Cookbooks Around The World
Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, 9:29 a.m.Staff Picks
Cookbooks Around The World
A few decades ago, the cookbook world was much more limited than it is now. Most cookbooks you could find came from European food culture, and if you were able to find something from a different culinary tradition, chances were that it was a watered-down, somewhat inauthentic version of that tradition. Thankfully, things have improved on that front, and I’ve picked out just a few beautiful cookbooks from around the world that highlight the history, creativity, and culture of these inimitable and wonderful food traditions. All of these were published within the last five or so years, and help to illustrate the breadth and depth of the cookbook world, both in general and at DCPL. Happy cooking (and eating)!
Korean American, by Eric Kim
One of the most beloved cookbooks released in 2022, Korean American is written by Eric Kim, a food writer and cook who grew up in Atlanta as the son of two Korean immigrants. There are certainly some recipes in the book that would seem more traditionally Korean (numerous versions of kimchi, a recipe for kalbi, etc.), but Kim’s upbringing in the United States is evident as well. Recipes like Crispy Lemon-Pepper Bulgogi and Old Bay Shrimp Cocktail with Wasabi Chojang place both Korean and American flavors in new contexts to highlight their qualities. The book is, among other things, a tribute to the writer’s mother, and the stories and remembrances of her cooking through the decades are perfect accompaniments to the beautiful food.
Mi Cocina, by Rick Martinez
A culinary tour, from Baja in the north to Yucatan in the south with countless stops in between, Mi Cocina is an incredibly beautiful and varied look at the food of Mexico. The author was born in Austin, Texas to a Mexican American family, and now resides in Sinaloa on the west coast of Mexico. The book begins with basics like tortillas, rice and beans, and nearly 20 (!) salsas and dips, before tracing Martinez’s road trip through all 32 states in the country. This book does a great job illuminating the diversity of the food throughout Mexico, and the reader may realize that although “Mexican” food is one of the most established international cuisines in the United States, it is by no means representative of the whole country. From seafood dishes served in seaside regions, to pork-based dishes from central Mexico, to complex moles from Oaxaca, Mi Cocina is a stunning look at the glorious and rich food history of Mexico.
Hawker Fare, by James Syhabout
Like a few of the other titles on this list, this beautiful book is part cookbook and part autobiography, with the author talking about his experiences in Southeast Asia before coming to the United States as a Laotian refugee in the early 1980s. Syhabout talks about the differences (and similarities) between Thai food, a quite well-known cuisine in the United States today, and Lao food, a cuisine much less understood. You won’t find recipes for pad thai or tom yum in this book, but the Laotian flavors and ingredients present here are certainly related to some of those more familiar dishes. This is a great title for someone familiar with Southeast Asian food and looking to learn a bit more about some of the smaller subsections of that delicious foodway.
In Bibi's Kitchen, by Hawa Hassan
This book is concerned with the food of the 8 countries in eastern Africa that border the Indian Ocean, among them Somalia, Tanzania, and South Africa. The lovely idea for the book is that the recipes come from the kitchens’ of grandmothers from those countries, and the author brings the reader into those spaces to give context and depth to the recipes. The author visits kitchens both in and outside of Africa, illustrating the reach and persistence of these foods. Each grandmother, or “bibi”, is given a brief introduction before we are shown the recipes that they are sharing. From breads like injera, to stews and spice mixes, to delicious vegetable dishes and even desserts, this book is a warm and inviting introduction to some of the world’s best and most underpublicized cuisines.
Fresh India, by Meera Sodha
A follow-up to the author’s smash debut Made in India, Fresh India is comprised strictly of vegetarian recipes. The cuisines of India shine in this context, as many of the dips, curries, rice dishes, and snacks thrive with no need for meat of any kind. This book seems to be a wonderful and somewhat low-stress introduction to the world of cooking Indian food, and even a quick glance at the recipes included may fill the reader’s head with things they’d like to cook right away, like Blackened Sweet Corn Chaat, Lentil Fritters with Chutneys, and Lime Pickle Rice with Roasted Squash.
About the Author
Walter Rodgers is the Adult Services Librarian at the Bellevue branch of the DC Public Library. He’s been with the library for nearly ten years, across multiple branches. His favorite types of books include literary fiction, music histories, cookbooks, and spy novels. In his spare time, he loves to spend time with his two children, play and listen to music, and explore new restaurants and cuisines.