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Cookbooks that are more than just cookbooks.

borisabrams Mar 7, 2014 07:50 AM

Whilst I am a fan of the old fashioned cookbooks, I like nothing more than delving into a cookbook and learning more than just recipes. There is an increasing number of cookbooks that teach us about a culture, history etc. yet I only stumble across them by accident.
There was;
David Thompson authoritative work on Thai Food; Dunlop's classics on Sichuan food; and of cause Ottolenghi's books.

I am in desperate need of more!
What other 'authority' cookbooks are there? That really get bellow the surface of a countries food??

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  1. rudeboy RE: borisabrams Mar 7, 2014 12:36 PM

    One of my "bibles" is the Making of a Cook by Madeleine Kamman. French focused, but with a lot of history thrown in.

    7 Replies
    1. re: rudeboy
      Chefpaulo RE: rudeboy Mar 9, 2014 04:20 AM

      My mom took two years of culinary instruction from Madeleine Kamman in the 60's when she lived in Philadelphia. I have both of her books and concur. Also, somewhere in this attic, I have all the original mimeograph recipes Madeleine handed out to her students at each lesson.

      My other frequently used favorite is the 1907 "Encyclopedia of Practical Gastronomy" by Ali-Bab. He was a French mining engineer who traveled the world and wrote up an amazing collection of recipes with extensive commentary.

      1. re: Chefpaulo
        rudeboy RE: Chefpaulo Mar 18, 2014 06:23 AM

        The Encyclopedia sounds awesome. As does Ali-Bab's job description.

        1. re: rudeboy
          Chefpaulo RE: rudeboy Mar 18, 2014 12:29 PM

          I wish you all good will finding this. It is the Elizabeth Benson translation published in 1974 by McGraw-Hill. The original title was "Gastronomie Practique: Etudes Culinires." It is worth the search.

          Ali-Bab (his culinary name) was actually Henri Babinskl - the brother of Joseph Babinski, M.D - the Babinski reflex neurologist.

          Ali-Bab provided some amazing recipes. His Chicken Sauteed in Cream, Shallots and Armagnac and his Chocolate Almond Gateau with Amaretto Whipped Cream (my addition) have been staples for 35 years.

          1. re: Chefpaulo
            rudeboy RE: Chefpaulo Mar 18, 2014 12:36 PM

            Is this it?


            1. re: rudeboy
              Chefpaulo RE: rudeboy Mar 18, 2014 01:04 PM

              That be the one!

      2. re: rudeboy
        AmyLearnsToCook RE: rudeboy Mar 16, 2014 08:07 PM

        I just bought a copy of Making of a Cook. I can't wait to dive into it.

        1. re: rudeboy
          rudeboy RE: rudeboy Mar 18, 2014 06:15 AM

          Wow - I totally forgot about the Trout Point Lodge book.


          These are Louisiana guys that went to Nova Scotia where the Acadiens came from to explore the roots of the cajun cuisine. the book is more Canadian, though. They use local ingredients from there and come up with good fusion recipes. One day, I will go there.

          Thorough, but not huge. The history in in the forward in the first section, with little vignettes with some of the recipes.

        2. boogiebaby RE: borisabrams Mar 7, 2014 02:53 PM

          Cradle of Flavor is full of anecdotes and stories from the author's stay in SE Asia.

          1. m
            mwhitmore RE: borisabrams Mar 7, 2014 06:40 PM

            The Nero Wolfe Cookbook. From fiction's greatest detective and chowhound.

            1. w
              weem RE: borisabrams Mar 7, 2014 07:26 PM

              I'm with you. I love a cookbook that tells me as much about the history and culture behind the food as how to cook it. You're just as likely to find a cookbook in my bedside reading pile as in the kitchen.

              Since you mentioned Asian cookbooks, I'll recommend the books of the team Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, such as "Hot Sour Salty Sweet", "Mangoes & Curry Leaves" or "Beyond the Great Wall".

              9 Replies
              1. re: weem
                borisabrams RE: weem Mar 8, 2014 05:05 AM

                Ohh I had been thinking about 'Hot Sour Salty Sweet'; will definitely buy it! To bad that 'Mangoes and Curry Leaves' is out of print on Amazon!
                Have you read Naomi Duguid's Burma book?

                1. re: borisabrams
                  weem RE: borisabrams Mar 8, 2014 04:16 PM

                  No, I haven't. In fact, the only one I owned and read in any depth was "Mangoes & Curry Leaves". I had to part with it a few years ago when I was super-broke, but now that things are a bit more stable I'm slowly building up my cookbook library again, and these are on my list. I'm sure there are nice used copies online, too, unless you only like to buy them new.

                  1. re: borisabrams
                    Billy33 RE: borisabrams Mar 8, 2014 04:17 PM

                    The Book Depository site has 'Mangoes and Curry Leaves'.

                  2. re: weem
                    kariin RE: weem Mar 16, 2014 08:39 PM

                    Thanks, Weem.

                    Every book by Alford and Duguid is stunning, packed with intelligence, great writing, information and the love they have for food cultures and people shows on every page and photograph.

                    i have 'Rice' 'Bread' and 'Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet'. I buy them immediately if i find them.

                    1. re: kariin
                      weem RE: kariin Mar 16, 2014 11:43 PM

                      Oh, wonderful, thanks for the feedback, Kariin!

                      1. re: kariin
                        borisabrams RE: kariin Mar 17, 2014 01:46 AM

                        How does 'Rice' compare to the others?? From what I have read about their books, 'Rice' doesnt seem to get as much credit as their others!

