10 great pacific northwest cookbooks, plus extras

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I’ve done some thinking on Oregon and greater Northwest cookbooks and other food books after receiving such interest in the cookbooks section of my annual holiday food gifts post.  I thought I’d share them for you, my dear last-minute gifters.  These are books that are not just local, but actually provide singular and excellent recipes and/or comprehensive techniques (not the case with the still-in-print for its baffling popularity, A Taste of Oregon cookbook).

If you can’t get your hands on The Oregonian from 1942 or some of our earliest and most rare cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th century — like the Web-Foot Cook Book (1885), A Portland Girl at the Chafing Dish (1890), or the Washington Women’s suffrage fundraising cookbook (1909) — and you can’t make a visit to the UO Knight Library Special Collections, might I suggest:

  • Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast is a comprehensive system from the esteemed Portland (and former Eugenius) baker/restaurateur.  It provides the intermediate-and-above home baker with techniques to make various starters and big, beautiful loaves.
  • The Paley Place Cookbook by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley is one of the classics of PNW regional cooking.  As I wrote in a review in 2009 for Eugene Weekly, “The gorgeous photos and high quality paper make the coffee table-sized [book] a visual treat. […] Some fabulous dishes that can be recreated by the creative home cook, like lamb shoulder on hay and lavender, are just the beginning. I found myself marking so many pages: homemade cranberry juice, ricotta cheese, summer corncob stock for light soups … wow. A section called “Hazelnuts Make Everything Taste Better” and portraits of wild salmon fishermen and mushroom foraging stamp this book as a PNW classic. Some very complex dishes, such as the elk shoulder, are interspersed with simpler preparations, like a mint and fava bean pappardelle or a side of peas and carrots with bacon.”
  • The Grand Central Baking Book, from the same review: “I had to wrestle it out of my editor’s floury fingers. She was muttering something about gingerbread, so I thought quick and baked up some delectable oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and a rosemary bread pudding before she could renew her strength and overtake me. This one’s a delight. Piper Davis, the co-owner of Portland’s celebrated Grand Central Baking Company, has partnered with pastry chef Ellen Jackson in a beautifully produced collection of breads, cakes and sweet and savory projects, all outlined with clear instructions and images on beautiful paper.”
  • James Beard’s tome, American Cookery, is not exactly a PNW cookbook, but it includes recipes distilled from years of writing a column in The Oregonian.  One might likewise check out The Oregonian Cookbook, which has a full chapter on Beard’s recipes, plus another good chapter on recipes by local chefs.
  • Beard’s good friend Helen Evans Brown’s West Coast Cook Book, is the best cookbook from the 1950s I’ve seen and perhaps the only truly regional/locavore one from ’round these parts written in that era, full of historical sources and then-contemporary recipes from up and down the left coast.  She’s witty and has a good palate, too.
  • Scio, Oregon-based Linda Ziedrich’s twin preservation cookbooks, The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Preserves and The Joy of Pickling, are undoubtedly the two books I turn to most often for preserving local produce.  Everything from rosehips to peas to prunes, with most techniques based on her Master Food Preserver training, are covered in the books.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda for the Register-Guard a few years ago.
  • Modernist Cuisine at Home, by a massive team led by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, will delight the science/molecular gastronomists in your home.  This isn’t really my style of cooking, but everyone who enjoys it seems to be thrilled by this giant handbook.  It’s a less giant and more home-oriented version of the 6-volume monster version for the professional cook, which I have perused and written about and exhibited and pondered at length, so I can predict with some authority that the little brother is likely beautiful and precise and gel-dust-sous vide-foamy.

And here are two more for your consideration, not cookbooks but still excellent for the PNW food and bev lover:

  • Lisa Morrison’s Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest came to my attention after taking her class on beer glasses in Astoria, and I did a tiny interview with her for AAA’s Via magazine.  She’s part owner of Portland’s Belmont Station, and knows the PNW beer scene better than almost anyone.  The book provides breweries, beer lists, and pub crawls.
  • The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe, a seed steward, agricultural activist, and Harvard-trained scientist whose vegetable lines are grown by local Willamette Valley farmers to great acclaim.  The book sets out a plan for improving your garden’s health and heartiness by cultivating the most nutrient-enriched foods, like squash (Carol’s own breed of ‘Oregon Homestead’ sweet meat squash, which I wrote about in Eugene Magazine this fall), beans, potatoes, corn, and reaping the best from small livestock, like her heritage Ancona ducks.

