Memory, Oblivion, Bananas

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Second maybe to joining a gym and getting swole, we’ve observed that “learning to cook and thus eat better/healthier while enjoying life more and saving money” is a supremely popular New Year’s resolution. 

photo 2 (30)As the last days of 2015 tick by and ice falls from the sky, we’ve been admiring some of the cookbooks currently on display in our nonfiction bunker. We think that a beautiful cookbook, in addition to making excellent resolution-sealing use of that gift certificate you were given over the holidays, makes a great present for the deserving person on your list whom you perhaps overlooked in your shopping frenzy.

Lucky the New Year’s Eve host (or forgotten relative) who receives one of these handsome tomes.

Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s newest cookbook,  Nopi, will appeal to fans of Plenty (and Plenty More)–Nopi’s restaurant website describes signature dishes  by chef Ramael Scully such as “courgette and manouri fritters, coriander seed-crusted burrata with slices of blood orange and twice-cooked baby chicken with lemon myrtle salt and chilli jam”–but has a decidedly more omnivorous, Asian-inspired palate, and its edges gleam golden as a holy book’s.

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Enrique Olvera’s book on Mexican cooking reflects the vibrant, varied poetry of authentic Mexican cuisine. Translucent pages of narration overlay recipes for delicacies that are complex and rich, (but accessible, not overly complicated) and tell stories of Olvera’s childhood journeys through the markets of D.F., his grandmother’s kitchen, and a little trocito or two to pair with the dish, like these words from the blind wizard Borges: “Creative activity always lies between memory and oblivion.”

photo 4 (14)Just the kind of exquisite passion we can’t resist. 
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Heidi Swanson’s latest cookbook, Near & Far, dwells within a similar space between culinary guide and narrative. It’s a book of travel, described as a “deeply personal collection…Equal parts recipe journal and photo album, Near & Far focuses on dishes inspired by Heidi Swanson’s Northern California kitchen and her many international travels to diverse cities including Marrakech, Tokyo, Paris, Jaipur, Rome, Kyoto, Palermo, New Delhi, and more.”

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I love the photography in this book–not just of food, but of the writer’s memories of the cities from which these recipes derive.

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And I also love the lists–the necessary array of ingredients in any given place. I’ve used Swanson’s website, 101 Cookbooks, to make dinner on the fly, more times than I can count. The site contains a supremely helpful search function–plug in an ingredient (say, “leek”) and a season (Deep Winter Times), and you’ll find a corresponding list of recipes. The lists that appear in Near & Far are the brilliant inverse of Swanson’s website search function. Here is your dazzling palate-wheel, ready your pantry, let’s go to Paris, or Kyoto, or Rome.

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Happy New Year!

We salute you! May 2016 bring you travels, feasts, and happiness. May your endeavors inside and out of the kitchen be delicious and joy-bringing. May you read great books.

Thank you for making Literati’s year so very wonderful.



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