                        Also; I dont eat Pork...how much focus does 'Hot, sour, Salty, Sweet' have on pork? Would you say its easily substituted?

                        1. re: borisabrams
                          kariin RE: borisabrams Mar 17, 2014 11:09 AM

                          I agree. And HSSS is full of non-pork suggestions: tofu, vegan/veg, chicken, seafood and fish and lots of other critters. get the book - check it out of a library first if necessary. My bet is you'll be searching for it within a few days.

                          Rice is less noticed here but i attribute that to the fact that rice is not as beloved for a staple here as in other parts of the world: Indian sub-continent, south Asia, Persia, China, Japan, west Africa. In US rice was/is significant where it can be grown (Louisiana, Ark-Texas, Gulf, and atlantic coast SC, GA, NFlorida). Corn, potatoes are the essential staple starches here - wheat rules as the grain.

                          Alford and Duguid give rice culture around the world its due - which means an enormous cultural road to wander.
                          And the deep SC rice culture is a part of that story and their treatment is true to our history. We came so close to losing it here, but it is coming back.. Cooking real Carolina Gold rice - knowing what it cost so many people to cultivate it here in the past - it stops time.

                          Every book they have done is worth every penny.

                          1. re: kariin
                            borisabrams RE: kariin Mar 17, 2014 02:59 PM

                            Ah ok; I am going to get the HSSS and the Rice books - mayyybeee the one about the Indian subcontinent and China. I feel like a kid in a candy store!

                            You seem to know a lot about Rice in the States. Do you have any connection to it personally, or just an interest of yours?

                            1. re: borisabrams
                              kariin RE: borisabrams Mar 18, 2014 02:26 PM

                              well I eat it constantly so that's a very personal connection :->

                              I learned to fix good, dry white rice before I was 8 just by watching. nothing special. rice was at evry meal except breakfast. every kind of southern pea/bean was served over that rice, and also stew beef, pork chops, okra, shrimp, cooked tomato and all kinds of gravy. Irish (white) potatoes were less common, tho loved as mashed. Chicken bog w/sausage and pepper was cooked with rice (it's a wet perlow). It was incomprehensible to me that people didn't eat rice every day and had no idea how to fix it. I felt very happy in the first Chinese restaurant I went to because it made sense to me that rice was the hub that everything else revolved around.

                              The idea of a special rice cooker made sense only if you didn't really know how to fix rice and needed to have enough for 20+ people. I still don't own a rice cooker but i probably wouldn't turn it down if somebody gave me one.

                              i live in SC now where one side of my family comes from and work for the return to foods that nearly disappeared in the 60s-80s: not just heirlooms but lots of things people stopped cooking and eating, usually out of embarassement over looking 'country' or 'hick'. And southern food once had a uniformly bad rap as greasy, over-cooked, too much salt and generally disgusting. such a shame.

                              And it's a regional cuisine,(as in Italy) with enormous differences, from appalachian mtn food to gulf coast, to low country to kentucky burgoo to anything nola to tidewater virginia to florida cracker to eastern nc bbq, to arkansas dry land rice to liver nips to sc pine bark stew.... carolina gold rice is an amazing story. and you can eat history. here is the recipe:


                              and the Southern Foodways Alliance is the best single source anywhere:

                              thanks for asking, sorry to bend your ear.

                    2. e
                      ellabee RE: borisabrams Mar 7, 2014 10:39 PM

                      Sonia Uvezian's Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen, which gives a deep look at one of the oldest food cultures.

                      1. s
                        Siegal RE: borisabrams Mar 8, 2014 05:20 AM

                        Claudia roden book of Jewish food has a lot of history. I love reading it

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Siegal
                          weem RE: Siegal Mar 8, 2014 04:13 PM

                          If I recall correctly, Joan Nathan's "Jewish Cooking in America" had a lot of history in it, too. The Roden book sounds interesting, so I'll have to look for it.

                          1. re: weem
                            Siegal RE: weem Mar 8, 2014 05:33 PM

                            I have both. The Roden book is far superior in my opinion but I'm very partial to her. You should check it out

                            1. re: Siegal
                              weem RE: Siegal Mar 8, 2014 05:55 PM

                              Will do. Thanks for the recommendation.

                              1. re: Siegal
                                kariin RE: Siegal Mar 16, 2014 08:43 PM

                                Siegal, thanks. Another+++ . She is incomparable; brilliant writing, thoughtful history, love for the people and food culture and reliable guides to the cooking. I'm so glad you added her to this thread.

                                1. re: kariin
                                  borisabrams RE: kariin Mar 17, 2014 01:49 AM

                                  I hear that her Italian cookbook is about to be re-released, as is her Middle-Eastern cookbook. I'm debating waiting....I seriously cant wait to get my hands on her Jewish Cookbook. Looks wonderful!

                                  1. re: borisabrams
                                    kariin RE: borisabrams Mar 17, 2014 11:15 AM

                                    That is great news!! She is another keeper - whatever i find of hers I buy and give away, especially to my newer/younger cooking-food friends. They are amazed at the depth and knowledge and the tastes/photos. There are so many mediocre (or worse) 'cookbooks'.

                                    Food as culture connects with many many under-30 folks who want to travel and are totally open to other peoples - but they don't know about these amazing writers unless we tell the - or better yet - share the books. And then help them cook stuff - they are so hungry (in every way)!

                                    1. re: borisabrams
                                      melpy RE: borisabrams Mar 17, 2014 12:27 PM

                                      Man, I wish I knew that! I got the Middle Eastern for Christmas and I bought the Italian used for dirty cheap. I guess it doesn't matter really.