And these were the cookbooks I mentioned earlier, just for completion’s sake:

  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book, one of the only cocktail books out there to offer a solid, technique-based guide for the home bartender.  Expect to understand principles and classics, not fancy trends.
  •  Boat, a Whale & a Walrus by Seattle chef Renee Erickson, whose restaurants — modern, chic, vibrant, briny — embody perhaps the epitome of contemporary PNW cuisine.
  • Not a cookbook, quite, but Heather Arndt Anderson’s new book about the food history of our fair City of Roses to the north, Portland: A Food Biography, promises to be filled with fun facts and even some descriptive recipes.  Her Tumblr page is fascinating and reflects her research acumen; be sure to click through to buy the book directly from her or the publisher. It also has a chapter on vintage Portland and Oregon cookbooks.
  • Anthony Boutard’s Beautiful Corn, the best treatment I’ve seen on the science and culinary merit of corn from a mellifluous farmer/writer in the tradition of Wendell Berry.
  • Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home by my fellow Eugene locavore, Elin England, whose second book concentrates on the local Renaissance of staple crops we’ve been experiencing.

Disclaimer:  Apart from the two books I reviewed for EW, I didn’t get any of these books for free, dang it.  Doing it wrong, as usual.  But the pleasure in the purchase is all mine.

 

10 christmas gifts for your favorite eugenius

IMG_0178Just a few tidbits you might want to consider for last-minute, local, food-and-bev- oriented gifts.  Or, you know, start your shopping NOW.  I’m saying this kind of gloatingly from my high horse of Canning Nirvana Christmas Presents.  Actually, I’m sitting on a mountain of frozen food and gloating.  Ouch. It’s chilly up here.  For those reasons, I’m always late on the food blogger giving buyable Christmas present lists.  Sorry.  That doesn’t mean these things aren’t worthwhile.

1)  A blown glass golden pierogi ornament, as pictured above on my mantel.  Forget those German pickle ornaments as so last year.  There are also golden ravioli, if you are so unfortunate as to not be Polish.

2)  A couple of bottles of O Wines chardonnay, which is an initiative to raise scholarship funds for young women, owned and managed by St. Michelle Wine Estates.  Read more here about the story and wine.  I received a sample of the red table wine and the chard, and both are pleasant and food-friendly and budget-happy, perfect for a gift for any family holiday party.  Also, the logo looks like our ‘O’ for University of Oregon, so sportsfans would dig it. Their website notes that many of our local groceries (Albertsons and Safeways, Fred Meyers, and the Market of Choice on Green Acres) all carry the chard; not sure about the Red Blend.

IMG_9633 IMG_96343)  Silicone goodness at Hartwick’s, if you can’t afford that sous vide machine or the Vitamix you’ve your loved one has been craving.  These perfectly square ice cubes are oddly satisfying; the trays are often used by high-end bars.  I’m not sure who else uses the silicone spatulas but me, but I wholly endorse them as one of my favorite kitchen items.  You can use the business end or the handle for stirring and scraping various-sized projects, and high heat is ok.

IMG_80264) A gorgeous wood pasta board or cutting board, custom-made by Bill Anderson in Eugene.  Chef Rosa Mariotti‘s partner, Bill Anderson, is a retired engineer and woodworker, and he’s been making these lovely pasta/pastry boards and smaller cutting boards from various hardwoods, some exotic like the striped tigerwood.  I have an entire album of samples here. They’ve kindly offered to sell the boards as a fundraiser for the Master Food Preservers of Lane County, OR. The pasta boards go for $90 and up (with the tigerwood being on the higher end), and Rosa can fill you in on the price of the smaller boards. I bought one of each, and they’re spectacular. For inquiries, send a message to Rosa on Facebook!  IMG_9619IMG_96185) Tomato-scented candles at Marché Provisions, because it’s almost summer again, right?  I like the scent of the tomato leaf one better than the prettier tomato one, but it’s up to you to choose looks over talent.  Or just buy any beeswax candle ever. They’re so sweet and slightly honey-sticky and that butterscotch color.  Yum.

IMG_9622IMG_9625 IMG_96286) Also at Provisions, some truffles with local spirits (Bendistillery, Clear Creek, House Spirits, among others); a “Sniffle Slayer” lolly with lemon, ginger, honey and cayenne; and Hott Smoke sauce, which would kick those truffles’ and lollies’ asses. IMG_9636 7)  Any number of fascinating little kibbles and bits at Sequential Biofuel, our loving local gas station with all kinds of healthy, sustainable, and gluten-free-friendly stuff, like a bison “candy” bar.

