By Dean Tudor, Ryerson Journalism Professor Emeritus and Gothic Epicures Writing, www.deantudor.com (World Wine Watch Newsletter).
There are so many new food and wine books out there and people have such picky tastes!! What to choose? I have cast about for material and have come up with a decent selection to satisfy any pocketbook, any host, and any friend. All books and book-like materials that are listed here are RECOMMENDED, and probably can be purchased at a discount via Amazon.Ca or Chapters.Ca (with free delivery on a total purchase of over $
Part One: TOP
Art/travel books might be the best books to give a loved one (or yourself, since you are your own best loved one), because most may cost you an arm and a leg. But try for a discount. Books for the coffee table have their place in the gift scheme: just about every such book is only bought as a gift! And don't let the prices daunt you. Most such art books are available at a discount from Amazon.Ca. Because of the "economy", not too many pricey food and wine books were released last year, and book reviewers were cut off from foreign imports and expensive books. I found four such books that were good, and one other -
THE COUNTRY COOKING OF IRELAND (Chronicle Books, 2009, 392 pages, $60 CAD, hard covers) is by well-known food and travel writer Colman Andrews, with photos by Chris Hirsheimer. Log rolling endorsements come from Ruth Reichl, Alice Waters, Ruth Rogers, and Terence Conran, but why? I dunno, the book clearly speaks for itself with an acclaimed author. Unless the publisher got nervous about issuing a book at $50US. The book weighs over five pounds. Andrews talks about the people, the countryside, and the food. He gives us 250 classic recipes, accompanied by 100 touristy pix of pubs and countryside and people. Andrews also give us a lot of anecdotes, with some song, folklore and poetry. A great gift for your Irish friend, or a good gift for others.
WHY ITALIANS LOVE TO
EATING INDIA; exploring the food and culture of the land of spices (Bloomsbury UK, 2009, reprinted from 2007, 265 pages, $19 US paper covers) is by Chitrita Banerji, who presents a memoir of Indian food by covering the waves of newcomers who brought innovative new ways to combine the Indian subcontinent's rich native spices. She concentrates on vegetables, fish, grains and pulses, and of course the spices themselves. Lavishly illustrated.
VENEZIA; food & dreams (Whitecap, 2009, 290 pages, $45 CAD hard covers) is another five pound book in weight. It's by Tessa Kiros, once a peripatetic chef and cook. She found her husband in
For the more literate person, there are the "memoirs" of writers, chefs, and wine people. Some have called these memoirs "creative non-fiction", suffering from embellishments and gilding. And also suffering from a lack of indexing, which makes it difficult to find what the writer said about another person or subject. But this also avoids the potential for lawsuits and disjointed noses. Nevertheless, they are rewarding to read. Who cares about poetic license? Here then are some that stood out from last year's run, and any of them would make great gifts for the reader. Here we go, in no particular order
A top pick for me is the reissued THE PHYSIOLOGY OF TASTE, or meditations on transcendental gastronomy (Everyman's Library Classic, 2009, 446 pages, $29.95 CAD hard covers) by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. This is the M.F.K. Fisher translation of the 1825 work, and it comes with a new introduction by Bill Burford. This culinary classic has been defined by the phrase "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are". It's a philosophical collection of recipes, anecdotes, musings, taste, and gastronomy. It comes with a ribbon bookmark. Unfortunately, in today's society, with over-regulation, entitlement, and problems with the food chain, the new message is more "Tell me what you are, and I will tell you what you eat."
COOKING DIRTY; a story of life, sex, love and death in the kitchen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, 355 pages, $32.50 CAD hard covers) is supposed to be an account of life "on the kitchen line" by Jason Sheehan, the food writer for Westworld in Denver. He won a Beard in 2003. Here he recounts all the mean jobs that he has held since the age of 15: scraping trays at a pizzeria, and at an all-night diner, a crab shack, a French colonial, a fusion resto, and others. He says that cooking is a series of personal challenges, and the kitchen is a place where people from the margins find their community. Nifty writing, in the vein of early Anthony Bourdain.
THE GASTRONOMY OF MARRIAGE; a memoir of food and love (Random House, 2009, 237 pages, $18.95 CAD soft covers) is by Michelle Maisto, and it is the story of Michelle (Italian background) and Rich (Chinese background) living together before marriage as they sort out their food likes and dislikes. Each background has traditions and rituals, and each has its own comfort foods. The couple has differences, disagreements, and displeasures they all need to be sorted out. The nightly ritual of dinner becomes a testing ground for sorting out both of their lives, and they do it with love.
