September 29, 2004
I confess. I am a packrat. Not your traditional packrat who collects bits and pieces of everything under the sun and sticks it somewhere. I don’t have piles of old newspapers laying about the house. I have cookbooks. I like to think that I’m a collector, and I may claim that in my stronger moments, but in truth, any cookbook will do. And, I read them. Cover to cover.
Every year a few cookbooks come out that are dedicated to a specific ingredient. Sometimes that ingredient is loosely defined – books on cooking mushrooms, cooking with olive oils, cheese primers, different sorts of eggs, etc. But the most fascinating to me are those that focus in on something specific and, preferably, exotic. One such book arrived from the publisher recently and I thought I’d share it.
The Breadfruit Cookbook : The Ulu Cookbook
It is the rare person in most of our circles who knows what Ulu is. We might perhaps know it as breadfruit, but even there it is likely to be something we’ve only heard about and never tried. Fae Hirayama wants us to know more. She has packed together an amazing collection of recipes that use breadfruit in ways traditional and modern in this spiral-bound softcover. The Breadfruit Cookbook includes 115 recipes and several pages of information on how to prepare ulu.
Fae has also thrown in tidbits about breadfruit, and a bit of history of its use, and the tiniest soupçon of information on her family’s use of this ingredient. Her website
(www.ulucookbook.com) does much the same and includes links to scientific and nutritional references on this useful and delicious fruit. In the end, it is a delightful collection of recipes, and useful for that. The few recipes that I tried were well written and produced the promised results.
I do wish it was a more “readable” book. There is little in it about Fae herself, or her family, something that would have made it a more interesting read. All in all, however, it is worth the price ($17.95) for the lover of the unusual and exotic. It appears to be self-published, and for that she must be commended. Copies are available via the website listed above.
There are dancers out there whose bodies I look at and think “wow”! There are others who are so emaciated they could pass for refugees from some famine-wracked region. Linda Hymes, a dancer herself, claims that dancers who are thin are thin because they exercise. Not their diet.
To bolster her point she has written a cookbook based on her own personal menus, and the book, at least, certainly doesn’t reflect a weight loss regimen. Ranging far and wide, The Dancing Gourmet has recipes from snacks to desserts and every course in between, with selections that cover the globe.
Hymes certainly has the quailifications to write this book. She spent fifteen years as a professional dancer and then attended and graduated the culinary program at Le Cordon Bleu in London. She is clearly a talented writer, and I enjoyed reading through passages that cover snippets of a dancer’s life as well as her creative process in the kitchen. The book is also beautifully illustrated with photographs, both food and dance related.
While definitely not a “diet” book, as pointed out, the cuisine is oriented towards the healthy end of the spectrum. The recipes are easy to follow and for the most part simple to prepare. All-in-all this is a winning book, even if the cover price of $26 is a bit steep for the length and content.
The Renaissance Guide to Wine and Food Pairing
Tony DiDio & Amy Zavatto
One of my favorite people in the wine business, not to mention a good friend, is the co-author of a new book just out on my favorite topic, food and wine pairing. I’m always delighted to see people offer good advice on the subject, especially when they do it well. Renaissance Guide to Wine & Food Pairing fits the bill admirably.
Now, I’m not just saying this because I actually rated an entire paragraph in the book (page 63). In fact my billing as some sort of master of the Grrranimals approach to food and wine gave me pause for a moment. But I think it’s a good thing.
This book is a great read for anyone interested in wine, especially if they plan to actually drink it with meals. It is a series of interviews with top chefs and sommeliers from around New York City and some wonderful winemakers. These are interwoven with an in-depth look at the basics of how to approach matching food and wine, how to taste wine, and basic shopping advice for both wine shops and restaurants.
Tony DiDio and Amy Zavatto have written a book that is easy to follow and covers the field without becoming pedantic or serious. It makes the topic fun and interesting, and makes it clear that the entire field is a matter of opinion, and this particular book is one man’s opinion, but welcomes readers to form their own.
I started writing food & wine columns for the Outlet Radio Network, an online radio station in December 2003. They went out of business in June 2005.