8)  An independent food magazine. So important now that media publishing has gone to hell.

9)  But the reason I’m really here is because I want to talk cookbooks.  If your loved one cooks, these are the ones that grabbed me this year:

  •  Molly Stevens’ All About Braising, an essential addition to your collection, even though you think you know all about braising.  I just got it and I love it.  Pair with her book on Roasting.
  • Tartine No. 3, the famed bakery’s new all grain baking book.  Probably not for the beginner, but you could try.  The recipes are thrilling for anyone who is struggling to perfect the no-knead technique.
  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler‘s The Bar Book, also via Chronicle Books.  It’s pretty fab, unsurprisingly, as one of the only cocktail books out there to offer a solid, technique-based guide for the home bartender.  Expect to understand principles and classics, not fancy trends.
  •  Boat, a Whale & a Walrus by Seattle chef Renee Erickson, whose restaurants — modern, chic, vibrant, shellfishy — embody perhaps the epitome of PNW cuisine.
  • Not a cookbook, quite, but Heather Arndt Anderson’s new book about the food history of our fair City of Roses to the north, Portland: A Food Biography, promises to be filled with fun facts and even some recipes.  Her Tumblr page is fascinating and reflects her research acumen, but be sure to click through to buy the book directly from her or the publisher.
  • And two hyper-local farm-to-table cookbooks:  Anthony Boutard’s Beautiful Corn, the best treatment I’ve seen on the science and culinary merit of corn from a mellifluous farmer/writer in the tradition of Wendell Berry, and a great collection of local recipes for Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home by my fellow Eugene locavore, Elin England.

IMG_018210) Aaaaand, for the ridiculous person on your list, one of the silliest things I’ve seen this year: costumes for your wine bottles.  Available alongside many more reasonable gifts at Cost Plus.  Or consider the leather cooler I saw on a clickbait site for gifts for the adventurous eater, or that damned “aroma fork” thing that makes your fork smell.  WHY.  Why not?

 

thanks, judy

263926_10100441385122531_2250107_nFor every delicious mouthful.  I made your roast chicken for my Thanksgiving-for-One feast this year, just before you passed on to the great dinner party in the sky.  Of course I would.  It was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in my life.  Bright, simple, balanced: the chicken was roasted ’til golden fat in the big brick oven, then pieced out and laid atop peppery greens and crispy whisps of bread crouton, which mingled with the juices.

269465_10100441385237301_8280984_nA revelation each and every time.  A needed reminder that there is a moment or two of grace left in the world.

I took these photos at Judy Rodgers‘ restaurant, Zuni Café in San Francisco, a few years ago.  The roasted chicken bread salad had been served there for many years, and it was such an iconic dish it even made it into her NYT obituary twice, once in text and once as the image of Ms. Rodgers at work.  I don’t often say this, but the dish was more than just poetry or symphonic taste, it was a reflection of who we are and what we mean to do in creating food to share.  I learned to cook in the late 80s as a high school student in the Midwest who would soon find her way out to Northern California for college.  The new landscape, the wonders of Berkeley Bowl, and a boyfriend who shared the adventure with me were instrumental to my own education.  And all of this was fed by the revolution going on around me, one Judy Rodgers was helping to foment.  So for me, California cuisine was cooking.

Sitting in front of that platter of chicken bread salad many years later, and taking it in for just a moment — understanding the room California cuisine gives us to ponder the elements, thinking about the life that was sacrificed, the hands that formed the bread and picked the greens, and the unerring creative mind that knew one classic dish could resist dining fads and fancies — was almost better than the first spear of juicy chicken dressed with a little balsamic and olive oil, a stray leaf, a shattered bit of bread.

Let anyone who dares argue that food is not art take on a dish like this, emblematic of a life and a movement and a time and a place.

282367_10100444363947941_2325507_nAnd so good I just might just make it my Thanksgiving tradition from now on.

264256_10100441384848081_6046104_nFor a recipe, see Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation, or buy the Zuni Café Cookbook, one of the absolutely best American cookbooks in existence.

Chef Judy Rodgers, with the greatest respect, RIP.

culinaria eugenius in new york: tell me what street compares with mott street

“Kitchen Allegory,” Jessica Jackson Hutchins (2010) and Sideboard, Jan Martense Scheck house (mid 18th c., New York), both at the Brooklyn Museum.

