Friday, January 02, 2009

Top 5 6 Food Books of 2008

Why 6? Because it's one more than 5. In no particular order and chosen from books I read in 2008. Links are to my reviews.
  1. A Tale of Twelve Kitchens by Jake Tilson
  2. The Last Chinese Cook by Nicole Mones
  3. Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid: this book deserves a full-blown review but for the moment let me say that this is Alford and Duguid's best book to date. Focusing on the regions of China that we do not often hear of, especially culinarily, this book showcases their customary excellent photography, usable recipes unique to each region, and (best of all) interested understanding of the people they encounter. For those who say that the best way to peace is to understand others, their books goes a great way toward promoting that doctrine.
  4. How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons
  5. Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen (The recipe she sent me for Turkey Bone Gumbo is kick-ass, y'all)

Dishonorable Mention
  • How to Eat Supper - book design which makes it almost unreadable.
  • Around the World in 80 Dinners by Cheryl & Bill Jamison: Perhaps I feel this so deeply because I have been a fan of the Jamisons' writing since they began publishing long ago. Their Texas Home Cooking is hands-down the best overall book I've ever come across to represent true Texas cooking. With this book they show themselves in an uglier light, however. Jarringly dragging in politics whenever possible (and not just in the way that has become popular in food writing these days), we then are treated to simplistic overviews of the places and people they encounter ... unless that would happen to be a honored Australian wine producer putting on a lavish meal for them.

    Small towns are often dismissed flippantly because there is nothing that Cheryl would care to buy there. I was astounded at how often they cheerily record Bill's snarky put-downs based on the sheerest of reasons. Yes, I know that he thinks he's funny but take it from me, he and Cheryl would be the only ones laughing if these muttered asides were said aloud. I now look at my Texas Home Cooking and wonder just how many times such a put-down was muttered before or after meeting some of the regular folks they encountered in Texas. Try reading some of this book and then comparing it with Beyond the Great Wall or A Tale of Twelve Kitchens where the authors always had genuine, honest interest in the places and people around them, despite less than favorable conditions. This book was such a disappointment that I could only make myself read half of it.

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