                                      1. re: melpy
                                        borisabrams RE: melpy Mar 17, 2014 02:46 PM

                                        Thats annoying! What is your opinion of the Italian one?

                                      2. re: borisabrams
                                        Siegal RE: borisabrams Mar 17, 2014 07:52 PM

                                        Ooh! I've been wanting to get the Middle Eastern book but Its so old I have been putting it off for shiny new ones. I would love to get a new version. Any news on when ?

                                        1. re: Siegal
                                          borisabrams RE: Siegal Mar 18, 2014 02:20 AM

                                          Unfortunately not!
                                          I was lucky enough to catch Roden on a radio show a couple weeks ago. The host asked what was next, and she said she was updating the Middle Eastern book. I have looked online but naturally I just find information on the re-release of her Italy book. Which I notice has actually now been released!
                                          Will be sure to post back if I hear more details! (Although I suspect it wont be for some time)

                                2. re: Siegal
                                  melpy RE: Siegal Mar 9, 2014 09:24 AM

                                  Roden in general gives lots of additional information. I have a very old version of her Italian book plus food of Spain and Middle East.

                                3. Ruthie789 RE: borisabrams Mar 8, 2014 05:24 AM

                                  The Ministry of Food, by Jean Fearnley-Whittingstall, is a good reference about food consumption and preparation during times of war and food shortage. Of interest, is how the grow your own-local movement began way back when. It does also have some vintage recipes.

                                  1. j
                                    janniecooks RE: borisabrams Mar 8, 2014 05:48 AM

                                    If you're interested in baking, check out Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery. Part I goes into tremendous detail on the history and background of grains, milling, flours and meals, yeast and other ingredients, ovens and vessels for baking, factory baking, and much more. Part II contains the recipes, and there is also much history there, including historical recipes and modern adaptations. If you have any anglophile tendencies it is an excellent read, and if you bake it is a treasure trove.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: janniecooks
                                      jmckee RE: janniecooks Mar 11, 2014 11:31 AM

                                      I LOVE this book. I love all her books.

                                    2. w
                                      weem RE: borisabrams Mar 8, 2014 04:23 PM

                                      I don't know if you're open to out-of-print books at all, but if so, you might enjoy the old Time-Life Foods of the World series. Dozens of volumes released in the late sixties/early seventies. You can find used copies online, and I check them out from the library. Each volume represents a different country, region or culture, all about the history and culture as it relates to food, plus recipes. Yes, they are obviously dated, but what I appreciate about them is the way they present traditional cuisines, rather than modern interpretations of them.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: weem
                                        Will Owen RE: weem Mar 8, 2014 05:33 PM

                                        The Time-Life books gathered up a lot of the best food writers of that era. The books themselves are very easy to come by; any second-hand store or antiques mall with cookbook sections will often have several. We have a dedicated used-cookbook store up the street, and the proprietor uses her computer both to track inventory and to make and maintain lists of how many books there were in any series and what their subjects were. She printed one for me covering the Time-Life books, both hardcover and the spiral-bound recipe supplements; one of these days I'll get of my lazy whatzit and wrap up the collection.

                                        1. re: Will Owen
                                          weem RE: Will Owen Mar 8, 2014 06:02 PM

                                          How fortunate to have that bookstore just down the street!

                                        2. re: weem
                                          nofunlatte RE: weem Mar 9, 2014 05:44 AM

                                          The Cooking of Provincial France (MFK Fisher) is one of my desert island reads, perhaps even more so now that it's a slice of French life that is/has vanished (I believe it dates back to the late 1960s). A hoot to read!

                                          1. re: weem
                                            kariin RE: weem Mar 16, 2014 10:05 PM

                                            I've slowly accumulated them all. They never grow old.

                                          2. Will Owen RE: borisabrams Mar 8, 2014 05:40 PM

                                            Very few of my cookbooks are recipes only. Many of Beard's treated a lot of the recipes as essay questions, with anecdotes and reminiscences appended. Then there are the food-essay books with recipes coming along for the ride, as in Evan Jones's "American Food" and John Egerton's "Southern Food." Any book on cooking or cuisine by Waverly Root will have good commentary, often entertaining.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Will Owen
                                              jmckee RE: Will Owen Mar 11, 2014 11:31 AM

                                              I will second "Southern Food". An outstanding book, by the recently deceased master storyteller.

                                              1. re: jmckee
                                                kariin RE: jmckee Mar 16, 2014 08:45 PM

                                                and another for John Egerton. A good man and a friend to everyone who wants to understand all the different strands of Southern food.

                                            2. Caitlin McGrath RE: borisabrams Mar 8, 2014 05:43 PM

                                              The Essential Mediterranean: How Regional Cooks Transform Key Ingredients into the World's Favorite Cuisines, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins has chapters on different ingredients important to Mediterranean cuisines (salt, wine and vinegar, pasta and couscous, bread, olive oil, Old World legumes, New World peppers and tomatoes, dairy products, the family pig, and the resources of the sea), each of which begins with an essay about the ingredients, their production, history in the region, role in local culture and cooking, etc., including profiles of local producers. Interesting reading, and plenty of recipes, to boot.

                                              1. t
                                                Tara57 RE: borisabrams Mar 8, 2014 05:51 PM

                                                I'll add another vote for the Time Life Foods of the World series.