Some great panels at the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference last week in New York.  I was really inspired by the folks browsing their way through hundreds of community cookbooks and entire runs of popular cooking magazines.  Having done archival research on newspapers myself, I know how grueling that kind of reading is.  I can’t imagine it would be easier with recipes involved.

Also saw what could happen if a researcher doesn’t put the time and effort into a holistic approach.  Downright dismayed by the lack of understanding of and interest in food culture west of the Hudson.  That’s long been a complaint of mine in New York culinary publishing, and you’ve probably heard me froth at the mouth about Cook’s Illustrated and the New York Times, in particular, treating California as if it’s a foreign land of exotic fruits in all senses of the word.  To say nothing of Oregon.  But at the conference, I saw this blindness in action at all levels of the industry, and it was sobering.  To ignore California is to ignore the way our country produces and distributes food.  And we all know what that means.

Possibly the most fascinating aspect of the conference was one we wouldn’t dream of managing at a literature conference (lest we litter the proceedings with litterateurs).  The mingling of historians and food writers in two streams directed at research and industry!  An intrepid voyager could take in the entire history of Jewish cookbooks in the West, for example, then learn how to profit from the latest cookbook app.  Or hear more about the dishes featured in Willa Cather’s fiction, then receive advice on writing culinary fiction appealing to New York’s elite publishing houses. Need an agent?  Fancy more information about 18th century French cooking?  Having trouble with timing your recipes?  Pondering the Chinese immigrant experience?  They had us covered.

I was a little cowed, I’ll admit, by the blogging presence and emerging industry represented at the conference. I know for sure I don’t want this blog to become a moneymaking enterprise.  Way too commercial for me.  I need a place to freely write, not a venue for generating ever more traffic because of my concept and brand.  My platform.  That’s the term they used.  But it was interesting to hear some of the possibilities for the field.

One of my favorite panels was on cookbooks as propaganda, led by Gastronomica editor Darra Goldstein.  The participants were constitutional legal scholar, John Finn (left, above), a literature professor, Megan Elias (middle), and a chef/sociologist, Krishnendu Ray (right).  I managed to snap a shot of Ray’s analysis of the visual rhetoric of cookbook covers.  He’s gesturing toward The French Laundry Cookbook in its chef’s whites, and discussing subtle ways in which the culinary elite represents itself in design, comparing it to representations of “ethnic” cooking as in the Indian cookbook in front of him.  Looking forward to reading more of his work on ethnography in the American restaurant.

And speaking of which, I was doing my own ethnography in the American restaurant when I wasn’t attending panels.   Yes, more Chinese food, more dumplings, more Sichuan.  If you’d like to take a look at a photo set of my trip to Chinatown or another of the food-related artwork I saw at the Brooklyn Museum, the albums are available to all on my Facebook page.

Hm, maybe dumplings could be my platform.  Mmmm, doughy, soup-filled platform.

pnw cookbook reviews 2009

I had the great pleasure of reviewing new Pacific Northwest cookbooks for the Eugene Weekly‘s annual Procrastinators’ Gift Guide, out on the stands today.  Check out the latest in home cookin’ ’round these here parts:

  • The Paley’s Place Cookbook by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley;
  • Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest by Tami Parr;
  • The Grand Central Baking Book by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson;
  • Rustic Fruit Desserts by Corey Schreiber and Julie Richardson; and
  • The Adaptable Feast: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarians, Vegans, and Omnivores at Your Table and The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally by Ivy Manning.

Vitaly Paley commented that he found Oregon similar to France, respecting and sustaining local products and traditional methods.  I couldn’t agree more, especially after reading these beautiful books.  I’ll admit that I’m a cookbook junkie, and will read them cover to cover like novels.  In fact, I probably read cookbooks more than any other book.  But it’s been many years since I’ve seriously considered American cookery.  I’m drawn more to ethnic cookbooks, just because I need more help with the ingredients and methods.  These cookbooks made me change my mind.  Ouch, I was seriously bitten by the cookbook bug.  I’d love to do more reviewing in the future — publishers, authors, readers, got anything in mind that MUST be reviewed for 2010?  I can’t make any promises, of course, but I’m interested in hearing from you.

Check out Tami Parr’s cheese blog or Ivy Manning’s cooking blog if you like the style and theme of their books.  I’m new to Ivy’s blog, but have been reading Tami’s for quite some time for PNW cheese events and reviews. Right now, she’s featuring a compelling selection of cheeses for holiday giving.

