International Eclectic

Is it me, or are we seeing a rise in unclassifiably ethnic cookbooks?

It used to be that you might run across a cookbook author with an unusually well-travelled culinary past–Tessa Kiros of Falling Cloudberries, say, whose recipes are Finnish and Greek and South African, just for a start.  Books like hers are as much a story of the author’s many journeys as about the food.

But this year, something different is happening.  There’s a sudden upwelling of chef books that push readers to stretch their culinary boundaries.  Consider Cindy Pawlcyn’s Cindy’s Supper Club, which merrily careens from Hawaii to Peru to Ethiopia to Japan.  Or Susan Feniger’s Street Food, full of obscure ingredients and the kind of snacks and treats you find on that truck with a really long line stretching around the block.  (Click here for more thoughts about streets, trucks, and road food.)

There’s one I haven’t dipped into yet–Jeffrey Saad’s Global Kitchen.  Which brings up the point: why is it that all these titles include somebody’s name?  My guess–if I had to have one–would be that it’s because these books are so hard to pin down.  If it’s not a Turkish book or a gluten-free book or a slow-cooker book or a book about goats, how are you going to convey something marketable in the title?  By using the chef’s name, I guess.

Personally, I love these freewheeling, adventuresome books. I like hunting down kokum plums and kalonji seed and Korean miso in stores where nobody speaks much English. I like it when my kitchen fills up with the scent of completely unfamiliar aromatics.  I like it when the whole family sits down and not one of us knows what’s in store.  How about you?

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One Comment

  • sir_ken_g  on  July 29, 2012

    Our kitchen is diverse ethic to the max. Middle Eastern, Country French, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Spanish,,,,you name it. Lots of ingredients and the 100 or so spices required.

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