FOOD AND DRINK BOOKS IN REVIEW FOR MAY-JUNE 2022 [published mostly monthly since 2000]
By Dean Tudor, Gothic Epicures Writing, email@example.com
Creator of Canada's leading wine satire site at http://fauxvoixvincuisine.blogspot.ca
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
Prices listed below are in US or CAN currency as printed on the cover. I do this because many of my readers are American. CAN prices are inserted for Canadian produced books. In times of US-Canadian currency fluctuations, parity, and online bookstore discounts (plus the addition of GST or HST) prices will vary upwards or downwards every day.
* DRINK BOOK OF THE MONTH! *
1.IMPERIAL WINE; how the British Empire made wine's new world (University of California Press, 323 pages, $43.85 CAD hardbound) is by Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre, an historian at Trinity College in Connecticut. It's full of good material, concentrating on the development of the wine industries in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. She argues that today's global wine industry exists as a result of settler colonialism and that imperialism was central, not incidental, to viticulture in the British colonies. For the large part, the wines were ignored by the landed gentry in the UK. They failed to match up with wines from France, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy. Plus they had a long transport from their origins. Canadian wineries are not covered or even mentioned, which is just as well – because the only wines available from Canada were made from labrusca or hybrids. It was only after World War I that "colonial" wines became popular, and that was mainly because they were "patriotic" wines and plentiful if not cheap because of preferential import tariffs. An excellent read, well-researched. Quality/Price Rating: 91.
* FOOD BOOK OF THE MONTH! *
2.TASTING GEORGIA; a food and wine journey in the Caucasus (Interlink Books, 2017, 2021, 464 pages, ISBN 978-1-62371-8427-8 $28.95 USD softbound) is by Carla Capalbo, born in NYC, and now working as a freelance food journalist and photographer. This is an updated revised edition making its paperbound debut. She's written 14 books on the culture of producing food and wine, winning awards such as the Andre Simon for "Collio" as best wine book. Her photos of Georgia have won an IACP award. Here she gives us, by the numbers: 70 recipes, 60 restaurants and wine bars, 40 family wineries, 10 regional maps, and 390 original photographs, many of which detail farmers markets and family cooks. She's got top log rolling from Redzepi (noma), Ottolenghi, and Petrini (founder of Slow Food). Georgia lies between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea. It is one of the world's oldest winemaking areas, with wines made traditionally in clay qvevri buried in the ground, and searched for by lovers of natural wine. After the section on wine comes the food, beginning with the "supra" buffet-banquet-sharing feast and the elements of Georgian cuisine. Ingredients include ajika (capsicum paste), lobio beans, guda (sheep's cheese), tenili cheese, freshwater fish, gozinaki (honey and walnuts at New Year), jonjoli, khinkali dumplings, matsoni fermented milk, and lots more. There are only a few holiday recipes for sweets. Most dinners end with fresh fruit, nuts, or fruit leather. Preps have English and Georgian titles as well as scrips. Recipes have been edited for home cooks or otherwise simplified with substitutions. Metric and avoirdupois weights and measures co-exist in the preps. There is an impressive listing of sources and travel information, along with websites. The almost 40 page index includes a recipe planner for creating meals, a listing of the various foods by product, a listing of the restaurants and wine bars cited, an index to the wine, plus an index to the 12 regions of Georgia. And of course, there are are recipes by English title. A good book for armchair travellers, cooks, and culinary historians. Try the eggplant rolls; lobio beans stewed with herbs; beef and chickpea stew; beets with spiced walnut paste; chicken with nut sauce; corn meal with cheese; fermented cabbage and beets; mulberry and goat cheese salad; noodle and yogurt soup; and stewed nettles. The book could have been improved if it also used MORE metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 91.
* MORE FOOD AND DRINK BOOKS
3.AMMU; Indian home-cooking to nourish your soul (Interlink Books, 2022, 288 pages, $45 hardbound) is by Asma Khan, owner of London's Darjeeling Express (from supper club to pop-up to restaurant) which re-creates the food of Calcutta via its all-woman kitchen. She's also part of Chef's Table (Netflix). Partially a memoir, this is Indian home cooking at its best. She had previously written "Asma's Indian Kitchen" (2019) as a guide to Indian feasts. But here she celebrates her mother, her Ammu, and the home-style cooking augmented by memories. She opens with some 15 suggested menus (all with page references to the recipes) covering weeknight suppers, vegan meals, dairy-free with meat, pescatarian, brunch, et al. Each has an appetizer, main and sides, and dessert. She opens with comfort foods from childhood, her cooking sessions and lessons with her Ammu, some material on celebrations, and some more material on quick and modern recipes. Many of the comfort foods use slow-cooking, so they are labour-free. Loaded with stories and photos of both people and finished plates. As she says, "This is the food I cook for my family every day, meals to comfort, restore, and nourish." Quality/Price Rating: 89
4.WINE PAIRING PARTY; 16 wine profiles – 80 perfect food pairings. (Chronicle Books, 2022, 160 pages, $28.95 hard bound) is by Liz Rubin. It is a great collection of folded pages, one for each wine, giving some blanket data and pairings. For Champagne, we are to look for citrus pith and red fruit. The four pairing here centre around fatty cheeses, cured meats, fried chicken, and sushi. She's also got a menu for New Year's Eve, with Brillat-Savarin, dried fruit, baguette, and a bottle of non-vintage Blanc de Blancs. There are other sections on prosecco and pet-nat sparklers. Good fun in a book priced under $30. Quality/Price Rating: 94