                                                You may also enjoy:
                                                The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cooking
                                                Joseph Dabney's southern and lowcountry cookbooks
                                                Best Food Writing yearly compilations
                                                Cornbread Nation cookbooks
                                                M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating
                                                Elizabeth David, An Omelet and a Glass of Wine
                                                Jane and Michael Stern, Square Meals
                                                Grandma's Wartime Kitchen

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Tara57
                                                  weem RE: Tara57 Mar 8, 2014 06:01 PM

                                                  Great list (the Fisher book is one of my favorite books, regardless of genre), and I have to second "The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cooking". I found it fascinating, read it cover-to-cover, and I hardly find anybody who's even heard of it!

                                                  1. re: weem
                                                    Tara57 RE: weem Mar 10, 2014 05:57 PM

                                                    I think you would enjoy Smokehouse Ham, Spoonbread & Scuppernong Wine by James Dabney. It is similar to the Foxfire book. I have both and pick them up and reread them often.

                                                    1. re: Tara57
                                                      weem RE: Tara57 Mar 10, 2014 06:27 PM

                                                      Thanks, I'll look for it.

                                                  2. re: Tara57
                                                    jmckee RE: Tara57 Mar 11, 2014 11:32 AM

                                                    YES to the Foxfire Book. I love it, and read it often. YES to the Cornbread Nation collections from the Southern Food Alliance -- extremely enjoyable.

                                                  3. ninrn RE: borisabrams Mar 8, 2014 10:39 PM

                                                    Madhur Jaffrey - A Taste of India

                                                    Edward Espe Brown - Tassajara Bread Book

                                                    Fran Gage - Bread and Chocolate: My Food Life In and Around San Francisco

                                                    Elizabeth Andoh - Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen

                                                    Adrian Miller - Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: ninrn
                                                      borisabrams RE: ninrn Mar 9, 2014 04:01 AM

                                                      Ah yes - I have been looking at Madhur Jaffrey's book!

                                                      Just wondered, have you (or anyone), come across:
                                                      India: The Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant

                                                    2. nofunlatte RE: borisabrams Mar 9, 2014 05:48 AM

                                                      Though dated (let's face it--ALL cookbooks will be "dated" one day), I love the Culinaria series, which you can sometimes find in the bargain bins of Barnes and Noble. I love sitting down to read Culinaria: France or Culinaria: Spain on a cold, rainy afternoon. I have four of them--France, Spain, Germany, and European Specialties (smaller treatments of various European countries) and they are keepers. Again, these are dated (and ingredients may be difficult to source), but they offer a fascinating window into regional food cultures (the series breaks down each country into its various regions).

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: nofunlatte
                                                        Puffin3 RE: nofunlatte Mar 9, 2014 06:35 AM

                                                        Sicilian Home Cooking by Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene would fit this category.

                                                      2. h
                                                        hyde RE: borisabrams Mar 9, 2014 06:44 AM

                                                        Any of John Thorne's books.

                                                        "Simple cooking" is a good place to start.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: hyde
                                                          kariin RE: hyde Mar 16, 2014 08:48 PM

                                                          I'm late to this thread party but so glad to see John Thorne's work here. I've hunted down all of his books. Not one is old or dated. His essays on how he developed the courage to really cook are breathtakingly honest. thanks for adding him here.

                                                          1. re: kariin
                                                            ellabee RE: kariin Mar 16, 2014 09:48 PM

                                                            Do you know which of his books those pieces are in, kariin?

                                                            1. re: ellabee
                                                              kariin RE: ellabee Mar 17, 2014 12:02 PM

                                                              Oh yes. I just had to reach over to on of the bookcases and pull them out:
                                                              _Outlaw Cook_ (1992) with the essays 'Learning to Eat',
                                                              'Outlaw Cook', 'Taking Stock' and ' On Not Being a
                                                              Good Cook'.

                                                              And dozens of discussions and recipes about garlic soup, dried mushrooms, potato pancakes, dandan noodles, irish soda bread, Richard Olney, Martha Stewart and 'My Paula Wolfert Problem'.

                                                              If you need to read them from a library, do that. Then hunt them down and buy them all. Used and in good condition, affordable, another person I buy all of his work and give it away to new cooks and young cooks. He is so brave and honest.

                                                              please let me know what you think.

                                                              1. re: kariin
                                                                ellabee RE: kariin Mar 17, 2014 08:12 PM

                                                                Thanks, kariin. I will seek out the book.

                                                                I'd enjoyed a lot of what Thorne had up at his website several years ago, but have never run across any copies at the library or book sales. Think that's because people, like you, are passing it on to friends rather than unloading it!

                                                                1. re: ellabee
                                                                  kariin RE: ellabee Mar 18, 2014 02:43 PM

                                                                  hey ellabee - I found all of mine used on Amazon or e-bay. maybe 1 in a used book store. every library has inter-library loan (usually free) so you can read before you buy. but just buy.

                                                                  I just now checked Amazon. Multiple copies of Outlaw, Simple Cooking, Pot on the Fire and Serious Pig - many for 1 - 5 cents per copy... yeah, you get hit for $3.99 each for s/h but you can get all 4 for less than $25 total. I really hope you'll get at least _Outlaw_.

                                                        2. Nevy RE: borisabrams Mar 9, 2014 07:02 AM

                                                          There are a few cookbooks I've read like a history book or a dialogue from the author. They sit by my bedside in addition to the kitchen table.

                                                          - Classic Home Desserts: A Treasury of Heirloom and Contemporary Recipes by
                                                          Richard Sax. This is a James Beard winner and completely deserving. It goes into the history of each dessert, relevance of how it may impacted the culture, or vice versa.

