Tag Archives: cookbooks

Grand Opening: Read It and Eat

So many books, so little time

So many books, so little time


Last night, I attended the grand opening of a new bookstore in Chicago — a bookstore dedicated to food. It is named, appropriately, Read It & Eat. The handsome, bright venue is dominated by pristinely white shelves crammed with cookbooks, food histories, food literature, volumes on food and culture, works on food and science (have to get Harold McGee in there), food fiction — thousands of books — but there is also a spiffy kitchen along one wall, for doing demos and teaching classes. So definitely food-centric — and deliriously fun for those who love food and books.
Test and demo kitchen

Test and demo kitchen


For the opening, Mindy Segal was on hand, signing copies of her new book, Cookie Love. The bonus here was that she also supplied some of the cookies featured in the book. Impressively elegant sweets. Saw a lot of friends there, including Patty Erd of The Spice House, Catherine Lambrecht, creator of LTHforum.com and the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance and guiding spirit of Culinary Historian of Chicago, and Scott Warner, president of Culinary Historians. But all those who crowded the new shop were clearly enthusiasts. It looked as though as many were buying books as were enjoying the cookies, wine, and chatting with other book lovers. A highlight among many highlights for me was, of course, seeing my own book–Midwest Maize–on the shelf.

The bookstore is the brainchild of Esther Dairiam, who was inspired by a splendid culinary bookstore in Paris. She hoped that Chicago, among the country’s most food-centric locations, would be a good place to try to create something similar, but with the addition of the kitchen facilities, to create a more complete food experience.

Read It & Eat is located at 2142 N. Halstead, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. If you’re in the area, it is definitely worth visiting.

Well-labeled shelves

Well-labeled shelves


It’s a great concept well executed. I hope they do splendidly well.

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Filed under Books, culinary history, Culture, Food

Sheilah Kaufman Cooks

My dad was great at finding interesting people and bringing them into our lives. At least a few decades ago, he met Sheilah Kaufman while on a business trip. He was working for a food company and Sheilah’s career also revolved around food. She was a cooking instructor and cookbook author. While Sheilah lived on the East Coast and we lived in the Midwest, travel, especially hers, brought us into fairly regular contact. She is closer to my age than to my dad’s, and we became friends over the years, drawn together by a mutual love of food history and cooking.

I always loved Sheilah’s idea of what she called “fearless, fussless cooking”–that is, recipes that didn’t take over your whole life, with lots of options for making things ahead, so one could enjoy one’s own parties. Granted, there are days I want a recipe to fill the entire day, or several days, but one can’t live like that, at least if one needs to earn a living.

From Sephardic cooking to general cookbooks to an entire book of recipes that use bread (titled, appropriately, Upper Crusts), Sheilah’s cookbooks covered a fairly wide range of specialties. It was fun to see the books as they came out, and I found a number of recipes in her books that have become favorites.

This last weekend, I connected with Sheilah again, this time at the annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). We’re both members, but Sheilah’s connection is a little stronger: she’s one of the organization’s founders. Aside from being there to network, she was also carrying her newest cookbook, a handsome and impressive tome titled The Turkish Cookbook: Regional Recipes and Stories, which Sheilah co-authored with the wife of the Turkish ambassador. (Sheilah lives near Washington, D.C., so ambassadors are not so hard to come by.) If you want to try out a few recipes before buying, you’re in luck. Sheilah has a website that offers samples from this and other works. Check out Cooking With Sheilah. It’s a great resource–as is Sheilah herself.
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Maine Home Cooking

One of the fun things about being a food historian is that it brings you into contact with other people who share your passion. I realize that is probably true of any serious pursuit–birds of a feather, as they say–but I have been delighted with the many acquaintances and friends I’ve made as I study and search for the foundations of what we eat today.

One of those friends is Sandra Oliver. I first connected with her via the magazine she edited and published for many years: Food History News. What an awesome effort that was–one of the only magazines where I’ve kept every issue and even bought back issues published before I first subscribed. Since then, I’ve met her at food history conferences and kept up a correspondence online. She is a remarkable resource, because she has dug deeper into her specialty than anyone else I know.

Besides the newsletter, consulting work, columns in several magazines and papers, and teaching cooking, Sandra also writes books. I have a couple of her works, and they are gems. Her enthusiasm for her topics is matched by the thoroughness of her research. So when I learned that she had a new book coming out, I figured it was worth letting the world know.

If you are an enthusiast for tradition, New England, American regional cooking, culinary history, Maine, good food, or any combination of those, then Maine Home Cooking is probably a book that probably belongs on your book shelf. Hundreds of recipes cover a range from from classic tried-and-true dishes to new uses for traditional ingredients. It is a cookbook that you can actually use, written for the home cook.

And because I mentioned other books and food history, I should probably offer those titles as well, in case you’re interested. Sandra’s other books include Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century, The Food of Colonial and Federal America, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie, which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin.

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The South American Table…and more

The South American Table

The South American Table

Maria Baez Kijac is an amazing woman. Her experience ranges from cooking shows on PBS to teaching at culinary schools to writing award-wining cookbooks to developing recipes for magazines to hunting down the best dishes to represent the cuisines she loves.

I’ve known Maria for more than seven years now. She is certain that our meeting was fate. When we first met, she had already spent 15 years traveling and collecting recipes from all over South America, testing them and adapting them to North American kitchens, and organizing them for what would become an authoritative and widely acclaimed survey of South American cooking. However, she needed someone who could help with writing, editing, and testing. It didn’t hurt that I’d also traveled in, and loved, her native Ecuador. We worked together for more than a year on the project—a delightful period during which I learned a huge amount about the diverse culture and cuisine of our neighbor to the south—and got to sample a fabulous array of foods from all across the continent—amazingly tasty dishes that ranged from comforting to exotic. Maria’s recipes really are sensational.

The result of Maria’s long and thorough work was The South American Table. Subtitled The Flavor and Soul of Authentic Home Cooking from Patagonia to Rio de Janeiro, with 450 Recipes, the impressive work boasts a foreword by Charlie Trotter and rave reviews on the back cover. It was an instant classic. It was published in 2003, and was named the best Latino cookbook in the world that same year at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Barcelona, Spain.

The thing that brings this up to date is the announcement in October 2008 that the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards have named The South American Table “The Best of the Best”–the best Latino cookbook in the world for the entire 12 years the awards have been given (1996–2008). The wine-colored circle on the lower right hand side of the cover is the ‘Best of the Best” seal, which was added for the most recent printing of the book.

Maria now has a blog, so you can find additional information and new recipes—stuff that might evolve someday into a new book. Maria puts a lot of work into each entry, so new posts only occur every few weeks. The link at right will take you to Maria’s blog.

You can check out (and maybe order) The South American Table on Amazon, or look for it at your local library. Find out what it is already considered a classic.

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