Small, 2020, 64 pages, $14.95 hardbound) is a collection of some 30 or so pink-hued cocktails. Most of the preps come from Julia Charles, with some more from Laura Gladwin. It's an open-and-shut slender work, with the recipes scattered among three categories: cocktails, sparklers, and coolers. Most call for "pink gin" but you can use regular gin and add your own colouring, if need be (grenadine, cranberry juice, rose/red wine).
--HUGH JOHNSON'S POCKET WINE BOOK 2021 (Mitchell Beazley, 2020, 336 pages, $18.99 hardbound, $14.99 Kindle ebook) is a guide to wines from all around the world, not just to the "best" wines. It is in its 42nd year (first published in 1977). 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 2019 vintage and a few details about the potential of 2020, along with a closer look at the 2018. He's got notes on what wines are ready to drink in 2020. Johnson is also moving into food pairing: there is a section on food and wine matching. He also has a listing of his personal 200 fave wines. The Kindle edition is digitally enhanced for word searching, so it often beats a printed index for retrieving data – and it is $4 cheaper! A great purchase....
--WINES YOU SHOULD TRY; a guide for Canadians (Whitecap, 2019, 204 pages, $22.95 paperbound) largely supersedes the ninth annual edition (2016) of "The 500 Best-Value Wines In the LCBO 2017". This new work by wine scribe Rod Phillips is now national, and has both international and domestic wines arranged by wine colour and then by region/country with an indication of a price range (under $12 to over $49). He tasted about 1000 wines, and chose about 500 wines that are available in at least two provinces. Each of the wines has some value, or else they would not be in this tool: they can be considered at least "better" if not "best" of what's around in Canada. Each has an indication of food pairings. A good guidebook which features only those wines available in Canada -- that you should try.
--A YEAR OF GOOD BEER 2021 PAGE-A-DAY CALENDAR (Workman, 2020, 320 pages, $20.99)
quenches the beer lover's thirst: microbrewery recommendations, beer lore, trivia, history, labels, vocabulary, tasting notes, beer festivals, and more daily fun. Discover Bell's Porter whose smoky coffee notes lend an intriguing aroma profile; a hoppy Noble Prize Imperial Pilsner; and a perfect summer aperitif in the burgundy-hued Brombeere Blackberry Gose. Includes beer drinking games (like Buffalo Club, in which you must never be caught drinking with your right hand), recipes for refreshing beer cocktails, and "Hop Lookout" notes (like the smoothly bitter Cashmere, developed by Washington State University in 2013). Some 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. If you buy any of the PAD calendars, then you can go online to the website and pick up other, free stuff, at www.pageaday.com.
Your health depends on my health. We cannot escape one another in these perilous times.
Dean Tudor, Ryerson University Journalism Professor Emeritus
Treasurer, Wine Writers' Circle of Canada http://winewriterscircle.ca
Look it up and you'll remember it; screw it up and you'll never forget it.