                                                          - Any Maida Heatters cookbook. I especially love her Best cakes, best cookies, or her favourite chocolate recipes. She often speaks how she acquired the recipe and insight on who developed the recipe.

                                                          There are a few travelogue recipe books that are good but with most of those, they become dated quickly. Sadly one of the good Italian ones reference a lot of restaurants where the recipes come from and some of the restaurants are no longer.

                                                          One book that has great stories and pictures about China is called Feeding the Dragon. The recipes are not authentic but they're a decent approximation for a North American kitchen

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Nevy
                                                            beetlebug RE: Nevy Mar 9, 2014 08:05 AM

                                                            Feeding the Dragon looks like it could be a fun read. I looked it up and could only think, what were their parents thinking? They named the sibling authors - Nate & Mary Kate (wait for it) Tate. Maybe it was fate? For them to leave the states at that date?

                                                            Sorry, too much coffee led me to this Dr. Seuss moment.

                                                            1. re: beetlebug
                                                              Nevy RE: beetlebug Mar 9, 2014 09:13 AM

                                                              Perhaps the children needed to give their parents some fear for the embarrassing names. I won't give away their situation but I'd have a heart attack as a parent in one chapter.

                                                              1. re: Nevy
                                                                hyde RE: Nevy Mar 9, 2014 02:45 PM

                                                                too late to the gate?

                                                          2. h
                                                            hazelhurst RE: borisabrams Mar 9, 2014 08:36 AM

                                                            Anything by Charles H. Baker, Jr., including the out-of-date "Esquire Culinary Companion to France."

                                                            1. penthouse pup RE: borisabrams Mar 9, 2014 08:51 AM

                                                              John Folse's Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine--more than a listing of items: interesting background material and a wealth of recipes.

                                                              1. DiningDiva RE: borisabrams Mar 9, 2014 09:29 AM

                                                                Diana Kennedy's:

                                                                The Cuisine's of Mexico
                                                                The Art of Mexican Cooking
                                                                My Mexico

                                                                All have as much "essay" in them as they do recipes. Diana is a traditionalist to the bone and reading through her early works helps one to understand why. A lot of what she writes is about the people - maids, friends - who introduced her to Mexican cooking, the ingredients, techniques, regional dishes, etc. Through the essays sprinkled throughout the books and the recipe headers she provides a very personal view as well as the appropriate context for the chapters of her books and the recipes in them.

                                                                11 Replies
                                                                1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                  rudeboy RE: DiningDiva Mar 9, 2014 10:39 AM

                                                                  Agree about Diana Kennedy. I went to Oaxaca in 2006 and forgot to take her "Cooks Tour of Mexico" with me. Huge party foul.

                                                                  1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                    borisabrams RE: DiningDiva Mar 10, 2014 01:25 AM

                                                                    Ah yes; I have been eying up her works! What one would you say is the best? Amazon seem to be pretty keen on all of them. Bare in mind I am am absolute novice to Mexican cuisine!

                                                                    1. re: borisabrams
                                                                      rudeboy RE: borisabrams Mar 10, 2014 05:43 AM

                                                                      Oh, I flubbed. The "Cooks Tour of Mexico" is from Nancy Zaslavsky. It is a really accessible book, and pretty inexpensive. She has plenty of anecdotes and local contacts. It is a good book to have.

                                                                      1. re: rudeboy
                                                                        DiningDiva RE: rudeboy Mar 10, 2014 09:00 AM

                                                                        That's a really good book too :-). I've somehow lost my copy and have been debating whether to repurchase or not. I probably should.

                                                                      2. re: borisabrams
                                                                        DiningDiva RE: borisabrams Mar 10, 2014 08:56 AM

                                                                        Her best? Probably Oaxaca al Gusto, it is a tour de force, but it's probably also not what you're actually looking for.

                                                                        The Cuisine's of Mexico was her first book. It is quite good in both the essay part of things as well as the recipes.

                                                                        The Art of Mexican Cooking is my personal favorite. It's very chatty about her experiences and the recipes usually all work.

                                                                        My Mexico is a compilation of her first 3 books and is probably your best bet. It has a lot of stories and essays in it.

                                                                        DK may, or may not, be the best book for a beginner. She is where I started many, many years ago, as she was just about the only authoritative source in English at that time. If your cooking skills are good to begin with, if you have a basic understanding that Mexican cuisine is not simply tacos, tamales and burritos buried under a non-descript sauce of some sort and then buried in melted yellow cheese, and if you've worked some with chiles, you can cook successfully from her books. I have, and have done so for years. Her early books don't necessarily have photos to walk you through things like wrapping a tamale, for example, but they do have really well written descriptions about how to do it, and those directions are usually accompanied by reasonably good drawings.

                                                                        The absolute BEST thing a novice to Mexican cooking can do is to check their Euro-centric cooking methods and knowledge at the kitchen door. As DK makes perfectly clear, Mexican cooking is not based on the European concept or idea of roux based sauces, menu progression and accompaniments, or use of spices and seasonings. If you can put aside most of what you've learned about traditional European/American cooking and let DK guide you through the Mexican kitchen, you can learn from her.

                                                                        DK can be very intimidating for the novice to Mexican cuisine, but she shouldn't be. She is a traditionalist and a purist. Her recipes contain a lot of detail and almost always work if you follow the detail. Be forewarned, Mexican cooking is laborious and so are some of her recipes :-D

                                                                        If you don't want to tackle DK for learning how to cook Mexican 2 books I recommend for novices to Mexican cooking are "Truly Mexican" by Roberto SantibaƱez and "Salsas That Cook" by Rick Bayless.

