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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.

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.

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.

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.

by Diane Leach

20 Jun 2013

Photo (partial) by
© Colin Bell from FuchsiaDunlap.com

“I was once given an amazing lunch by a young woman whose mother had been unable to boil water but was quite able to employ expensive Chinese help. Everyone should have the good fortune either to be Chinese or to be rich.”
—Laurie Colwin, “Starting Out In the Kitchen”

For those of us who lack both Chinese blood and wealth, we should at least have the good fortune to find Fuschia Dunlop’s latest cookbook, Every Grain of Rice. I’d read Dunlop’s articles in various cooking magazines, but never her books until I found Every Grain of Rice on a recent cruise through my library’s cookbook section.

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