A Mouthful of Stars

mouthful of stars cover

A Mouthful of Stars by Kim Sunee, Andrews McMeel 2014, $27.99 hardcover, 240 pages

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving!–

Rosalind Russellas Auntie Mame

It will never be said that Kim Sunee didn’t reach out and grab whatever she could from life. Her travel and recipes take us on journeys of memory and discovery. On the road and in the kitchen, Sunee is looking for connections to her past while shaping her future.

She always seems to be looking for a taste of home, but where is home when you have infant memories of Korea, a New Orleans girlhood, and a peripatetic  adult life?

In her search for a lost home, Sunee finds treasures–her friends and new family all find a sense of belonging when they gather at the table. Hers is a life not only nourished, but enriched, by food.

For the reader, the book is a savory armchair journey that begins with vague taste memories of Korean food, travels on to challenging heat in North African couscous, Indian pan-fried peppers, and Mexican tacos. From there, on to Provence and cocktails perfumed with pastis and orgeat, and meals fragrant with lavender, garlic, basil, and anchovies.

At the next stop, Paris, flavors are more restrained, ranging from classics like Croque Madame, roquefort, and foie gras to soigné dishes like Scallops with Vanilla Fleur de Sel or a Green Apple-Calvados Granita.

As Sunee travels north into Norway and Sweden her recipes take on the cool flavors of caraway, cloudberries, and dill. As she returns back home to Louisiana, she picks up the tradition of one-pot meals–gumbos, jambalayas, and seafood boils–ready to serve the inevitable crowd.

Sooner or later all good eaters end up in Italy and Sunee’s Italian hours were spent with the Super Tuscans–wine and people. The meals are marked with crostini, prosciutto, capers, and anchovies, and stoic Tuscans soften around the table, as melting and bright as a Salad of Roasted Cherries and Burrata.

And as anyone looking for family ties at the table will know, Thanksgiving is the place to start or end. Sunee recalls the orphans’ Thanksgivings she’s celebrated around the world. In Sweden the centerpiece was a salmon and potato pudding, but the dishes vary depending on who’s at the table and where that table is set. The meal she orchestrates here includes bright salad and an homage with her grandfather’s oyster dressing.It is a feast, finished with Vanilla Custard-Filled Baked Apples.

Sunne has the stamina for travel and the skills of a cook, but she also has a talent for finding friends and connections wherever she lands.  Sunee considers herself a southerner–being raised in Louisiana, but her great-grandmother Nora brought the scent of Norwegian cinnamon to the kitchen. Her Parisian doctor became a friend who greets her return with a grand dinner. And some recipes are gratefully acknowledged from fellow cookbook authors and chefs, Suvir Saran, Adolfo Garcia, and Sara Foster among them.

This is the way to travel the world and through life–with friends and food.

About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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