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Thursday, Dec 12, 2013
“Why don’t you cook at home? That’s my crusade.”

Chef David Tanis, author of the widely beloved cookbooks Heart of the Artichoke and A Platter of Figs met with PopMatters to discuss his third cookbook, the recently released One Good Dish. We met in Berkeley, California, next door to Chez Panisse, where he shared downstairs chef duty with Jean-Pierre Moullé for 25 years.


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Tuesday, Nov 26, 2013
Happy Accident Soup began as a Lamb Tagine: the soup was a bonus. How often do you get two wonderful things from one?

Happy Accident Soup began as a Claudia Roden recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. My market has recently begun carrying high-quality, locally sourced lamb, and I’d purchased a pound of lean cubes labeled “kebab cut”, which were a dollar cheaper than the stew cut.


Having no way of preparing kebabs—that is, no grill—I began paging through my Claudia Roden cookbooks. Food writer and Food52 blogger Amanda Hesser calls Claudia Roden one of the “Mistresses of the Mediterranean”.  Who better to consult?


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Monday, Nov 18, 2013
Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s food is the Middle East on a plate: clamorous, intense, each bite demanding your full attention. This is food shrieking with yogurt and lemon, garlic and tahini.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is actually Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s first cookbook, originally published in England in 2008. It’s the last to be published in the United States, after the insane popularity of 2011’s Plenty and 2012’s Jerusalem. I’ve no idea why the reverse order of the books’s appearances, only that they’ve captured the American imagination on a startling scale.


For those struggling to obtain American healthcare, or absorbed by the former Hannah Montana’s poor performance choices, meet Ottolenghi and his business partner, Tamimi.  The men have much in common: both are professional chefs, born in Jerusalem, now living in London. Both are homosexual (they bring this up as partial reason for leaving the Middle East for England, where they met). But Ottolenghi is Jewish, born of an Italian father and German/Israeli mother. Tamimi is Palestinian.


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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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