Our favorite food books of 2011 | David Downie

Our favorite food books of 2011

By Friday, December 23, 2011 Permalink

by Jonell Galloway

Cookbooks:

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, by Maria Speck

My favorite cookbook of the year. Maria Speck knows how to incorporate ancient whole grains from around the world into dishes that remain rustic on the edges, but healthy, original and elegant at the same time. The technical explanations about ancient grains are excellent, as well as her explanations about general cooking techniques. The food stories she incorporates here and there about growing up in Greece and Germany add a touch of charm.

A must for any health-conscious real food lover who wants to eat interesting food combinations and dishes with a touch more sophistication that can pleasantly surprise guests, but not take them totally away from their references, because the dishes are for the most part influenced by Mediterranean cuisine.

For poetry-loving foodies:

The Poet’s Cookbook: Recipes from Germany, poems by 33 American poets with German translations

The Poet’s Cookbook: Recipes from Tuscany, poems by 28 Italian and American poets

I love the original concept of these books, pairing a food poem with a recipe. A poem by our Food Poetry Editor, Christina Daub, “Wine“, appears in the Tuscany version.

Farming: A Hand Book, by Wendell Berry

As a Kentuckian, Wendell Berry has forever been my mentor. He is, in my mind, the precursor of the Slow Food philosophy in the U.S., through the philosophy he has cultivated and spread for over 50 years now, well before Petrini and company started the Slow Food movement. Whether writing prose or poetry, he is always eloquent, and the same message of integrity, respect for others and for the land is the central message. This is one more inspiring book of poetry to add to our shelves of books to keep forever, that will comfort us in times of trouble, that we will pick up time and time again when we’re losing faith in humanity, devastated by the disrespect shown to the land, losing touch with our roots. Berry always says what he thinks in all his eloquence and with true gentillesse, but more than that, he lives the life he preaches, and that is consoling.

For food lovers, wine lovers, and culinary travelers:

Food Wine Rome, by David Downie and Alison Harris, published by The Little Bookroom, part of The Terroir Guides series

Food Wine Burgundy, by David Downie and Alison Harris, published by The Little Bookroom, part of The Terroir Guides series

Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light, by David Downie

David Downie writes wonderful articles for The Rambling Epicure and Alison does exquisite food photo exhibits for our Food Art section. I can never get enough of their work, because the writing is exquisite and full of literary and historical references, and the photos are truly art. Downie always shows you the insider’s view of whatever he writes about, and Alison has a great eye for catching the very essence of what they’re covering, whether it be truffle hunting or discovering little out-of-the way restaurants in isolated villages. You can never go wrong with their books.

For bread lovers:

Dictionnaire Universel du Pain, by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac

Jean-Philippe de Tonnac also writes for The Rambling Epicure, and has recently become THE bread writer all bakers want to meet. This book should in my mind be translated into English immediately. It offers a wealth of information about bread from time immemorial, covering techniques and breads from around the world, as well as spirituality, sex, gluten intolerance, bakers as poets, bakers as prophets and much more. “Encyclopedia” would be a more appropriate term than “dictionary”.

Mindful eating:

The Self-Compassion Diet: Guided Practices to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness by Jean Fain

Jean Fain has tried every diet out there, so she can speak with authority about the subject of weight loss. She is also affiliated with Harvard Medical School as a psychotherapist, so she has the credentials to talk about the subject. Her book takes a totally different approach to weight loss than any I’ve seen. She doesn’t count calories and restrict what you eat. Her approach is instead through the mind, to become mindful of what we eat, when we eat (when stressed or lonely, for example), why we eat (out of need to nourish ourselves or out of boredom or frustration); to appreciate what we eat, and above all to be conscious of our entire relationship with food.

The book teaches you how to take control of yourself and your relationship to food so that you can change the way you think about food in general, so that eating becomes a totally different experience. Jean does this through loving-kindness, self-hypnosis, meditation and numerous other weight-loss approaches, which you follow gradually, not all in one go. She also offers a CD including guided meditations to help patients after they have stopped therapy.

Her main thrust is self-love, that we must not be too hard on ourselves, or we’ll fall back in to our old and bad habits quickly. The beauty of the book and CD combination is that you can live half way around the planet and still follow her method.

For lovers of literature: food essays and prose:

Slow Food: Collected Thoughts on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures of Food, by Carlo Petrini and Ben Watson

This book consists of an anthology of articles by the world’s top food writers, making me remember the old days when we’d visit the family in the countryside and how I thought it odd that they grew all their vegetables themselves and knew how to can them; how they drank milk straight from the cow (one of my fondest childhood memories), and how we relished in those meals, how it built bonds between us. “Drawn from five years of the quarterly journal Slow (only recently available in America), this book includes more than 100 articles covering eclectic topics from “Falafel” to “Fat City.” From the market at Ulan Bator in Mongolia to Slow Food Down Under, this book offers an armchair tour of the exotic and bizarre. You’ll pass through Vietnam’s Snake Tavern, enjoy the Post-Industrial Pint of Beer, and learn why the lascivious villain in Indian cinema always eats Tandoori Chicken.”

