Pride & Pudding: The History of British Puddings, Savoury and Sweet
This is a lovely paean to the heart and soul of British cooking, the pudding. Originally savory, puddings were cooked as a stuffing in an animal’s stomach (haggis) or intestines (sausage). As sugar became more available, they headed to the dessert trolley. The names were charming: plum duff, dead man’s arm, Sussex pond, bakewell, flummery and, of course, spotted dick (Americans snigger, but “dick” is simply another word for dough). You may not want to jump right into hackin pudding (veal, oats, suet, spices), but the sweeter offerings are delightful. (Available for pre- order; to be released in October.)
If I were the publisher of “Food Fights & Culture Wars,” I would sell the illustrations: scenes of cannibalism, Italian villas made of nougat, Cortes landing in Mexico, a cover of “Barbeque’n with Bobby” (a cookbook from Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party) and an engraving of a servant who tried to assassinate Louis XV being quartered by horses. This is a series of somewhat haphazard historic snapshots rather than a cohesive narrative, so it might be better suited to the bathroom than the library. But for culinary history buffs such as myself, this book provides tasty snacking.
Food Fights & Culture Wars: A Secret History of Taste
Apricots on the Nile: A Memoir with Recipes
This memoir has been around (since 1999), but it lingers in my memory for the author’s portrait of her father’s Egyptian-Jewish relatives, with whom she waited out World War II. It feels a bit like an English drawing-room mystery: The players sweep in and out and are skilled in the art of character-acting. A wedding feast features feta-filled pastries, stuffed quail, cheese pastry with pistachios and deep-fried dough soaked in honey and orange blossoms. (The book includes about 40 recipes.) Downton Abbey in Cairo? Perhaps, but the food is far better.
Another read from my bookshelf. The most expensive wine ever sold (as of 2009) was a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite Bordeaux at $156,000. It was purported to come from Thomas Jefferson’s Paris stash, which inexplicably had never been shipped to the States. The simple question Wallace asks in his 2008 book: “Is it authentic?” That leads him into the dark side of the wine world, including auction houses and wine experts, none of whom have anything to gain by exposing the truth. This book reads like a good murder mystery—it’s lucid and well-paced—but also conveys the complexity of a business that is only loosely regulated. Good fun.
The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine
Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (That Happens To Be Vegan)
Nobody has ever accused me of being trendy. I opt to avoid it in literature, dining, music and fashion—with a few out-of-character exceptions. When I read lines such as, “Shannon knows she’s an asshole for not being vegan,” well, I think I have wandered into the wrong establishment. But the first recipe, horchata rice pudding, was fresh and appealing. Other simple recipes followed—warm marinated olives, tomato and quinoa salad, pozole and tortilla soup. And, I admit, the tattoos, red lipstick and fresh design gave me hope for the future of the culinary arts rather than a feeling of dread. There is something authentic about the style of this book. It wasn’t hatched in the mind of a marketing queen, because “Smith & Daughters” is grounded in good cooking. That’s the only kind of ground that matters.