We are entering those so-called dog days of summer, where it’s so hot you just want to lie around and do nothing. Or at least take on nothing more strenuous than a good book. If you like reading about eating I’ve got suggestions from this week’s edition of Food Matters.
There are a few qualifiers as to what makes a good . Sometimes it’s just about getting to the books that I bought earlier in the year…or even last year, and never got around to reading. If I’m going to read cookbooks, they need to be cookbooks in which the author has written quite a bit about the recipes, how they came about, their inspiration or history, instead of just looking at a recipe collection. I tend to get into more single-subject cookbooks at this time and if my murder mysteries have a protagonist who is into food, then that makes them even more special to me.
This week I’m reading a book that was published back in 2006. I picked it up a couple of years ago but never got started on it. It’s called Bitter Chocolate; Investigating the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The author is Carol Off, who most CBC fans know as the host of As It Happens, Monday to Friday right here on Radio One. Before she went behind the microphone at As It Happens, Carol traveled the world as a foreign correspondent and investigative reporter and this book tells the story of how the people who do the most backbreaking work of harvesting the cacao beans get paid the least amount of money in the chocolate process, if they get paid at all. Even the first chapter of the book is fascinating as she describes the journey into the cacao forests of Cote d’Ivoire.
Cookbooks: The first one is Christine Ha, Recipes from my Kitchen; Asian and American Comfort Food. Christine Ha was the winner of MasterChef season 3 in the U.S. That’s remarkable in itself. What is more remarkable is that Christine Ha is blind. She lost her sight in her twenties, but relearned how to cook using all of her other senses. The recipes in this, her first cookbook, take her Asian heritage and blend it with the other flavours she grew up with in Texas. Renowned snarly chef Gordon Ramsay practically purrs over Christine in his forward to the cookbook, he was one of the chefs who judged her efforts as she defeated 99 other contestants in MasterChef.
The other cookbook is by Richard Bertinet. It’s called Pastry; A Master Class for Everyone, in 150 Photos and 50 Recipes. I have to say that I am somewhat intimidated by pastry. To me it can be a very finicky part of cooking, and I don’t have the ‘finicky’ gene in me. So I’m going to see if he can cure me of my doubts by using his step to step methods that start with basic pastry dough recipes which you then develop into both sweet and savoury dishes. Richard Bertinet was born and raised in northwest France. That gives him a head start in pastry right there. He is also the owner of The Bertinet Kitchen cooking school in Bath, England, and I think he puts his teaching experience to good use in this cookbook.
Now, I have a memoir, an investigation into the world’s greatest piece of cheese, and a food magazine that was elected Best Food Magazine in the World after just two issues.
The memoir is: ‘Yes, Chef’ by Marcus Samuelsson
The investigation is ‘The Telling Room’, by Michael Paterniti
And the magazine is Fool #3 ( (published in Sweden, $16!)
The murder mysteries come from the Martin Walker series about Bruno, Chief of Police. Bruno Correges is the chief of police in the small town of St. Denis in the Perigord region of France, where very nice truffles are found. So while Bruno is solving mysteries, he is also cooking and enjoying great food. One in the series is called, ‘The Dark Vineyard’, and delves into experiments with genetically modified organisms, industrial sabotage and a major wine producer trying to buy up little vineyards around the town. In between all of that there is time for proper breakfasts, decadent dinners and a little bit of sex on the side as well. Very juicy.
I brought in one more small but very thick book, but you don’t read this book, you write it! It’s called Cook’s One Line A Day; A Five-Year Culinary Memory Book. This book has one page for every day of the year. Each page is split into five equal sections, where you write down what you cooked in year one at the top. The following year, use the section below, write down what you cooked. You could use it as an eating-out diary as well, but it allows you to trace what you cooked and ate for five years in one handy place. You won’t be writing your next autobiography here, you get six lines per year, but it will be neat to compare your habits from year to year and see if and how your cooking was determined by time of year and availability of ingredients.
And the last word this week goes to the I Heart Local awards. Winners and runners-up in each category were announced this week. Take a look at all of them; celebrate those you’re familiar with, and visit the ones that you haven’t been to before to expand your enjoyment of local food.