40 degrees of latitude

I’ve often noticed that the equatorial and tropical cookbooks come out in summer, when the greatest number of people have a chance of getting the warm-weather produce typically found in those climates.  So we often see Mexican cookbooks and Thai and Vietnamese cookbooks around this time of year.

This year, what I’m seeing are subtropical cookbooks–cuisines from that zone of mild winters and year-round fertility, extending from 23 to 40 degrees of latitude.  There’s Food From Many Greek Kitchens–classic Greek recipes from the cosmopolitan Tessa Kiros.  There’s The Kimchi Chronicles, a Korean home-cooking guide by Marja Vongerichten (yes, the wife of Jean-Georges).  It’s true – the Greek isles and the Korean peninsula are approximately the same distance from the equator–bet you never thought about that before!

And then there is Claudia Roden’s stupendous Food of Spain, which manages the rare trick of being both authoritative and approachable.  The essays are a master class in geography and culture.  And while you might expect the recipes to depend on obscure ingredients or equipment only available in a tiny Galician mountain village, very few of them give you the cold shoulder in that way.

Although I wouldn’t say no to a plane ticket taking me those crucial ten or twenty degrees of latitude south from New England, having these books at hand in an air-conditioned living room is almost adventure enough.

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