For pastry makers and lovers:

Mich Turner’s  Masterclass: The Ultimate Guide to Cake Decorating Perfection, by Mich Turner, published by Jacqui Small LLP, London

Mitch Turner’s cake decorating book is worthy of a fine art book in its presentation, and of an encyclopedia in terms of the detailed explanations about cake decorating. Her pastry and cakes are truly works of art. A must for all pastry makers, whether professional or amateur.

Food art:

From Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography, by Hélène Dujardin

This book is special for many reasons. There are lots of people out there trying to learn food photography without a clue as to even the basic techniques required and no possibility of taking a food photography workshop. This is the book for them, because all the basics plus quite a lot more are explained in a clear, direct manner. It also verges on being an art book, because it is illustrated by Dujardin’s beautiful food photography.

 

 

 

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Our favorite food books of 2011 | David Downie

Food Art: The Glory of Figs, by Meeta Khurana Wolff

By Friday, December 23, 2011 Permalink

See more beautiful photo compositions at Meeta K. Wolff. She runs the popular blog What’s For Lunch Honey?

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Swiss Cookware: Unbeatable Quality and Made to Last a Lifetime

By Wednesday, December 21, 2011 Permalink
by Jonell Galloway

A Perfect Last-minute Christmas Gift for Foodlovers

High-quality Swiss cookware is a world away from supermarket style non-stick pans and traditional French copper.

Durotherm-Kuhn Rikon-Swiss cookware-pots-pans-Switzerland-the rambling epicure-jonell galloway-genevalunch-Swiss
Double-walled Durotherm pan.
Photo courtesy of Kuhn Rikon.

 

I lived in France for many years, and swore by my French copper pans and Godin gas stove. On arrival in Switzerland, where many homes (at least ours) were long ago converted to convection cookers, I longed for my Godin and shiny copper pans, all shaped to meet the special purpose they were made for.

But since my philosophy in life is to “go local”, whether I’m in the Sahara or Geneva, Switzerland, I immediately started doing my research, and was more than pleasantly surprised at Swiss engineering and design skills when it comes to modern cookware. Their cookware is not only made to last a lifetime; it is made to conserve vitamins and is ecological.

So to get to the end of this long-winded tale, I would suggest the following gifts for any cook, whether gourmet or amateur. They will thank you every time they use it, and they will most likely use it every day for just about the rest of their lives.

Swiss Diamond Cookware

I already gave Swiss Diamond a rave review in my post of 12 June 2009, The perfect non-stick frying pan: Swiss Diamond. I haven’t changed my mind. Because they are made of thick, cast aluminium, they sear meat and fish like an old-fashioned iron skillet, but using less fat. The non-stick finish is unbeatable, practically unscratchable, because it really is made with minuscule diamond chips!

Kuhn Rikon Durotherm Pans

Kuhn Rikon Durotherm heavy-duty, double-walled pans allow you to steam vegetables, meat or fish with no fat and little water. The water turns to steam and recirculates inside the pan, thus allowing you to maintain the vitamins and eat fat-free. Thanks to the double wall, the pans maintain the heat for 2 hours after cooking, so it’s great for cooking up dishes before guests arrive.

Durotherm pans are good for one-dish meals and cooking vegetables on an everyday basis. They also cook vegetables more quickly than boiling in a normal saucepan, and vegetables are never water-logged. The steam recirculation method prevents the vitamins from “leaking out” into the water.

I often steam my vegetables in a Durotherm, and then at the end carefully lay a piece of fish on top of the vegetables, making sure no water touches it, and put the lid on and let it steam-cook. It takes about 5 minutes for an average-size piece of cod, for example.

The Glories of Swiss Engineering

Swiss diamond cookware, available at many butcher shops.
Swiss diamond cookware,
available at many butcher shops.

 

OK, I’ll end this lengthy tale with a summary, praising the glories of Swiss engineering, which applies not only to bridges, tunnels, and roads, but also to cookware.

It is true that these pans require a greater investment than the lighter weight, supermarket versions, but in the long run, they work out to be much cheaper.

When you scratch a frying pan with a regular PTFE non-stick coating, many health experts advise throwing them away. All it takes is a nick with a metal knife or fork, and it’s ready for the bin. Swiss Diamond coatings are of a much hardier sort.

Durotherm pans are also energy-saving and water-saving. They come with a made-to-size serving base that allows you to set them right on the table, and they are attractive enough to do just that.

