This is the second part two a GFR holiday tradition: Dean Tudor’s annual list of his favourite new cookbooks and food and wine related volumes in bookstores now. Dean covers some of the big names, but always includes interesting and sometimes overlooked gems from this year. Click here to browse the whole series for 2013, and watch for a new category of book every week. – Malcolm Jolley, Ed.
PART TWO: MEMOIRS
For the more literate person, there are the histories and “memoirs” of writers, chefs, and wine people. Some have called these memoirs “creative non-fiction”, many with embellishments and gilding. And most of them suffer 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…
ONE SOUFFLE AT A TIME; a memoir of food and France (St. Martin’s Press, 2013, 320 pages, $31.99 CAN hard covers) is by Anne Willan, founder of La Varenne (1975). It is mostly her autobiography as she grappled with the smug closed world of French cuisine, but it is also the story of her comperes: Julia Child, James Beard, Simone Beck, Craig Claiborne and Richard Olney. She opens her memoir with a listing of 9 “things I’ve smuggled in my suitcase”. Over the years she’s written books and done PBS food shows. Here she also adds 50 of her favourite recipes.
MAST BROTHERS CHOCOLATE; a family cookbook (Little, Brown, 2013, 276 pages, $44 CAN hard covers) is by Rick and Michael Mast. These are stories of the bean-to-bar craft chocolatiers. They do small batch roasting for leading chefs (Keller, Waters, Ducasse). The book is part memoir, part cookbook, with classic desserts of chocolate cookies, brownies, whoopee pies, chocolate cakes, and savouries (scallops and cacao nibs, cocoa coq au vin).
DINNER WITH MR. DARCY; recipes inspired by the novels of Jane Austen (CICO Books, 2013, 160 pages, $29.95 CAN hard covers) is by Pen Vogler, who has recreated many historical recipes for the BBC and Penguin Press. These are recipes inspired by the novels and letters of Jan Austen – they are sure to be winners, especially with any Janeite. As the book says, Austen used food in her novels as a way of showing kindliness among neighbours, as part of the dynamics of family life, and for comic effect. Preps here have been updated, and there are sidebars on Regency food. There is a breakfast at Northanger Abbey (a great b & b place!), Mrs. Bennet’s dinner for Bingley and Darcy, plus more suppers, teas, picnics, Christmas food, and even preserves and drinks.
IN THE KITCHEN WITH ALAIN PASSARD; inside the world and mind of a master chef (Chronicle Books, 2013, 96 pages, $19.95 CAN hard covers) has been written and illustrated by Christopher Blain (a graphic novelist), with some 15 recipes by Passard who runs the 3-star Michelin L’Arpege in Paris (he removed meat from his menu in 2001). It’s a “graphic novel” with hundreds of panel illustrations, inside the world and mind of a Master Chef. It’s an insider’s look at the creative process, first published as EN CUISINE AVEC ALAIN PASSARD in France in 2011. Try squab dragee with mead or potato paillase with sage and garlic.
BUT MAMA ALWAYS PUT VODKA IN HER SANGRIA!; adventures in eating, drinking and making merry (St. Martin’s Press, 2013, 272 pages, $29.99 CAN hard covers) is by Julia Reed, who writes about the South in food and drink. This is a collection of 28 essays (with an index!) celebrating eating, drinking, and making merry. It’s got 100 recipes plus engaging anecdotes and stories. She talks about the quenelle at La Cote Basque in NYC, the steaks of Alkaide in Madrid, the southern garden, Afghanistan, the Mississippi Delta, Florida Gulf Coast, Paris, the gin factories, and other stories dealing with her father and her mother.
WHERE AM I EATING?; a journey through the global food economy (Wiley, 2013, 279 pages, $27.95 CAN hard covers) is a travelogue undertaken to uncover the realities of the global food economy. Kelsey Timmerman writes by product – the coffee of Columbia, the chocolate of the Ivory Coast, the bananas of Costa Rica, lobster, apple juice of Michigan (but not of Canada) in which farmers in China have cornered the apple juice market. Much of the book deals with labour issues, such as Fair Trade practices, as he details what it is actually like to work in that particular country’s agricultural industry.
THE CASSOULET SAVED OUR MARRIAGE; true tales of food, family and how we learn to eat (Roost Books, 2013; distr. Random House Canada, 255 pages, $19.95 CAN hard covers) has been edited by Caroline Grunt and Lisa Harper. 29 essays go over our relationship to food, with 28 uncomplicated recipes: foods dealing with kosher, junk, soul, busy weeknights, holiday feasts, vegetarian table.
POOR MAN’S FEAST; a love story of comfort, desire, and the art of simple cooking (Chronicle Books, 2013, 287 pages, $32 CAN hard covers) is by Elissa Altman. It’s a series of witty thoughts with 26 preps. 30 different topics have been culled from her blog poormansfeast.com, which won a Beard Award in 2012 for blogging. She has also written widely about food in many print articles. Endorsement also comes from Mollie Wizenberg and Deborah Madison.
A SUITCASE AND A SPATULA; recipes and stories from around the world (Ryland Peters & Small, 2013, 144 pages, $28.95 CAN hard covers) is by Tori Haschka, a travel and food blogger (eatori.com). She experiences latte banana bread in Sydney and sangria prawns in Estoril, not to mention sardines with fennel and Campari in Venice. Hey, she’s even been to Menton! So these really are recipes and stories from around the world, like a scrap book with both long and short essays.
IN MEAT WE TRUST; the unexpected history of carnivore America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 368 pages, $33 CAN hard covers) is by food and beverage historian Maureen Ogle. It’s a history of meat-eating in America (nothing on Canada that I could glean), with a concentration on lifestyle and culture. She clearly shows that concerns about agribusiness and safety are not new. And while the average Euro had meat once a week, the average American ate 200 pounds a year. The Colonial period gives way to the 19th century meat packers (Swift, Armour) later joined by Tyson, Cargill and ConAgra. Cattle drives, feedlots, Chicago – it is all here. Strangely, I didn’t see any references to “killing floor”.
Dean Tudor is a Ryerson University Journalism Professor Emeritus, The Treasurer of The Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada and creator of Canada’s award-winning wine satire site at fauxvoixvincuisine.blogspot.com. Visit Dean’s websites at deantudor.com and gothicepicures.blogspot.com. His motto: “Look it up and you’ll remember it; screw it up and you’ll never forget it.”