5.ART BOOZEL; cocktails inspired by modern and contemporary artists (Chronicle Books, 2021, 144 pages, $27.95 hard bound) is by Jennifer Croll, with illustrations by Kelly Shami. There's a couple of pages devoted to each artist (Banksy, Warhol, Picasso, Kahlo, O'Keefe, Hockney, et al-- about 60 in all) deftly illustrated and accompanied by a recipe for a cocktail expressive of that artist. There is the Yoko Ono built upon gin, Lillet Blanc, apricot brandy, grapefruit juice and grapefruit bitters. Or perhaps the Robert Maplethorpe with bourbon, lemon juice, hickory smoke, vermouth, bitters, salt and pepper. It is a good idea for a book, and we can all have fun trying the cocktails, and maybe seeing if there is a chance to mix and match. Quality/Price Rating: 88
6.CHEESE, ILLUSTRATED; notes, pairings and boards (Chronicle Books, 2021, 144 pages, $28.95 hard bound) is by cheesemaker-cheesemonger Rory Stamp. He's got 50 of the more popular or accessible European and North American cheese, with notes on pairings and tastings. There are 15 cheese board suggestions. Popular cheeses include Cheddar, Brie, Gruyere, Roquefort, Epoisses, Parmigiano Reggiano, Emmentaler, et al. The main cheese boards are by country: France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain/Portugal, British Isles, and North America, plus four entitled "Boards without Borders". That allows him to present some mountain cheeses and some dessert cheeses. Another good idea book, with lots of concise data. Quality/Price Rating: 90
7.MIND AND BOWL; a guide to mindful eating & cooking (Orion Laurence King Publishing, 2022, 160 pages, $25.99 hard bound) is by Joey Hulin a UK writer. It's a book about self-awareness, with the idea that the food we eat is a relationship we have with the planet. It's vegetarian, with some exceptions such as oriental fish sauce or eggs. The first 100 pages concern mindfulness and mindful eating, food and self-awareness, health and food, storytelling and food. This is followed by basics of cooking, and including breakfast and brunch bowls, simple lunches, main course bowls, and dessert bowls. Well-thought out. Quality/Price Rating: 89
* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK...
...is 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 –
8.SIX CALIFORNIA KITCHENS; a collection of recipes, stories, and cooking lessons from a pioneer of California cuisine (Chronicle Books, 2022, 352 pages, $50 hard bound) is by Sally Schmitt, founder of the French Laundry restaurant of the first to create menus around local and seasonal ingredients – the beginnings of the farm-to-table movement. This is her major work: a narrative cookbook with photos and historic menus for 114 preps that define Northern California cuisine. Her title refers to the six kitchens she has cooked in, including her mother's homestead kitchen, her first cafe kitchen, the Chutney Kitchen, the French Laundry, et al. These include such preps as mustard potatoes, cheese biscuit dough gods, cold cucumber soup with garlic chives and mint, basil eggs, steak a la chicana, bay shrimp and celery with avocado, scallops in tequila lime cream with cilantro gremolata, turnip soup with fresh mustard greens, spicy fig and almond torte, and more. The range is from breakfast to dinner to snacks, from appetizers to desserts, and from many to few eaters. She has a pantry, of course, and it is all laid out for us to read and to use. Good sense, and a great addition to the library of California foods and cooking. Quality/Price Rating: 89.
9.WEEKEND; eating at home: from long lazy lunches to fast family fixes (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 224 pages, $42.99 hardbound) is from Matt Trebutt, a TV presenter (BBC's SATURDAY KITCHEN) and working chef at The Foxhunter in Wales. It's a good topic for a cookbook since it goes beyond brunch and lunch to encapsulate all the weekend activities, from casual Friday nights through light lunches/brunches and celebratory gatherings and formal sit-downs. These are relaxing kitchen projects for special meals such as the laid back supper, the lazy breakfast, and (weather permitting) the outdoor grilling and parties. He's got 100 preps plus photography and a chronological arrangement from Friday night through Sunday (with a concluding chapter on desserts and drinks). The index, of course, is alphabetical by ingredient or plate name – so it is easy to find alternative dishes. Friday nights embrace Portuguese chicken, coriander and garlic soup, or a hot and sour soup, or a seared tuna, or mackerel fillets, followed by prawn rolls or prawn dumplings, or the scrumptious cumin-roasted cauliflower with sichuan pepper and peanut dip. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 89.
* THE REISSUES, THE REPRINTS, AND THE NEWER EDITIONS...
...all reflect a boom in the cookbook publishing business. A paperback reprint will lower the cost to the purchaser, and also give a publisher a chance to correct egregious errors or add a postscript. Some will reissue a book in paper covers with a new layout or photos. Others will rearrange existing material to present it as more informative text while keeping the focus tight. Some magazines will reissue popular or classic recipes in an "easy" format. Here are some recent "re-editions"...
10.IN LOVE WITH PARIS; recipes & stories from the most romantic city in the world (Hardie Grant Books, 2021, 176 pages, $25) is by Anne-Katrin Weber, a chef, recipe developer and food stylist. It was originally published in Germany earlier in the year, and this is its English language debut. She's also got Julia Hoersch for the recipe photography and Nathalie Geffroy for the Parisian mood photography. The book is about equally split between the recipes and the stories, which makes it a perfect gift for the Paris-lover. There are 50 savoury and sweet preps here, along with culinary walks through the city (and nicely illustrated with photos). It's a good basic books on typically French dishes, with stories behind them: croque madame, coq au vin, madeleines, macarons, romano tartlets, moules marnieres, terrines, oysters au gratin, Parisian onion soup. Ah, the cafe life – right in your kitchen. I've got a friend who swears by its recipe for boeuf bourguignon as the easiest and tastiest that he has ever made. Quality/price rating: 88.