In addition, all these pans are made of a much heavier metal, so not only do they cook better, they do not bend out of shape when put on high heat. They really are long-term investments, thus making them ecological as well, since you don’t have to continuously renew your cookware and throw out the old ones.

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Switzerland: About Cardoons, Geneva’s Favorite Winter Vegetable

By Monday, December 19, 2011 Permalink

Anyone living in Geneva really should know how to prepare cardoons, since it is Geneva’s favorite winter vegetable, and even has a right to an AOC, i.e. an official certified appellation, the “Geneva cardoon.” The problem is it is time-consuming and tedious, namely due to its prickly thistles.

Cardoons are one of Geneva’s favorite Christmas dishes, when it is most often served au gratin, but they are served in a variety of ways all winter long.

Viviane Bauquet Geneva cardoons. Jonell Galloway.Farre gives a wonderful explanation on how to prepare and blanch those tasty but thistly dears.

The Chapuis family, who does the Boulevard Hélvétique market in Geneva on Wednesday and Saturday, started preparing them and sealing them in vacuum packs a couple of years ago, and it has been so successful that everyone is following suit.

So if you’re brave enough, prepare them yourself. Otherwise, know you have an alternative. More and more sellers are copying the Chapuis and removing the thorns for you.

Originally published on GenevaLunch.

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Say Cheese!

By Monday, December 19, 2011 Permalink

by Alice DeLuca

Many years ago, on a train traveling slowly through the French countryside – I don’t remember exactly where and I refuse to invent a location for the sake of a story — I met a man whose job it was to sell cheese mold. This friendly man was sitting in the same compartment with me. I was naturally apprehensive when he started to speak. Sometimes men traveling on trains want to share stories and sometimes they want to show young women other things whether the women are interested or not, but that is another story.

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David Downie: Christmas in Paris is All about Eating and Drinking, What Happened to Jesus?

By Monday, December 19, 2011 Permalink

In most Christian countries, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, to more or lesser degrees. In consumer-driven countries, much of Jesus’ birthday is lost as people scurry around looking for the perfect Christmas gifts.

Birth of Jesus in a Kabyle Catholic book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Downie thinks Christmas in Paris is focused mostly on food, and just a little on Jesus. The more foie gras, smoked salmon, champagne, and everything else rich under the sun you can slide down your gullet, the better. It’s about good food, but also about excess. It’s about dressing up all pretty and going from one meal or party to another. It’s about having a crise de foie or “liver attack”, as the French call it, after the holidays.

Read David Downie’s take on it.

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Simon Says: Daily Food Quote, December 19, 2011

By Monday, December 19, 2011 Permalink

by Simón de Swaan

There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them.–P.J. O’Rourke

Patrick Jake “P. J.” O’Rourke (1947-) is an American political satirist, journalist, writer, and author. O’Rourke is the H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute and is a regular correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, The American Spectator, and The Weekly Standard.

 

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Portuguese Delights: Arbutus or “Tree Strawberry” Cream

By Friday, December 16, 2011 Permalink

by Gerês

I love to go to Gerês in autumn: The warm colors of the leaves. The tranquility of the surroundings and the breathtaking landscape always take me to another dimension, hard to define in only words. I lose myself in those glorious woods; I lose track of time too.

I take my time walking, enjoying nature’s generosity and gathering mushrooms and arbutus, also known as “tree strawberries”. And this year I was happy to discover that the arbutus trees were covered with vibrant yellow, red, and orange berries, most of them ready to be picked and eaten. They have a delicious sweet/tart taste and a singular texture. Soft but with very small pips, that give them a tiny bit of crunch, and perfect when dipped and baked in a smooth cream. They remind me of my care-free childhood in the hills of Gerês, when only the present existed and every moment had a magical aura.

When I returned home, I still had all these tastes and scents floating in my mind and I wanted to make them into some delicious concrete delight instead of just a memory. Once more, I found myself pottering in the kitchen, cooking a smooth fruity cream made out of memories.

Recipe

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Simon Says: Daily Food Quote, December 16, 2011

By Friday, December 16, 2011 Permalink

by Simón de Swaan

In my experience, clever food is not appreciated at Christmas. It makes the little ones cry and the old ones nervous.–Jane Grigson

Jane Grigson was a notable English cookery writer who wrote over 20 cookbooks and whose growing interest in food and cooking led to the writing of her first book, Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery (1967), which was accorded the unusual honour for an English food writer of being translated into French.

 

 

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Food Art: Tapas, Tapas, by Steve Homer

By Friday, December 16, 2011 Permalink

Our latest food artist discovery: food photographer Steve Homer of Sabor de Almería in the southeast of Spain.

 

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