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Saturday, October 23, 2021

* FOOD BOOK OF THE MONTH: Amber & Rye by Zuza Zak, Interlink Books, 2021

AMBER & RYE; a Baltic food journey (Interlink Books, 2021, 256 pages, $45 hard covers) is by Zuza Zak, an award-winning Polish "storyteller cook" who has published books and articles dealing with Eastern Europe as her beat. She has also appeared on the Food Network. Her PhD studies are focused on exploring Eastern European food from a socio-cultural perspective, as a cultural anthropologist would. The Baltics are between Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, with many culinary influences. There is also a confluence with Poland bordering Lithuania (she's got some Baltic DNA in her). So here she's got guidance around the capitals of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, with local stories from the chefs, the cooks, the greengrocers, the farmers. In addition to the stories on food and travel, she's also incorporated poetry, literature, song, and proverbs. The arrangement is loosely by course, from apps through snacks, soup, mains, salads, sides, fermented foods,  desserts and beverages. There are extensive notes on ingredients and a bibliography for further reading. Typical preps are rhubarb and rose meringue tart, potato-fennel-fish bake, charred pork chop with apple and sea buckthorn sauce, fermented beet slaw, crayfish salad, creamy barley groats with asparagus, fermented wild garlic and buckwheat soup, and nettle leaf salad. Quality/price rating: 90.

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