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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK... one of the hottest trends in cookbooks. Actually, they've been around
for many years, but never in such proliferation. They are automatic best
sellers, since the book can be flogged at the restaurant or TV show and
since the chef ends up being a celebrity somewhere, doing guest cooking
or catering or even turning up on the Food Network. Most of these books
will certainly appeal to fans of the chef and/or the restaurant and/or the
media personality. Many of the recipes in these books actually come off
the menus of the restaurants involved. Occasionally, there will be, in these
books, special notes or preps, or recipes for items no longer on the
menu. Stories or anecdotes will be related to the history of a dish. But
because most of these books are American, they use only US volume
measurements for the ingredients; sometimes there is a table of metric
equivalents, but more often there is not. I'll try to point this out. The usual
shtick is "favourite recipes made easy for everyday cooks". There is also
PR copy on "demystifying ethnic ingredients". PR bumpf also includes
much use of the magic phrase "mouth-watering recipes" as if that is what it
takes to sell such a book. I keep hearing from readers, users, and other
food writers that some restaurant recipes (not necessarily from these
books) don't seem to work at home, but how could that be? The books all
claim to be kitchen tested for the home, and many books identify the food
researcher by name. Most books are loaded with tips, techniques, and
advice, as well as gregarious stories about life in the restaurant world.
Photos abound, usually of the chef bounding about. The celebrity books,
with well-known chefs or entertainers, seem to have too much self-
involvement and ego. And, of course, there are a lot of food photo shots,
verging on gastroporn. There are endorsements from other celebrities in
magnificent cases of logrolling. If resources are cited, they are usually
American mail order firms, with websites. Some companies, though, will
ship around the world, so don't ignore them altogether. Here's a rundown
on the latest crop of such books –
12.VEGAN RECIPES FROM JAPAN (Grub Street, 2020, 208 pages,
$32.95 hardbound) is by Malte Hartig and Jule Felice Frommelt. He's a
trained chef with a PhD on Japanese food and culture and Zen Buddhism;
she's a freelance food photographer and recipe developer. Together they
write about what is essentially "shojin ryori": the traditional dining style of
Buddhist monks in Japan, made without any animal products. So it
becomes a perfect vegan diet. Foods are based on tofu, seaweed,
seasoned veggies and wild mountain plants. Balance and alignment are
brought to the body, mind and spirit. The preps are simple and humble,
seasonally done with Japanese ingredients such as miso, soy sauce,
sake, mirin, dashi, and mostly steamed or grilled or deep fried. The
arrangement is by season, beginning with spring, and there are many
cultural/social background notes, along with a glossary and other
Quality/Price rating: 91
13.ARZAK + ARZAK (Grub Street, 2020, 256 pages, $49.95 hardbound)
is by Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena Arzak. The Restaurante
Arzak has been in San Sebastian since 1897, and it has had three
Michelin stars since 1989. It has also been included on the World's 50
Best Restaurant list since the ranking's early days. Elena has been there
since 1994 after working her way through the kitchens of Troisgros and El
Bulli, among others. This is a lavishly produced book celebrating the
research and the gastronomy of one of the finest restaurants in the world.
This is the beginning of the New Basque Cuisine. Copious photographs
and generous texts illuminate every phase of their daily work together and
with the 64-member team, and includes a separate chapter on their
research and research methods.  Finally, at page 113 we arrive at the
beginning of the 64 recipes which Jaun Mari and chef Elena worked out
together over the past 10 years, with great colour photographs of
ingredients and finished plates. It begins with hake and chickpea paint,
moves on to veal cheeks stew, nectarine and squid vines, and ends with
honeymead and fractal fluid. It would be pretty hard to find a better gift
book for the gastronome. Quality/Price rating: 93.

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