Cookbook Immortality: Is This the Golden Age?

Author:Sutherland, Matt
Position:Books - Book review

Work Title: Cookbook Immortality: Is This the Golden Age?

Work Author(s): Matt Sutherland

Food

Byline: Matt Sutherland

Imagine living through the Renaissance or the mid- to late-nineteenth century when artistic masterpieces seemed to sprout from every cathedral, palace, and public square in Europe. For some odd reason, the hereditary gods deemed to produce scores of superbly talented artists over the course of a tightly defined generation or two and voila, let there be beauty on a scale never seen before. Poetry, literature, music, philosophy, science, and engineering have all experi-enced heydays over the recent centuries and one can only hope more such periods are in store.

Will culinary historians look back on the turn of this century as the greatest run in cook-books? More of them are being published, to be sure, but the overall quality and content is un-precedented. Every kitchen nook around the globe seems to be represented, from Mongolia to Patagonia, Calcutta to Stockholm. And no, these are not simple recitations of boiled yak and smorgAs recipes. Most often, we find professionally trained, well-traveled chef/authors returning to their out-of-the-way homelands to write about their native foods. The idea is to identify the core ingredients and cooking techniques to retain the smells and flavors, while redesigning reci-pes for use in Western kitchens.

No independent publisher has worked harder to build a portfolio of ethnic cookbook titles than Interlink Books. Their stated mission---changing the way people think about the world---is no mere slogan, as evidenced by the following three recent releases.

Middle Eastern

We begin with Cardamom and Lime: Recipes from the Arabian Gulf by Sarah Al-Hamad (Interlink Books, 978-1-56656-725-1), which features traditional dishes (though by no means tired or unimaginative) from the Gulf states including Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. The dishes are blessedly simple and beautifully photographed, and chapters are limited to "Rice," "Fish and Meat, "Vegetables," "Desserts," and "Tea and Coffee," with ample use of dates and cin-namon and saffron throughout the book and "Rose-scented Rice Pudding" in con-clusion.

Heading to the eastern Mediterranean we find Mezze Modern: Delicious Appetizers from Greece, Lebanon, and Turkey (Interlink Books, 978-1-56656-713-8) which offers small plates and dishes perfectly fit for entertaining. Founder of the first television food show in the...

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