CONFECTIONS OF A CLOSET MASTER BAKER (Broadway Books, 2009, 226 pages, $29.95 CAD hard covers) is by Gesine Bullock Prado, Sandra's sister and head of her production company. But she was unhappy and baked sugar/butter goods to assuage her misery. Eventually, she left
FAT OF THE
HUNGRY MONKEY; a food-loving father's quest to raise an adventurous eater (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, 260 pages, $30 CAD hard covers) is by Matthew Amster-Burton, a former restaurant critic and food writer who is now a stay-at-home dad. This book is really about feeding difficult kids, and he has dozens of recipes listed in the table of contents. He writes about the highs and lows of teaching a child about food. The memoir is engaging, especially since it covers the joys of food and parenting. Good to read, and good to learn from.
Things are a little slow in the memoir world of wines. I saw only a handful. One was CORKED (Wiley, 2009, 237 pages, $29.95 hard covers) by Kathryn Borel, a former wine writer with Eye newspaper (some of this book was previously published there), and involved with Fresh Air (
Another was the more practical TONY ASPLER'S CELLAR BOOK; how to design, build, stock and manage your wine cellar wherever you live (Random House Canada, 2009, 340 pages, $32.95 CAD hard covers) by Canada's most well-known wine writer and Member of the Order of Canada. It comes complete with printed wine stains, an interesting innovation. I contributed to this book, so I am not allowed to be overly-excited by it (conflict of interest rules). But Tony does have a memoir-ish style since most chapters are expressed in the form of his journeys through life. His book is about guidelines without boundaries for modest to expensive wine safekeeping, whether in a professional cellar or temporarily in a kitchen. Of importance is his chapter on condos (he recently bought a condo and had to make a wine cellar work). He has recommendations for what wines should be in a wine cellar, to accommodate most budgets and expenses. There are plenty of charts and tables for wine names, grape comparisons, regions, and wine styles, plus food and wine matches (and wine and food matches) and "dream" cellars. Other sections include a wine vocabulary.
And what's a holiday without humour or a novel to curl up with? We seem to have another bumper crop this year
LAMBRUSCO (Anchor Books, 2009, 352 pages, $16.95 CAD soft cover reprint) was published last year, but it reappears in
THE VINTAGE CAPER (Knopf, 2009, 223 pages, $29.95 hard covers) is by Peter Mayle of "Year in
A LITTLE DISTILLERY IN NOWGONG (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009, 456 pages, $27.95 CAD hard covers) is by Ashok Mathur. It's his third novel, and all have been published by Arsenal. His previous "The Short, Happy Life of Harry Kumar" was short listed for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. This is both a fantasy and an historical novel, tracing the lives of three generations of a Parsi family in
GONE WITH THE WINE; the wine cartoons of Doug Pike (Wine Appreciation Guild, 2009, 114 pages, $12.95 US paperback) is loaded with gags from the wine world. Pike is a regular feature on erobertparker.com (Parker contributes a Foreword here). The 100 cartoons are arranged by topic (retail experience, waiters, winemakers, parties, etc.). My fave: a customer is asking a wine store clerk "What have you got in the way of a Cabernet Sauvignon for people who like Zinfandel when they can't find Merlot?" Anybody know the answer? Please email me
KITCHEN SCRAPS; a humourous illustrated cookbook (Whitecap Books, 2009, 198 pages, $29.95 CAD soft covers) is an overly large 8.5 by 11 paperback crafted by Pierre Lamielle who is obviously nuts in a nice way. He is imaginative, both in the recipes and in the presentations. Chapters are divided into dishes you eat with a spoon, those you eat with a fork, those you eat with your hands, and those you eat with a forkenknife. It is eccentric in prose, but it all works. You just have to read the recipe directions very carefully to avoid any overthetop excesses. In other words, you need to know when he is just kidding. As we said in high school, "quelle fun". Check out his blog at www.kitchenscraps.ca.
Okay, this is now the hard part since we must pay for our sins of overeating during the December period. It is January
THE AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION GUIDE TO HERBS & NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS; what you need to know from Aloe to Zinc (