Goodness! I’ve been so busy cooking braised pork tacos this week that I almost forgot the book giveaway. Luckily I opened the attic door yesterday--there was the carefully selected stack, glaring at me accusingly.
This is my favorite time of year, when I get to send books to all of you. Call it a post holiday party, where you get the presents.
My own gift is getting to hear from the readers of SpiceLines, plus empty shelf space for all the new books teetering in a pile under my desk. Maybe now I’ll be able to explore Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking (excellent recipe for fish wrapped in fig leaves) and the 1885 Culinary Jottings from Madras, which includes a formula for curry powder that I’m determined to try—just as soon as I figure out how to slash the quantities of spices (4 pounds of turmeric, 8 pounds of coriander seed, and so on).
Here’s how the giveaway works. Pick two books you’d like from the following list and email me at spicelinesatgmaildotcom. Let me know your first and second choices, and be sure to include your name and mailing address. It’s first come, first served, but I’ll try to send you one of the books you’ve requested. (U.S. readers only, please. Even media mail costs are off the charts.)
Ready? Here you go:
Food of a Younger Land, Mark Kurlansky. The best-selling author of Salt and Cod mines old WPA files to discover what Americans were eating before frozen food, interstate trucking and chain restaurants changed our diets. Recipes for Kentucky Ham Bone Soup and Indian Persimmon Pudding, an essay on Coca Cola parties in Georgia and a poem: “Nebraskans Eat Wieners.” Great fun to read.
Madeleine Cooks: A Wonderful Teacher Reveals the Secrets of Cooking Great Food Every Day, Madeline Kamman. One hundred forty-two flavorful recipes from Kamman’s public TV show, including Steamed Mussels with Saffron and Cognac Sauce and Ginger Pecan Pound Cake. Go here to read an appreciation of the much-loved cooking instructor.
Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance, Patricia Rain. Everything you could possibly want to know about vanilla, enthusiastically written by the woman behind www.vanilla.com, a.k.a. The Vanilla Queen. Did you know that sweet-smelling vanilla essence was once used to calm hysteria? Recipes include Homemade Vanilla Extract, Chipotle-Vanilla Salsa and Barbecue Sauce, and Shrimp with Coconut Vanilla Sauce.
American Fashion Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes of Favorite Designers, forward by Martha Stewart. Do not miss Gela Nash Taylor’s (Juicy Couture) Psychotic Exploding Chestnut Stuffing: “[Roasting the chestnuts] should take about 15-20 minutes which is just enough time to reapply makeup, check that Blackberry and make sure your table setting looks divine.” More la-la from Tory Burch (Andalusian Gazpacho), Cynthia Rowley (Double Your Pleasure Truffle Mac and Cheese) and the late Bill Blass, whose famous meatloaf recipe is revealed.
The Spice Route: A History, John Keay. An erudite look at the way man’s lust for spices changed the course of history. Sweeping in scope, it begins with Herodotus, the 5th century B.C. Greek historian who wrote down apocryphal tales of cinnamon gathering (“Arabians say that large birds bring those dry sticks called cinnamon for their nests…”) and ends with Pierre Poivre, a French adventurer who in 1770 smuggled “hundreds of nutmeg and clove seedlings” to Mauritius, effectively breaking the Dutch monopoly. Keay, the British author of 20 books, also wrote The Honorable Company, an acclaimed history of the English East India Company.
Essential Flavors: The Simple Art of Cooking with Infused Oils, Flavored Vinegars, Essences and Elixirs, Leslie Brenner and Katharine Kinsolving. If you’ve ever wanted to stock your pantry with yummy homemade flavorings like Rosemary Oil and Pink Tarragon Vinegar, this book’s for you. Recipes include Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Thyme Oil, Flank Steak Marinated in Plum Vinegar and Mint-Infused Blackberry Ice.
Outstanding in the Field: A Farm to Table Cookbook Jim Denevan with Marah Stets. Every year Denevan and crew drive their cool red and white bus across America, setting long tables “in fields, ranches, dairies, vineyards and community gardens…for alfresco meals that truly reconnect us with the land and the people that produce our food.” Recipes include Beet and Cranberry Chutney (with fresh ginger, cinnamon and cloves), Albacore Tuna with Preserved Lemon and Olive Relish and Grilled Asparagus with Kumquat Vinaigrette. Go here to see where the bus went in 2010.
Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights: Recipes for Every Season, Mood and Appetite, Sophie Dahl. Is there a more stunning cook than the blond glamazon model-turned food writer (and granddaughter of Roald Dahl)? Miss Dahl tells all in a most delightful fashion: Her second word was “crunch—muddled baby speak for fudge” and her book is as much a cheeky family memoir as it is a cookbook. Tasty, mostly healthy recipes include Chicken Soup with Chickpeas (cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and cumin); Monkfish with Saffron Sauce; and Turmeric Tofu with Cherry Tomato Quinoa Pilaf. Gorgeous photos, including many of the author.
The Meaning of Tea: A Tea-Inspired Journey, Scott Chamberlin Hoyt with commentary by Phil Cousineau. Here’s the scenario: Pharmaceutical heir chucks it all and sets out on a journey to discover the place of tea drinking in our fast-paced, attention-deficit society. Hoyt visits tea plantations in India, takes part in a traditional tea ceremony in Morocco, discovers a close-knit community of tea drinkers in South Dakota. His quest also takes him to Japan, France, England and China. Bonus: A beautifully photographed documentary of his travels on DVD.
The Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan. A nifty classification system aimed at unleashing your inner “cocktailian bartender.” Every mixed drink you’ve ever heard of (and some you haven’t) is put into one of 26 families. The Sour family, for instance, includes the Daiquiri, the Lemon Drop, the Tea Tini and 17 more ; once you understand the basic principle—“a base liquor, lime or lemon juice, and a non-alcoholic sweetening agent”—you can invent your own poison. Audrey Saunders, “Libation Goddess” of the Pegu Club, and other luminaries consulted on the book.
Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion. The cover of this 1862 gem says it all: “Receipts for Mixing All Kinds of Punch, Egg Nog, Juleps, Smashs, Cobblers, Cocktails, Sangarees, Mules, Toddies, Slips, Sours, Flips and 200 Other Fancy Drinks.” The contents were scanned from an original edition, ink blots and all, in the Radcliffe College Library via Google. Don’t miss recipes for making your own cordials, crèmes, eaux, elixirs, syrups and brandies.
The Sake Handbook, John Gauntner. “Reviews of over 100 sake brands, detailed explanations of the brewing process and tips on selecting and tasting sake.” Here’s the author on Chiyo no Sono, a sake from Kumamoto Prefecture: “…a deliciously typical example of a sake with a Kyushu feel. Solid, stable and earthy….Slight warming brings out a special charm. The fragrance, though delicate, has a bit of chocolate in it. “ In the back there’s a listing of sake pubs and retailers in Japan and the U.S.
Living on Live Food, Alissa Cohen. I bought this massive book after an unexpectedly delicious dinner at Grezzo, Cohen’s now defunct Boston raw food restaurant. The dish that won me over (temporarily) was the 3-ingredient Thai coconut soup (3 baby white coconuts, ½ cup pineapple, 1 teaspooon cumin). It tasted like a tropical night, and went down like silk. Raw food is a lifestyle; this will give you the ABCs.
Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, Karen Solomon. A trove of food projects for DIYers. Learn to make your own potato chips (and package them in cute cellophane bags for gifts); turn a pork belly into bacon (cured with blackstrap molasses, smoked over hickory sawdust); wring fresh ricotta from 2 quarts of whole milk; pickle green beans with cinnamon, bay, mustard seeds, dill seeds and black peppercorns (a “must-have garnish” for your next Bloody Mary). When the apocalypse comes, you’ll be stylishly prepared.
The Perfect Cup: A Coffee Lovers Guide to Buying, Brewing and Tasting, Timothy James Castle. The coffee world has moved on since this book was written—the suppliers chapter is out of date, for instance—but the 10 Keys to Perfect Coffee will still give you a great cup. Recipes include a spicy Mole Sauce with Mexican Chocolate and Coffee (would pair well with grilled pork tenderloins) and Coffee Baked Beans with fresh ginger, molasses and balsamic vinegar.
The Wine Access Buyer’s Guide: The World’s Best Wines and Where to Find Them, Stephen Tanzer. The author is editor and publisher of International Wine Cellar, a newsletter read by wine aficionados in 34 countries. Wines are presented by country of origin/region, grape variety and style (i.e. France, Cote d’Or, red burgundy), followed by short profiles of recommended producers and vintages to try. 2006 edition.
Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course, Jancis Robinson. A great beginner’s book by the internationally acclaimed British writer and wine critic. If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between a vertical and horizontal tasting, or even how to go about tasting wine, Robinson is your woman. ( Tasting exercises include putting a clothes peg on your nose and seeing whether you can tell the difference between black coffee and black tea.) Informative chapters on grape varieties and wines produced in over two dozen countries.
And a novel:
Chef, Jaspreet Singh. A terminally ill Army cook returns to the Kashmiri military camp where he first learned to cook, unleashing a flood of memories. Here he recalls a lesson with his irascible mentor, Chef Kichen: “We were preparing mutton yakni. Dipping fingers in the marinade. The air in the room carried the scent of star anise. Turn the flame on high, he said. Now, he said. One by one I dropped the half-brown, half-crimson pieces of meat into the degchi. Stir, he said. The mutton must never stick to the bottom. Chef, when do I add yoghurt? Not now, he said, and explained the difference between precision and estimation. Then he wiped his hands on my apron.” Shortlisted for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book. Mark Kurlansky called the novel “transporting.”
And a travel book:
Slow London, Robyn Barton and Hayley Cull. Subtitled “Live More, Fret Less.” Offbeat things to do if you live in London, but also a good guide for travelers. The Scent chapter describes in stunning detail the fragrances of the city in each month of the year. In May, when Brick Lane closes for Bengali New Year, “…the narrow street fills with the hum of black mustard seeds, cardamom, fenugreek, curry leaves, cumin, coriander and lots of sugar.” The Taste chapter takes you to Hummingbird Bakery for a blueberry and cream cupcake that “will warp glycemic levels for the rest of the day, and to Hive Honey Shop in Clapham, where you can “see inside a five foot high, glass-fronted working beehive” and buy the same honey that the Queen enjoys.
And a box of inspiration:
Gathered 365 Truths. An attractive wooden box of 365 deckle-edged cards, each with a quote (usually paraphrased) meant to inspire. The idea is to draw one at random every day of the year. (Stash used cards at the back of the box.) Example: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler. Henry David Thoreau. Nice gift for the right person.