                                                                        Go for Diana, she is worth the effort

                                                                        1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                          borisabrams RE: DiningDiva Mar 10, 2014 10:49 AM

                                                                          Thanks so much for the insight!
                                                                          I am one click away (as I always seem to be with cook books) from buying My Mexico - I see it has been recently re-published!
                                                                          I really have never gotten round to cooking mexican! I know it cant be all tacos etc - and thats why I am so desperate to discover what real mexican cooking is!
                                                                          I am actually much more of an Asian cook. I love my Wok and Chinese Cleaver! But i am ready to venture outside of my nice Chinese food bubble!

                                                                          Mexico is high on my list of new cuisines to engross myself in (along with Indian!)

                                                                          I must ask though; I don't eat pork (I know; this is a big problem with Mexican food!) Being quite an expert yourself, do you recon its easy to substitute Chicken for pork in many of her recipes? Or is it seriously pork-centric?

                                                                          On a side note, Rick Bayless has come up quite a bit on my search for the most ideal Mexican cookbook. How does he generally compare with DK?

                                                                          1. re: borisabrams
                                                                            DiningDiva RE: borisabrams Mar 10, 2014 12:14 PM

                                                                            Don't worry about the pork, it is only one of many proteins used in Mexican cooking and none of DKs books are particularly pork-centric.

                                                                            You can easily substitute chicken, turkey and even lamb in some cases. It's been my experience that with the exception of some of the soups, beef doesn't work very well as a pork substitute. You will also find a wide range of fish and seafood dishes as well as vegetarian dishes, although they are typically labeled as vegetarian. And then there is the whole "corn kitchen" which opens up the options substantially, and you can top the corn creations with anything and just about everything.

                                                                            1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                              borisabrams RE: DiningDiva Mar 11, 2014 02:17 AM

                                                                              Ah excellent!!

                                                                              Just a last quick question. They are selling her book 'The essential Cuisine's of Mexico' which is a compilation of the best parts of The Cuisine's of Mexico, Mexican Regional Cooking, and The Tortilla Book.

                                                                              Though it has gotten mixed reveiws! Have you come across it at all? Its quite possible that 'My Mexico' is the same, just advertised differently in the US. I'd like to buy it today!

                                                                              This is what I am talking about:

                                                                              1. re: borisabrams
                                                                                DiningDiva RE: borisabrams Mar 11, 2014 09:20 AM

                                                                                I think I may have this book. Let me check tonight when I get home from work and I'll post back. I for sure have My Mexico, and if I do have Essential Cuisines (and I think I do), I'll compare them side by side and see how different they are.

                                                                                IIRC, Essential Cuisines is more recipe based and My Mexico has more stories and essays in it. I can tell you that The Tortilla Book is exceptional. It's a small volume packed with mostly masa based recipes. It's not particularly difficult to find at 2nd hand bookstores. Mexican Regional, I think, is out of print.

                                                                                The advantage of My Mexico is that it contains most of The Art of Mexican Cooking which is just a tremendous cookbook and resource. I think it was recently updated as well. My original copy is still holding together so I don't need to replace it yet :-)

                                                                            2. re: borisabrams
                                                                              pamf RE: borisabrams Mar 10, 2014 12:15 PM

                                                                              I think that Rick Bayless' "Mexican Everyday". Would be a great starting point for learning about Mexican flavors and dishes. He provides lots of notes on substitutions and is really writing for the American cook.

                                                                              Kennedy is very good reading but the recipes can be challenging.

                                                                            3. re: DiningDiva
                                                                              rudeboy RE: DiningDiva Mar 10, 2014 11:04 AM

                                                                              You gotta get your hands in there and get dirty!

                                                                        2. s
                                                                          SalmonPie RE: borisabrams Mar 9, 2014 12:32 PM

                                                                          One small gem is The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia, by Darra Goldstein. It covers dining traditions, regional specialties, favorite stories...the recipes are delicious, too. It's a cuisine that is distinct from any other.

                                                                          1. Ruthie789 RE: borisabrams Mar 9, 2014 02:21 PM

                                                                            Martin Picard has written a book on the history of the Maple Sugar Shacks in Quebec. It also includes recipes, link below:

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Ruthie789
                                                                              Ruthie789 RE: Ruthie789 Mar 11, 2014 06:49 PM

                                                                              I went to the library and took the book out and brought it back the next day. It has some nudity in it and derogatory pictures of women, I did not understand the addition of the pictures. I retract my recommendation.

                                                                            2. j
                                                                              janniecooks RE: borisabrams Mar 10, 2014 02:07 AM

                                                                              Also check out Lynne Rossetto Kasper's books (these are the two that I have): "The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food" and "The Italian Country Table: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens." Plenty of history and stories mixed in along with great recipes producing great food.

                                                                              Actually, when I pulled these two books from my shelf to respond to your question it struck me that most if not all of my cookbooks DO contain the kind of stories you mention, they are what provide authenticity and represent a well-researched book. I have no recipe books that are merely a compiliation of recipes and I should shun a book if it failed to provide any frame of reference. Perhaps we could turn your question around and ask which cook books do not teach us something more than how to cook XYZ. Here's hoping that if we did it would be a shorter list.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: janniecooks
                                                                                borisabrams RE: janniecooks Mar 10, 2014 10:55 AM

                                                                                I agree! All to often I end up buying cookbooks on-line. I get all hyped up only to get boring lists of generic recipes!

                                                                                Actually this tread has brought to light some great books dealing with food that I would not have even thought of before! Its all very exciting!
                                                                                "The Splendid Table" book definitely looks like something worth investigating!

