Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cookbooks 2012

A week before Christmas and much of the shopping might have been done.  But here's a list of books that stood out for me this year:

Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla
Maybe it is because I've become good friends with a few Mexicans and my kids grew up on rice and beans cooked by their Honduran nanny.  But I've come to appreciate Latin American cuisine beyond guacamole and sangria.  Our family's favorite weekend hangouts are Dos Caminos and Zarela (before it closed).  Gran Cocina Latina took almost thirty years to research and is an epic encyclopedia to master the art of Latin American cooking.   It will ultimately be the foremost authority on the cuisine that spans places such as Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and other Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries.

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
I first acquired this book in 1999, then sold it off because I'm such a hearty carnivore.  But everyone is trying to be healthier these days and I kept thinking about the eggplant lasagna with garlic bechamel (page 466) throughout these ten years.  I bought another copy recently - after it has won many accolades including the James Beard Foundation Book Award.  It does for vegetarian cooking what Gran Cocina does for Latin food.  And each weighs a ton, again underscoring its seal of authority.

Celebrate by Pippa Middleton 
Despite bitchy brickbats for this pert bottom's first foray into the cookbook kingdom, I mightily enjoyed the food porn.  This book is an attempt to make Pippa Middleton the English version of Martha Stewart.  While flipping through this book, you imagine that perhaps, the new Windsor baby's birthday parties will look like those in the book and that the clan will be having outdoor summer lunches and barbecues in their Kensington Palace backyard, complete with Pippa's posse of toffs.

Dining with the Washingtons, edited by Stephen A. McLeod 
This is such a keepsake of historical importance.  I enjoyed this book much much more than the movie 'Lincoln' (which for me, is as good as a foreign movie which I must have subtitles or closed caption to understand the accent and dialogue).  The cookbook gives a good idea of what the Revolutionaries farmed and ate, such an enjoyable insight for anyone interested in history and might I say, anthropology.

Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan 
This book has been quite a success in the bookstores.  I walked past the display for weeks and could not understand why a simple, homely looking cookbook would be so popular.  Then when I peeked in, I was impressed by its organization: Soup/ Street Food/ Steaming/ Braising/ Stir-Frying/ Grilling/ Frying.  Essentially, this book touches on the fundamentals of Asian cooking, of which Vietnamese shares and parallels what we love about the others including Thai, Chinese and Filipino cuisine.  

Jamie's Great Britain by Jamie Oliver
I am an unabashed Anglophile, no kid.  It becomes apparent by the time friends present you with desktop calendars with the Queen's images, and lend you children's books about a fictional royal corgi who is the Queen's favorite.  But I would never quite know what the Brits eat exactly, and I'm always in a quest to find out.  To underscore the truth, I pronounced pasties wrongly (paste-teas as opposed to pest-teas) much to my embarrassment.  So I'm assuming Jamie will give me an overview, curries and all.

Aquavit by Marcus Samuelsson
Marcus Samuelsson became real to me when I stood beside him during the downpour at the Swedish MidSummer gathering this past June. We have really wonderful Swedish friends, a relationship forged by our little boys at the same preschool.  Last year, they introduced us to an authentic Scandinavian meal of herring, meatballs, glogg and of course, aquavit.  Eversince, I've acquired several books about Scandinavian food which seems so clean, pristine and minimalist.  Gleaning the pages of these cookbooks, one can sense the northern cold climate and freshness coming in from the sea.
Faviken is the new It book about a highly regarded Swedish restaurant.  But Faviken to me, seems to convey a still-hungry hunter's meal, unlike the many other Scandinavian books out there like Aquavit.

The Complete Bocuse Cookbook
Yes, it joins the pantheon of authoritative cookbooks that record French cuisine as we remember it - grand, sumptuous, intricate, painstakingly cooked with flair and precision.

The whole set of Heritage Cookbooks, published by Marshall Cavendish 
Where would my cookbook be if not for Marshall Cavendish.  And what a wonderful project they undertook to record the dishes we associate with each of the major racial groups in Singapore: Chinese, Malay, Indian as well as the communities - Peranakan and Eurasian.
My only regret is that the Chinese volume did not delve deeper into the signature dishes of each particular dialect group.  For example, the dishes associated with the Hokkien community and served in their popular restaurants, were excluded.  For that, we have these others to rely on......
Savour Chinatown by Annette Tan
Uncle Lau's Teochew Recipes  

Merry Christmas everyone.  Stay safe and hug your kids.


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