I’m sad that my copies of the fabulous The Joy of Pickling (rev. ed.) and The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Preserves arrived too late to be included in the EW review, but I plan to make amends.  :)  In the meantime, check out author Linda Ziedrich’s preservation blog and browse these lovely cookbooks at your nearest bookstore.  They’re a wonderful addition to the Ball Blue Book preservation repertoire, which is great but rather old-fashioned.  Ziedrich stresses food safety (with some exceptions) much more than the French preservation cookbooks with unusual recipes, and she also includes many international recipes from the Middle East and Asia, so you’ll find many unique recipes.  And her PNW cred is impeccable — it was so nice to see a recipe for home-grown medlar jam, for example, and a meditation on particular fruit varieties that are cultivated in Oregon.

Technically, The Paley’s Place Cookbook came out in late 2008, and The Farm to Table Cookbook came out a bit earlier, but who’s counting?  Each of these cookbooks had its inspirations, and testing recipes even provided me with a chance to play with my new KitchenAid mixer.

Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got my own procrastinating to address…cookies, cards and presents, oh my!

holiday gifts 2009, the purchasing version

I’ve done the whole homemade gifts in a jar thing — now it’s time for some brutal, aggressive commercialism!  With Hanukkah beginning this weekend, and Christmas not far behind, you’d better get crackin’.  Here are some ideas for unusual, inexpensive gifts for the food lover in your life.

Sideswipe blade for KitchenAid stand mixers, made with silicone fins that can scrape the bowl and eliminate the need to stop the mixer to scrape down the sides.  Cook’s Illustrated recommends and I am filled with desire, Santa.

2-quart Pyrex measuring cup.  Put your stocking in it just to show how much it can hold.  Seriously, this is one of the best gifts you can give a foodie — something they would never buy for themselves because they don’t realize how useful they are in making soups, canning, and even candymaking.

Pommery mustard, moutarde de meaux.  Best mustard ever, perfectly balanced with vinegar and heat, with gorgeous brown and yellow intact grains.  It’s imported from France in lovely crocks, and it’s a bit too expensive for the average Joe, so why not treat someone?

Excellent olive oil.  I recommend Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co. available in Eugene at Newman’s, for cooking and regular use.

Datu puti spiced vinegar.  Smooth, slightly sweet cane sugar vinegar from the Philippines is punched up with garlic, onion, and hot peppers.  “This will change your life,” said the gentleman who gave it to me as a gift.  Bold to say to someone who makes dozens of vinegars a year, thought I, arrogantly.  But it has.  And he wasn’t kidding when he said they drink it neat at his house.  Try it to deglaze a roast, or just to pep up some stirfried brussels sprouts.  OMG.

Unusual heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, or, if you’re local, Eugene Local Foods, which offers an interesting red one and a white one.  Looking at heirloom bean varieties is like having a Lush or BPAL addiction.  So pretty, each a little different.  You.  Can’t.  Stop.  Ordering.

A giant hunk of manchego cheese.  Spanish or PNW cheese (Quillisascut offers one out of Rice, WA, under the name Curado).  I’m not sure why, but I’ve grown addicted to this mild, buttery cheese, which I snack on with dried Fellenberg prunes and homemade quince paste.

Robin Goldstein’s Fearless Critic Portland Restaurant guide, sparklin’ new.  His team is brutally honest and opinionated.  If you’re reading this, you probably are, too, so this would appeal.  There’s something slightly unlikable and shiny-corporate about the guy (at least on paper), but he did gather a team of locals for research.  And I *love* the honest reviews.  Down with sentimentality in food writing!

Best of the “Best of 2009 Cookbooks” Condensed into One List (plus my PNW cookbook list will be out in the EW next week; will link).  Will it be Ad Hoc, which promises an easily digestible Keller, or the entire cookbook dedicated to macaroons (why?), or the first comprehensive English-language Chinese cookbook in years?

Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  The one bread-baking book I hear consistently recommended.  I haven’t baked from it myself, but I’d sure like to.

To replace a beloved Gourmet subscription, might I suggest browsing this list of food magazines (look at the comments, too, for more ideas).  I picked up a subscription to Art of Eating, myself.  Gastronomica is having their annual sale — buy up!  (copy and paste code GAEM091 on the UC Press website when you buy a new subscription.)  Also, check out the blog in which the link appears, Eat Me Daily.  It’s my new daily amusement, food for thought.

Take that special someone out to a dinner at a small local restaurant.  Stimulate the economy by stimulating your palate.  In Eugene, I suggest Café Arirang for a bowl of spicy, warming kimchi tofu soup.

