The Adventurous Foodie

700 Foods You Should Try from Around the World by Alexandre Stern, Universe

No matter how you feel about the world “foodie,”you will love this book. It’s a kind of food dictionary you might want to keep around to settle arguments about where is baklava from, what salep is, and who invented peanut butter.

It is a worldwide tour, via a carefully sorted arrangement of ingredients, dishes and drinks that are typical of countries and regions. What is typical you might challenge and who decides? In his introduction, Stern lays out his thoughtfully developed categories, noting right up front that it is a personal selection, but of choices deemed to be representative or palate-expanding. Some countries–France, Japan, China–get their own sections, others are grouped into regions–North Africa vs Sub-Saharan Africa, Spain and Portugal, or Middle East.

In the regions you know, you’ll likely have some quibbles–I think Tomato Soup has been around longer than 1960, and did Frenchmen really bring sourdough to San Francisco? That’s what the internet is for.

In the regions you’ve visited you’ll be delighted to find your discoveries on these pages and ready to return as a more educated eater to try what you’ve missed. For places you’ve never been and barely thought about, your stomach may flip, but you’ll learn history, geography and culture.

Just flipping through the pages, you’ll get a sense of cuisine–the apricots, pistachios, and pomegranates of Iran and the Middle East or the cloves, nutmeg, and coconut of Southeast Asia. And you’ll get a sense of how food travels–baklava appears in Lebanon (but Greece!), mushrooms in France (and Russia), coffee in Ethiopia (and everywhere).

The book ends with a directory of where to get some of these foods–also what the internet is for.

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Diners, Dudes & Diets

How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture.

It’s Super Bowl weekend and I assume that no one will be making quiche for “the big game.” But it’s not just this weekend that food marketers and advertisers think about manly food. Contois confirms all those things that you may have noticed on supermarket shelves–diet drinks recast as power drinks and yogurt that is high-protein, chips that aren’t just hot but flamin’ hot. So if you do make quiche call it ham and egg pie and make it as large as you can–maybe in layers.

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Zoom Chat About Montgomery County’s Ag Reserve

Inspired by Bread & Beauty and sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier of Washington DC.

join us on February 10 at 7pm by registering

B&B cover
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Boulangerie at Home

Harper Collins

I may have found the perfect winter quarantine book. This is a mechanic’s handbook to creating perfect boulangerie–croissants, brioche sucre, apple tarts, vienna rolls, and all sorts of bread loaves. Those delicious things you used to enjoy in the bakery when we all went outside. The treats you could enjoy over an afternoon coffee in the cafe with a friend. Remember all that?

If it’s any comfort, you can re-create them at home, though it will take time–but you’ve probably got that. Also get some flour. And get then get started.

But first understand that you will be an apprentice in your own kitchen. Landemaine worked with Pierre Herme and Paul Bocuse, at Lucas Carton and Le Bristol. He has since opened his own chain of Parisian bakeries an his watchwords are work, excellence and pleasure. Humble yourself and start kneading.

The book begins with the building blocks of bread–various starters and basic doughs–each one with an explanation of the ingredients and how they work together as well as some baker’s tips about shelf life, when it’s ready, and how you can use it.

After the basics, you graduate to the recipes–the twists and cuts to shape, the fillings and finishes that make them perfect. I have begun my devotion with Vienna dough, a milky and just barely sweet that is what white bread should be. It can be fashioned into baguettes, a cheese bread, a seeded bun, or speckled with dried fruit. I’m envisioning quiet breakfasts and a calm table.

I’m hoping that the recipe will become second nature but that I’ll never lose my attentiveness.

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Cleaning Out the Basement–Prohibition Punches

Prohibition Punches by Roxana B. Doran
first printing, August 1930, Dorrance & Company, Inc

Wine is sure proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy

–Benjamin Franklin

It just seems hopeless when government tries to ban something that is fundamental to human culture.

Of course, that doesn’t mean government won’t try to legislate who and how we love, when and how we have families, and how we drink.

Luckily, we can look back on Prohibition as a mistake, an overreach, a cup of unintended consequences.

I found this book at the St. John’s Opportunity Shop, a storefront Aladdin’s cave that regularly reveals new treasures.

This book was a good faith effort to make appealing drinks for every time of day and type of gathering and, in the our time of mock-tails, actually offers a bit of inspiration.

Some of the drinks are more like dessert: raspberry ice, vanilla ice cream, orange ice, and strawberry preserves. Others are more like a salad–tomato wedges, asparagus tips dressed with ketchup, worcestershire, and lemon juice, crabmeat optional. Lemons step in to cut through sweet fruit juices and the strongest mixer is tea.

The preface, by a Dr. Harvey Wiley, describes the book as “a very fine thing” and the Eighteenth Amendment as a “permanent part of our Constition” and promises these drinks “will make for a healthier and more contented mental attitude…”. You know the history–no further comment needed.

The recipes come from various college home economics departments and from various women identified only by their husbands names and titles (this is Washington after all where your spot in the bureaucracy is noted). Laura Volstead Lomen shares a recipe for fruit punch that calls for fresh fruit and a quart of sugar. Somehow the author manages to discern which recipes are suitable for children and offers a recipe from Mrs. John B. Henderson of Henderson Castle on Washington’s 16th Street, known as “the playground of diplomats.”

Apparently Mrs. Henderson decided “that liquor, even the best of it, is injurious to the health of an individual and worse than detrimental to the life of a nation. Without more ado, she ordered the contents of her extensive wine cellar–rated one of the finest in Washington at the time–poured down the gutters outside her castle walls.”

I can only imagine what Senator Henderson had to say.

