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Thursday, Jan 17, 2013
Even if your idea of cooking involves a box and a microwave oven, Japanese Farm Food is a captivating look at Japanese rural farm life from an outsider’s vantage point.

“I urge you to cook from this book with abandon, but first read it like a memoir, chapter by chapter, and you will share in the story of a modern-day family, a totally unique and extraordinary one.”
—Patricia Wells


Nancy Singleton travelled to Japan 20 years ago to study Japanese language and food. There she met Tadaaki Hachisu, a third-generation farmer. The couple fell in love, married, bore three boys, and restored the Hachisu family’s farmhouse while Tadaaki farmed and Nancy ran an English language immersion school. All the while, the couple has cooked from their farm’s bounty. Tadaaki raises chickens, eggs, wheat, and numerous vegetables. What the couple doesn’t grow themselves is carefully sourced from fellow farmers, fishmongers, and butchers as committed to sustainable food practices as they are.


Along the way, Hachisu became active in the Slow Food community, creating a worldwide network of friends in the cooking world, including the folks at Chez Panisse and coobkook authors David Lebowitz and Patricia Wells. At their urging, she wrote Japanese Farm Food, a chronicle farming life two hours outside Tokyo.


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Tuesday, Dec 18, 2012
I have little to do with Christmas cooking: my job is to show up and help my mother-in-law. This doesn't stop me from being avidly interested in Christmas foods and the many cookbooks addressing what remains to me an exotically foreign holiday.


“I am not by nature a calm person, and, much as I love Christmas, I can be kyboshed by it.  I know from experience how easy it is to be overwhelmed by the sheer workload and the burden of expectations, one’s own above all.”
—Nigella Lawson, Nigella Christmas


Many are the Jews who secretly long to celebrate Christmas. Yes, we have Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, the Menorah, the tasty fried foods. And yes, we do exchange gifts. But there’s no big deal fancy meal, no stockings, no tearing awake at 4AM to see what Santa left under the tree.


Ah, the tree. There are Jews who shudder at this ancient pagan symbol and others who want one themselves: that lovely piney scent, those cunning decorations.


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Friday, Nov 2, 2012
"With me everywhere and always: Rosa."

Laurie E. Colwn, a Novelist and Short Story Writer, is dead
The New York Times (26 October 1992)


Dear Rosa,


We’ve never met, but on this, the 20th anniversary of your mother’s death, I feel compelled to write you.


I’m sorry.  I realize you’ve spent your life being approached by tremulous strangers needing to unburden themselves. I also realize that our version of your mother and the actual person are likely miles apart. That the only thing we can be said to share is how much we miss her.


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Monday, Oct 29, 2012
Bluish Kabochas and Hubbards, orange Acorn squash splotched with green, red Kuris, ridged yellow Delicatas streaked greeny orange. Stringy Spaghetti squash, good for so little, and piles of pumpkins, from decorative ones no larger than kittens to monsters comparable to SUVs.

It’s that time of year, when the leaves turn, and the weather becomes even more unpredictable: blistering heat followed by temperate days edged with a warning chill. The sunlight thins, slants, and fades by 5PM. Summer’s vegetable bounty has surrendered to the first of winter’s staples: greens, radishes, turnips, and hard or winter squashes. Bluish Kabochas and Hubbards, orange Acorn squash splotched with green, red Kuris, ridged yellow Delicatas streaked greeny orange. Stringy Spaghetti squash, good for so little, and piles of pumpkins, from decorative ones no larger than kittens to monsters comparable to SUVs.


If you are a politically correct locavore, winter squash is unavoidable.


Unhappily, it’s easy to get sick of eating them.


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Tuesday, Oct 9, 2012
Food, chef and travel writer Naomi Duguid tells us, is the main entry point into another culture. It takes everyone to an everyday level.

Cookbook writer, world traveler, photographer and Southeast Asian food expert Naomi Duguid’s latest book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor, will first engross you with its exquisite photography and evocative writing, then send you into the kitchen to prepare dishes like chickpea soup with lemongrass and ginger, lima beans with galangal, and standout tomato chutney.


Once you’ve cooked your way through this lovely book, be sure to check out Duguid’s six other works (co-written with Jeffrey Alford).  Each is more than just a cookbook, immersing the reader in the cultures and peoples of a place using narrative, history, photography, and divine recipes.


Duguid spoke with me about Burma: Rivers of Flavor, the Burmese political situation, her work in Southeast Asia, and shooting with a digital camera.


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