Tuesday, January 03, 2006
I got two great new cookbooks from my Mom at Christmas, and I’ve been cooking out of one of them pretty much non-stop all weekend. Mangoes & Curry Leaves, by Jeff Alford and Naomi Duguid is my new favorite Indian cookbook. I cooked a bunch of stuff out of it over the weekend, including their pork vindaloo, and scrambled eggs with curry leaves. Great stuff. I love all their other books, so I’m not surprised that this one’s a winner too.
I have yet to try the other one, the Cafe Flora Cookbook. It’s one of my favorite restaurants ever, so I’m really looking forward to trying some of the recipes for my favorites. I’ll report back when I do.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
I just finished a truly fascinating book called “Why Some Like It Hot”, by Gary Paul Nabhan. It’s all about the effects of our environment on our genes, and how that in turn influences how and what we can and should eat. For example, the author describes how it was only in Northern Europe that being able to digest milk became a survival characteristic, so it’s only Northern Europeans (mostly) that can tolerate lactose into adulthood.
He cites a number of similar examples, from Crete to Arizona to Hawaii, where the food and climate that were available shaped the genetic makeup of the people who lived there and have a profound effect on what foods are or are not healthy for those people to eat.
The phenomenon, which Nabhan terms “food-gene-culture” interaction, is one that has interested me for quite some time. This is the first material I’ve read that cites such wide ranging examples and really brings home how what is a “healthy” diet has much more to do with the individual than most people think.
If you are interested in nutrition, or why we eat what we do, it’s a great read.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
I have no idea how they got into my house, but I recently discovered a jar of pickled green peppercorns in my pantry, so I decided to use them.
I’ve been reading Dangerous Tastes: the story of spices by Andrew Dalby (which is a very interesting book, BTW) and he mentions that once upon a time preserved green peppercorns were very popular in Europe, but that they’ve mostly been replaced by the dried form we’re used to. Anyway, it got me interested, so I put some in a spaghetti sauce last night, which came out quite well, I thought.
I started with some onions and garlic, then added the green peppercorns, maybe a 1/2 tablespoon or so, and healthy amounts of basil, oregano, and some fennel seeds (which I love in spaghetti). Then in went some celery. When it all cooked down, I threw in some meat balls, and a few tablespoons worth of capers. It went over pretty well with the family too. Ivan even wanted some for breakfast this morning, so it couldn’t have been too bad. I’ve been using Westbrae Natural’s whole wheat spaghetti, which has a very nice texture. Their spinach spaghetti is also really good, but Gwyn tends to freak out over the green noodles, so there are days when it’s just not worth it
So if you happen to come across some pickled pepper (not pickled peppers, mind) give them a shot. They added a very nice, mellow peppery taste without much heat.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
One of the new foodie books I got the other day is “In the Devil’s Garden: a sinful history of forbidden food” by Stewart Lee Allen. What an interesting book. It’s all about the history of food taboos, and how we relate to the food we eat. I’m just about done with it, and it’s been a very fun read.
The book is organized into the Seven Deadly Sins, and each chapter contains info about food restrictions/taboos that relate to that sin. So under “Lust” he talks at length about foods that were off limits to various peoples because they might induce impure thoughts (think chocolate, among others).
I read a few of the reader comments about this book on Amazon, and several people expressed concern with some of the authors research, and the fact that he tends to speculate. I think they are missing the point. This book is not meant to be a scholarly research work. It’s meant to make us think about what we eat, what we don’t eat, and how we relate to our food and the foods of others. In that context, speculation isn’t really a problem, since it encourages critical thinking. I appreciate the fact that during these bouts of reflection, the author never tries to convince us that he knows “the facts”. It’s a very conversational work. When pursuing this kind of book, I don’t think it matters if the author puts down unverified tidbits of information, or things based on annectdotal evidence. The fact that they are annectdotes (which came from a person) is interesting in and of itself.
This topic is a favorite of mine, since I’m continually fascinated by the topic of why people do or don’t eat things, and this book has provided a lot of food for thought (pun intended). And it’s a very fun read. Mr. Allen has a fine sense of humor, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Monday, December 06, 2004
I’ve picked up several new food history/culinary literature books in the last few weeks that look really good, on topics ranging from the history of coffee and bread to spices and daring eating. I’ll post more info on them as I start reading. I found a great one this weekend at the Cannon Beach Bookstore, and I’m almost half way through it already. “Are You Really Going to Eat That?
” by Robb Walsh. It’s subtitled “Reflections of a culinary thrill seeker”, and that’s a pretty accurate summation. So far I’ve read about Mr. Walsh’s trip to Jamaica for a cup of coffee, Santiago Chile for conger eel stew, Thailand for the infamous durian, etc. It’s a great read if you are into eating crazy stuff, of if you wish you were. Mr. Walsh approaches tracking down these famous food items with a single mindedness that makes me wish I had a lot more time and money to do the same.
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