                                                                                1. re: borisabrams
                                                                                  jmckee RE: borisabrams Mar 11, 2014 11:33 AM

                                                                                  If you can read to the end of the prologue to Italian Country Table without getting a bit misty-eyed, you ain't human.

                                                                              2. jmckee RE: borisabrams Mar 11, 2014 11:37 AM

                                                                                The Supper of the Lamb, by Robert Farrar Capon. http://www.amazon.com/The-Supper-Lamb...

                                                                                The book purports to give a how-to for one recipe: "Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times". But it proceeds to give a marvelous discourse on life in the kitchen as a person who loves to cook. Capon gives side discussions of knives, dieting (he finds it ungenerous of spirit to go to a dinner party and say you're counting calories), and many other topics, ending finally with a discussion of the two types of heartburn -- the physical and the spiritual, recommending bicarb of soda for the former and offering healing words for the latter -- to be expected, since the writer is an Episcopal priest.

                                                                                I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I found my copy at an antique store when the book was formerly out of print, and I turn to it multiple times a year.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: jmckee
                                                                                  kariin RE: jmckee Mar 16, 2014 09:23 PM

                                                                                  I am with you 110%, jmckee. Its one of the books I will buy anytime i see it and give away to friends who love food or are just starting to think and cook. or love to eat and think at the same time.

                                                                                  It gave me the encouragement to cook a leg of lamb for the first time - and then cook my way through all the following servings.

                                                                                  His other food books are equally great: Capon on Cooking.

                                                                                2. k
                                                                                  kariin RE: borisabrams Mar 16, 2014 10:24 PM

                                                                                  'The Carolina Rice Kitchen' by Karen Hess

                                                                                  A deep, serious study of what is now known as 'Low Country' rice cooking, the food of the coast of South Carolina, Georgia and north Florida Sea Islands shaped entirely by the rice brought to the US and cultivated by enslaved people also brought here from west Africa. They were brilliant water engineers and cooks, responsible for the networks of dikes and flooded fields that run up and down the coast and the complete cycle of growing harvesting and cooking rice.

                                                                                  We can now cook and eat this rice and everything made from it. The essential dish of low country cooking is not shrimp and grits, it is a rice pillau (or perlo or pilow...)
                                                                                  with sea island red peas (or other peas/beans).

                                                                                  Eating that food while reading Karen Hess's book based on her research is a very special experience.

                                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: kariin
                                                                                    weem RE: kariin Mar 16, 2014 11:53 PM

                                                                                    That sounds very interesting. I only recently learned that the dominant crop in the South was rice before cotton took over. It's such a pleasure to expand my knowledge like that. I love culinary history as a topic. I have "Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery", which was edited and annotated by the same author, Karen Hess. It's so fascinating to read about what people used to eat, how they cooked it, etc.

                                                                                    1. re: weem
                                                                                      kariin RE: weem Mar 17, 2014 12:31 PM

                                                                                      Thanks Weens. Where are you?

                                                                                      and here:

                                                                                      Before rice, the $ crop was indigo. But rice became the $$ engine for development of a coastline that seemed utterly useless, semi-tropical, malarial swamp, with tidal creeks that flooded, pluff mud and gaters, snappers and snakes. What could produce weath there? Rice.

                                                                                      It is severely labor intensive and demands careful hydro-engineering (physics, earth science of tides and water ph., dike design and construction, planting and harvesting). And the (wealthy, white) people who fled from the rebellions in what is now Haiti knew another crop that demanded intense work: sugar cane. But rice growing was also mastered in west Africa and there was a supply of the people who knew how to do this and could adapt those cultivation methods to a different continent.

                                                                                      The history behind Charleston and Low Country foodways is right there in front of us. You can visit remaining rice plantations all along the tidal rivers. I wish more people cared to look deep. It can be painful but the people who survived and the foodways that are still present deserve recognition and gratitude. As do the folks who've brought back the rice.

                                                                                      do you cook and eat rice?

                                                                                      1. re: kariin
                                                                                        weem RE: kariin Mar 17, 2014 12:54 PM

                                                                                        I'm in California, just demonstrating how limited my grasp on history can be sometimes. I do enjoy filling in the gaps, particularly as it relates to culinary history, so thanks for all the info.

                                                                                        1. re: weem
                                                                                          kariin RE: weem Mar 17, 2014 05:21 PM

                                                                                          And i'm also interested in the culinary histories of California - so many and so different and i know very little. Any suggestions for learning?? Are you interested in SC/southern food?

                                                                                          1. re: kariin
                                                                                            weem RE: kariin Mar 18, 2014 12:55 AM

                                                                                            Culinary histories of California? That's an interesting question. When I think of California cuisine, I think of the more contemporary version (Alice Waters, Judy Rodgers, even Michael Pollan). But historical? There must be information about the cuisine of California when it was a Spanish colony, and, of course, there's the rich heritage of Native American cooking. And you're right, California is a large enough place that there would logically be regional variations. Well, just to pick a book from my city, you might try "Sumptuous Dining in Gaslight San Francisco", chronicling the dining scene in San Francisco (with recipes) from 1875-1915. It's out of print, but shouldn't be hard to find.

                                                                                            1. re: weem
                                                                                              kariin RE: weem Mar 18, 2014 06:40 PM

                                                                                              thanks weem. I'm looking for it thru interlibrary loan.
                                                                                              I'll let you know what i find.

