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Wednesday, Nov 6, 2013
Amy Bremzen’s memoir is informative, moving, and at times, harrowing

Anya Von Bremzen is a skilled writer whose first cookbook, Please to the Table, landed her a James Beard Award. Five more cookbooks and extensive journalism followed.


But what distinguishes Von Bremzen is her background. Born in the Soviet Union in 1963, she has always strongly identified as Soviet. Other individuals hailing from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics don’t identify as such; they invariably revert to the names of their former (and/or current homelands), e.g. “I’m Latvian”, “I’m Ukrainian”, (this last spat with especial rage.) I am, that is, whatever my family and region were called before the October 1917 revolution destroyed our lives, took away our homes, our lands, the very food on our plates.


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Friday, Oct 11, 2013
Author of the seminal Moosewood Cookbook, Mollie Katzen brought vegetarian cuisine—in 1977 still considered weird hippie food—into the mainstream. Now, almost 40 years later, she's written one of most confounding cookbooks I’ve ever encountered.

Rarely does a cookbook elicit a passionate response, but Mollie Katzen is a revered American cookbook writer. Author of the seminal Moosewood Cookbook, Katzen brought vegetarian cuisine—in 1977 still considered weird hippie food—into the mainstream. It can be difficult to realize what a feat that was, before farmer’s markets and the internet. Now even those of us living in remote areas can order unusual foodstuffs online, while people living in metropolitan areas take the wealth of produce, grains, and artisanal tofus on offer for granted. 


In 1977, Katzen had to explain tamari, mirin, and alfalfa sprouts to readers. Interested cooks had to search ethnic markets and health food stores, then few and far between, to find ingredients like wheat berries or quinoa. But Katzen’s welcoming voice and inviting food drew readers in. So did the books themselves. Unlike many of today’s glossy cookbooks, which seem destined for the coffee table instead of the kitchen, those Ten Speed Press books were well made, their bindings tight: cookbooks meant to sit open on the counter while the cook leaned over them, spoon in hand. And thousands of cooks did just that.


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Wednesday, Aug 7, 2013
The eggplant does not blend with other flavors as, say, the onion, or the carrot do. The eggplant, no matter what one does to it, remains irresolutely itself. And I am rendered despondent.

Amid the happy tumble of heirloom tomatoes, near the scalloped yellow pattypan squashes perched beside their elongated, green-skinned brethren, down the aisle from the fresh corn; just as little Heather O’Rourke warned us in another context: there’re here. Piled high, purple-black, glistening like so may pairs of patent leather boots.


The eggplants are in.


And I weep.


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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013
When "Britalified" food includes "Tuscan Tuna Tartare"-- essentially Italian sashimi, run. Fast and far.

Nigella Lawson has been an Italophile since spending her gap year—that is, the year between high school and college—in Italy. In each of her books, Lawson reaffirms her deep love of all things Italian, proclaiming her wish to be Italian herself. Barring that, each of her eight cookbooks abounds in Italian recipes. 


With the publication of Nigellissima, Lawson ostensibly delivers on her long-held promise: finally, the Italy Book.


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Thursday, Jul 18, 2013
Mini-choppers are not for Tuesday night cooking: there’s the cleanup factor. But life is short, and one must fly in the face of convention, even in the smallest ways.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty is a book of vegetarian recipes culled from his weekly column in London’s The Guardian newspaper. Ottolenghi, an Israeli Jew, works in partnership with Sami Tamimi, a Palestinian, in two London restaurants and three takeaway delicatessens.


The pair have collaborated on a second cookbook, Jerusalem, that shares not only the food of their physically proximate, culturally diverse childhoods, but the ways food, culture, politics, and religion intersect and clash in this most tumultuous of cities. Jerusalem is both a love song to a beloved city and the most political cookbook I have ever encountered.


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