And for those who are having a hard time with Christmas cheer without the edge off:

Fascinating bitters from The Bitter TruthCelery and Xocolatl Molé flavors.  Expensive as hell, but so unique they will catapult your holiday cocktails into realms undreamed.   Celery is an old flavoring for bitters; molé is new.  Both are wonderful for holiday drinks:  celery for something savory, grassy, limey, or peppery; molé for anything that could take a hit of chocolate and spice.

Clear Creek cranberry liqueur for everything else. Oregon Coast cranberries from the people who bring you pear-in-a-bottle brandy, raspberry eau-de-vie, and cassis that could break your heart with its sweet, sharp tang.

A make-your-own vanilla extract kit.  Premium vanilla beans and a bottle of vodka.  If that doesn’t scream Christmas morning, what does?

Images are from commercial websites selling products, plus one shot of my tuna and Rancho Gordo yellow-eye bean salad, and an outtake of cherries looking abstractly festive.

culinaria cookbooks

As a graduate student, I am poor. Not poor enough, however, to take advantage of a tremendous opportunity to buy some of the Culinaria series of world cuisine cookbooks, which are now on clearance at Borders for $9.99. These particular editions are paperback, and they’re large and hefty, so I’ll only recommend the paperbacks if you are impoverished like me. Otherwise, go for the hardback. The Borders in Eugene has several copies of the France, Russia, Italy, Southeast Asian Specialties and Germany cookbooks. These cookbooks are very difficult to find, and the prices wildly fluctuate as they go in and out of print. I’ve never seen them priced this low, and I’ve been monitoring them for a couple of years.

dscf6290.jpg

I like these cookbooks so much that I even named my blog after them.

The Culinaria series, which consists of the Caribbean, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Russia, and the United States, specializes in cultural and regional specialties in each of the countries featured in the books. France, for example, has chapters for twelve gastronomical regions, all with glorious photographs and insets of particular regional dishes and products, such as specialty preserves, mustards, mineral water, cheeses, pastries and even offal. There are many recipes for classic dishes and the recipes seem to be uniformly excellent, from what I can tell from the few reviews online and my own experience. The real strength of these books, however, is not the recipes but the cultural background and culinary specialties described in exhaustive detail. You will find stuff in these books that is nowhere else in English, including the internet. Two major weaknesses relate to the scope and heft of these 500-page books: the print is quite small to make room for the thousands of photographs, and they are very large and heavy, looking more like coffee table books than cookbooks. I use them mainly as references to support my other ethnic cookbooks, so I am not too worried about the wear and tear they’d get if they were battered about on the counter.

The two-volume European Specialties and slim Southeast Asian Specialties volume both feature several unlike countries glommed together; quite frankly, I don’t think they are worth the price, but these books still feature gorgeous photography, cultural insights, and lengthy discussions of products and dishes. The massive Culina Mundi, a world gastronomic tour, is rather ridiculous at about double the size of the other cookbooks. I suppose if you only wanted one cookbook, that would work for you, but please.

The German publisher Konemann started putting out the Culinaria series out about ten years ago, and most of the Culinaria cookbooks have gone through two editions. I believe that the cookbooks are translated into their native country of origin’s languages (I’ve seen the Hungarian Hungary, the German Germany, and the French France), and I’d imagine that since the publisher is German, they are available in German as well as English, but I don’t have evidence for that. H. F. Ullmann and/or the Langenscheidt Group now puts them out, with new editions in the past couple of years and upcoming in 2008. (I think Konemann went out of business, but you’ll still see the publisher listed as Konemann on several online cookbook sites for these cookbooks.)

The Mediterranean Cuisine series, which you can also see in the photo above, is a set of smaller, much more idiosyncratic cookbooks of the cuisines of the Mediterranean: Greece, the Islands of the Mediteranean, Italy, France, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Spain. This series is comprised of recipes and techniques for major dishes in these countries. Instead of focusing on particular regions, however, this series features a team of chefs from the particular country who make the recipes. I’m not sure I’d recommend them to the beginning cook, but they feature interesting recipes in underrepresented cuisines and show step-by-step instructions (of varying quality) for each recipe. The biggest problem I have with these cookbooks is a lack of an index and glossary, a necessity for unusual cuisines. The writing is also not nearly as good as the Culinaria series, and there are some awkward syntax problems that may be a function of a non-native translator. The recipes are inflected by each particular chef’s style and vernacular, which could either be good or not, depending on the chef, and since the books have smaller production values and size than the Culinaria series, they don’t have the comprehensive scope.