                                                                                            2. re: kariin
                                                                                              emily RE: kariin Mar 18, 2014 07:20 AM

                                                                                              California Rancho Cooking: Mexican and Californian Recipes covers one slice of California culinary history. Not exactly strict culinary history, but MFK Fisher writes about the food she ate growing up in Whittier and Laguna Beach in the early part of the 20th C. in Among Friends.

                                                                                              1. re: emily
                                                                                                kariin RE: emily Mar 18, 2014 06:42 PM

                                                                                                Emily, thanks for reminding me - i remember reading MFK's comments about California but forgot. I'll try to find
                                                                                                California Rancho. Are you living in CA now? It seems like there are really many many different Californias.

                                                                                                1. re: kariin
                                                                                                  emily RE: kariin Mar 18, 2014 08:28 PM

                                                                                                  Yes, grew up in SoCal and have been living in Northern California for a few years now missing the warmer weather I'm used to.

                                                                                      2. re: kariin
                                                                                        borisabrams RE: kariin Mar 17, 2014 02:53 PM

                                                                                        Its crazy how I never knew about Rice cultivation in America!
                                                                                        Your knowledge on the topic is inspiring!
                                                                                        (What book does this come from? The Karen Hess?

                                                                                        1. re: borisabrams
                                                                                          kariin RE: borisabrams Mar 17, 2014 05:18 PM

                                                                                          Thanks boris. No, this is from a monograph prepared for either McKissick or South Caroliniana library on the history (in brief) of rice cultivation in the tidal region of SC. Ms. Hess focuses on the culinary roots of the most representative prepared dish of this region, a rice and bean pilleau (pilau, perlow). She makes an argument and traces the history to support that argument. There are lots of perlow dishes in the region and all across the state: okra perlow, charleston red rice (tomato and bacon with rice), shrimp perlow, crab, chicken etc. Rice dishes like this are common everywhere dry land or wetland rice is grown. Louisiana jambalya is another kind of perlow.
                                                                                          Now, thanks to people who have worked for years, we have brought back this rice, known as Carolina gold, and the Sea Island red peas (aka field peas) that were best combined with that rice. Blackeye peas are more common in middle and upstate SC and elsewhere in the South, but red peas are like nothing else.
                                                                                          Are you interested in SC/southern food?

                                                                                          1. re: kariin
                                                                                            borisabrams RE: kariin Mar 18, 2014 02:32 AM

                                                                                            Ah I see....Ill look online at some used book store cites to see if that have the The Carolina Rice Kitchen!
                                                                                            Do they discuss the American rice history in the 'Seductions of Rice' cookbook? (Alford and Duguid).

                                                                                            Well to be honest, I'm from the UK and unfortunately have little access to Southern Food. All I really know of it is grits and fried chicken, i'm ashamed to admit. Though I am a history buff (my major in college), and the history of the Deep South was one of my favourite. So it is great to learn about the food! I have learnt a bit about the development of Soul Food but nothing substantial!

                                                                                            Okra perlow sounds lovely! But I cant seem to find any recipes online for it.
                                                                                            Have the rice dishes regained their popularity now across the State?

                                                                                      3. k
                                                                                        kariin RE: borisabrams Mar 16, 2014 10:36 PM

                                                                                        Edna Lewis. No one else comes close.


                                                                                        The Edna Lewis Cookbook (1972
                                                                                        )The Taste of Country Cooking (1976)
                                                                                        In Pursuit of Flavor (1988)
                                                                                        The Gift of Southern Cooking (2003), co-authored with
                                                                                        Scott Peacock

                                                                                        1. f
                                                                                          femmevox RE: borisabrams Mar 17, 2014 03:03 PM

                                                                                          Honey from a Weed, Patience Gray

                                                                                          It's as much essays as recipes. She's writing about indigenous Greek and Italian cooking--she was following her husband, a stone sculptor around the Mediterranean.

                                                                                          I think I learned about it from John Thorne, who references her.

                                                                                          It's a beautiful book.

                                                                                          1. ccbweb RE: borisabrams Mar 18, 2014 06:03 AM

                                                                                            Judy Rodgers' Zuni Cafe Cookbook is a fantastic read. It's not a cultural history, as such, but she writes so wonderfully about the _why_ of her recipes and techniques.

                                                                                            1. m
                                                                                              mike0989 RE: borisabrams Mar 18, 2014 02:38 PM

                                                                                              Take a look at Zarlea Martinez's "Food from my Heart: Cuisines of Mexico Remembered and Reimagined" The book talks about her growing up and how her love for food devloped. More than just a list of recipies.

                                                                                              1. AmyH RE: borisabrams Mar 18, 2014 02:55 PM

                                                                                                Naples at Table, Cooking in Campania by Arthur Schwartz is fantastic. He gives a history of the area and great explanations of the ingredients and recipes. Many are from home cooks. Everything I've made from this book has been delicious.


                                                                                                1. v
                                                                                                  VitalForce RE: borisabrams Mar 18, 2014 04:13 PM

                                                                                                  An outstanding book in this area is Clifford A. Wright's "A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean, From the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Coast."

                                                                                                  Much of this 800-page book is a historical examination of the origins, development and spread of foods, agriculture, etc. throughout the Mediterranean, and it is full of excellent recipes. Most interesting is Wright's opinions regarding the crucial influence of Muslim foodways on the southern European coastal countries.

                                                                                                  1. ninrn RE: borisabrams Mar 20, 2014 05:44 PM

                                                                                                    Thought of another one while replying to another thread:

                                                                                                    Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, The Cyclades and Apulia by Patience Gray.

                                                                                                    A beautiful cookbook that's part autobiography and travelogue, too.

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