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Local Dirt

Local Dirt, Seasonal Recipes for Eating Close to Home
by Andrea Bemus, Harper Collins 2020

Here’s how it started with this book. At first I thought, sure, eating local is easy if you live and work on a farm, But as I flipped through the seasonal recipes I remembered those few leaves of kale and the two purple potatoes left over from my latest CSA delivery. More kale–it can be dispiriting.

So I followed Andrea Bemis’s advice to “localize it” and swapped the parsnips for potatoes in her recipe for Cozy Lentil Stew with Kale and Parsnips. The warm spices–cumin, pepper, and smoked paprika–were just the thing for the first nippy night of the changing season.

I’m ready to “localize” Pumpkin Honey Bread, swapping, as Bemis suggests pumpkin for acorn squash and honey for maple syrup. This approach makes cooking and eating with local ingredients realistic and creative.

Bemis, who farms in north central Oregon and suggests asking three questions about your food–is it good for you, good for the planet, and good for your community. An occasional bag of cheetos isn’t the end of the world, but getting more local food into your diet can improve your health, lower pollution created by producing and shipping industrial-scale food, and can provide local jobs and maintain local communities. Kale–even a lot of it–is a good thing!

She’s been through a thoughtful food process, moving away from meat and dairy, and then returning to them, when they are farmed locally and responsibly. Instead of thinking of eating locally in terms of challenges and limitations, Bemis finds herself and her table rooted in the community and the seasons. 

Amid stories of outings with day-boat albacore fisherman, a ranch lunch with cattle farmers who can’t afford to eat their own grass-fed beef, raising their own pigs, and searching out raw milk, Bemis offers seasonal recipes, which, she reassures readers, are “very forgiving and were created with the idea that you can make them your own with what you’ve got.”

She advises sharing bulk purchases with friends or storing stocked up basics in the freezer. Ask questions when you can’t find an ingredient–the farmer might know. Keep it simple and plan ahead. When it’s berry season, enjoy them, freeze them, preserve them. 

After a chapter of basics like stocks, broths, and herbs, Bemis starts the year of recipes in the fall, with pot pies, slaw, soups, and stews–a mushroom hunter’s stew, honey and cider baked beans, and a Sausage and Sage Frittata. Winter warrants biscuits and gravy, a luxurious, waste-not chicken liver pate, and comforting Baked Apple Oatmeal. 

Spring must begin with eggs, here another frittata, green with herbs. Salads and strawberries make an appearance as do lamb kabobs on the grill. It always seems easier to get up earlier in the summer, especially for Huckleberry Cornmeal Pancakes or even a slice of savory Tomato Pie.

And kale gets it due–in that savory stew, in pesto, green eggs and ham, and stirred into a Pumpkin Pot Pie. Who could complain? 

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CHoWline: Soul Food

Have an American meal on this Independence Day–chips and salsa, pizza, hamburger–it’s a big table with room for everyone.

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CHoWline: Food in the Gilded Age

In the 1980s there was a Texas congressman who was skeptical that there were hungry people in the US–poor people looked too fat to be hungry. He was an idiot. Just because there is “food” doesn’t mean it’s healthy, a reasonable part of your budget, or nearby. And this isn’t just a poor people problem. Our food system harms the environment and all our health. I don’t want to be a scold–I love an occasional bag of Cheetos–but small decisions have big impacts.

You can get a copy of this book here and visit the CHoW website to keep up with our meetings and speakers, likely to be zoomed this upcoming season.

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CHoWline: The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery

Have you had that odd jolt yet when you realize you are part of history? Talking to someone in their 20s about the Allman Brothers? That making a shopping list is suddenly considered a life hack? Watching jeans styles go around and around, in and out of fashion?

Take a look at this new version of Foxfire–the voices are as bright and sharp as ever, as are the recipes and techniques. Time has only added patina and appreciation.


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Healthy Bones

cover image

Healthy Bones, Sheilah Kaufman and Paul Jacobsen

Let food be your medicine


I’ve been reading Twyla Tharp’s latest book, Keep it Moving, a bracing look at aging. Too often we think of fighting aging with hair dye, expensive cosmetic potions, even surgery, but recasting it as simply another phase of life, with its own pleasures and perils, is far more energizing.

Of course, Tharp is a dancer and movement is her lens, but her book’s larger message is to not stop;  accept aging, but assess and adjust. Goals, energy and enjoyment don’t end at any age.

And with this book, there is plenty of healthy enjoyment to be found at the table. Sponsored by the National Osteoporosis Foundation and written by the cookbook pros and Cookbook Construction Crew, Sheilah Kaufman and Paul Jacobsen, the book begins with some medical information with recommendations for exercise and medication. Their most reassuring message is that osteoporosis is not an inevitable result of aging.

Before the recipes, the book supplies larger diet information, which can be summed up pretty simply–eat a lot of different real food, avoid sweet and salty junk food, and limit the alcohol and caffeine. This is advice that makes it easy to eat healthy–there’s so much choice!

The recipes taps into that choice with a broad selection of dishes (including one from me–Sicilian-Style Pasta with Sardines–an excellent off-the-shelf quick dinner). The recipes range through the menu and across cultures. Begin the day with Cannoli French Toast, made rich and healthy with ricotta cheese and for an after dinner dessert try Bittersweet Chocolate Loaf Cake made with good-for-you dark chocolate. For Asian Flavors try Curried Shrimp with Apples or Chinese Steak with Pea Pods. The Mediterranean diet has long been touted as a healthful way to eat, and this book offers Moroccan Lamb Meatballs, A creamy yogurt-based Tzatziki, and Garlic Sautéed Rapini, among many others.

In fact, the book is a perfect balance between new flavors and easy techniques, which you can enjoy even more knowing the dishes are good for you.

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