Olive oil prices skyrocket

 olives

It might be a good idea to stock up on olive oil. According to reports, supplies of the popular substance are dwindling and the price has skyrocketed due to several devastating weather events. Hot and humid weather in Italy attracted olive fruit flies and allowed damaging bacteria to flourish. The yield this year is expected to be only half of normal.

Greece likewise saw hot weather reducing output. And in Spain's largest olive oil growing region, floods ruined the harvest. All of these events are coupled with an increase in demand for olive oil, especially in the growing Chinese market. Prices were already on the rise and are expected to spike sharply in coming months as stockpiles dwindle. 

Some areas have seen increases of up to 20 percent with more on the way. Brits may feel the most pain, with prices estimated to be up over 30 percent by year's end. It doesn't look like olive oil will disappear from store shelves any time soon, but we'll definitely be paying more for the golden substance. 

Is Prue Leith coming to the GBBO?

Leith's Cookery SchoolRumors are swirling that restaurateur, and cookery-school founder Prue Leith may be in the running to replace Mary Berry on the new GBBO. No one has confirmed this rumor, but many people agree that she is amply qualified for the hosting spot. Leith opened her Michelin-starred restaurant, Leith's, in the late 1960s and founded Leiths School of Food and Wine a few years later. She's written many cookbooks plus a handful of novels.

 

Leith says that she has had two auditions and several meetings with GBBO producers and thinks the job is down to two contenders (there's no word on who the other contender may be). Hosting the show would be a dream job, according to Leith. "Of course I'd love to do it. Who wouldn't want to do it?" she said in an interview. Both Love Productions, who purchased the rights to the show, and Channel 4 have declined to confirm whether Leith is being considered for the job.

 

The 76-year-old Leith is the same age as Berry, who chose to stay with BBC after GBBO was sold. The show is set to return later this year, as the BBC decided not to exercise a "hold-back" clause that would have precluded Channel 4 from airing the show in 2017. 

IACP announces 2017 Cookbook Award nominees

Yesterday, the International Association of Culinary Professionals (more commonly known by its acronym IACP) announced its 2017 Food Writing Awards. The awards cover a large spectrum of food writing, from regular food columns to social media accounts (two awards for best food Instragram accounts!), blogs, websites, videos, and our favorite, cookbooks.

Cookbook collage

The sixteen categories remain unchanged from last year with two small exceptions: the Literary category is expanded to Literary or Historical, and Photography morphs into Food Photography & Styling. One book really stands out: Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South by Vivian Howard, which was nominated in four different categories! (Watch this blog for an upcoming review and giveaway for Deep Run Roots.)

Other EYB Member favorites on the list include Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking by Naomi Pomeroy, nominated in the Chefs & Restaurants category; Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill, which was nominated in three categories; and Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life by Kate McDermott, nominated in both Photography and Single Subject. 

As usual, some books ended up in categories that you might not expect. Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking by  Uri Scheft landed in the Culinary Travel and Photography categories but not in Baking. Speaking of baking, I was surprised that Dorie's Cookies did not make the cut. At first I thought that it was released too late in the year, but Marcus Samuelsson's The Red Rooster Cookbook was released a mere week before Dorie's book and The Spice Companion by Lior Lev Sercarz was released the week after, yet they both made the list.

You can see the complete list of cookbook nominees on the EYB website, and read the official press release at IACP, where you can also view the non-cookbook nominees.    

USA tops the Bocuse d'Or

trophyA little over a week ago the Bocuse d'Or, the most prestigious worldwide culinary competition, was held in Lyon, France. For the first time in the competition's 30-year history, a team from the United States - helmed by Chef Mathew Peters - won the event. You can read a diary that Peters kept for The Daily Beast that tracked the final days leading up to the competition.

As you might expect, it takes a lot of training to become the world's top chef. Peters and his teammates prepared for over a year, staying in Napa Valley, California, near the practice kitchen set up by the Ment'or BKB Foundation, which sponsored the team and provided mentoring in addition to a stipend and a well-equipped kitchen.

Most countries sponsor a national team, but the United States team does not receive any governmental support, which is why celebrated chefs Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jérôme Bocuse founded The Ment'or BKB Foundation in 2008.  In the past few years, the foundation's work has really paid off. In 2015, the USA team took second place - the first medal won by Americans in the competition, and now they can claim the ultimate prize as well. 

The competition is as much as test of endurance as it is of cooking prowess. Over the course of about 5 1/2 hours, Peters and Harrison Turone had to create to create two elaborate platters of food. As if the food preparation itself weren't stressful enough, the event arena is filled with noisy spectators who make as much noise as they can. 

Vancouver cookbook store to close

 Barbara Jo's Books to Cooks

I'm afraid we have some sad news to report in the world of cookbook stores. After a 20 year run, Barbara Jo's Books to Cooks, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is shutting its doors. In her letter, owner Barbara Jo says that she will keep the website and will report there on her future plans at a later date. 

Despite strong cookbook sales overall, brick-and-mortar cookbook stores continue to struggle. Competing on price with Amazon and other online sources is difficult, and it seems that people value the convenience and price of online shopping more than the assistance and programs of cookbook stores. In recent years, we've only noted one store opening (Read It and Eat in Chicago), while several stores have closed. 

If you are in the area, Barbara Jo has announced a going-out-of-business sale with discounts from 25% to 40% off regular prices. She's also selling the store's piano, pictured above. Barbara Jo is looking foward to new opportunities, and she ended her letter with these words: "Thank you all. I cry not for what has been but smile for what will be."

Cooking with words

An article entitled Dreams of Cooking Behind Barbed Wire passed through my newsfeed earlier this week. The subject of the article broke my heart while reminding me that hope, food and love of family - even when manufactured through memories - is incredibly powerful.  

The photo to the left taken by the Sydney Jewish Museum is of a 56-page cookbook laced together with barbed wire and memories and was compiled by the women of Ravensbruck. The contributors of this formidable piece of history were the starving inmates of Germany's largest female concentration camp during World War II. Sharing their stories and writing down their recipes helped the women hold on to themselves, deal with their hunger and gave them strength. These memories of the life that was left behind sustained their spirits.

The cookbook is housed at the Sydney Jewish Museum and is one of six known fantasy cookbooks written by Holocaust prisoners. Edith Peer, the creator of this particular book, was forced to work in an office which enabled her to steal pencil and paper. Stealing these materials, writing down these recipes and keeping the book hidden was very risky. The Sydney Museum's head curator, Roslyn Sugarman, states it beautifully, "This tiny book is an act of resistance to maintain a sense of hope and humanity."

This piece sent me on a journey of learning as much as I could about these strong women who "cooked with words" and strengthened their resolve to keep home and family in their hearts. My search lead me to "Yehudit's Recipe Book" a young Hungarian woman who with her friends kept the faith by sharing fantasy meals and writing down recipes. There are more stories out there - more voices that must be heard.

Today, I'm sharing a few titles below that may be of interest. The first two I have ordered and were recommended by friends. These stories are powerful reminders of what hate can do but also of what hope, love and strength can endure.

In Memory's Kitchen: A Legacy from the Women of Terezin by Cara Desilva shares the stories of the brave women who defied their captors by preserving their heritage. Despite the horrid conditions the prisoners' endured in the camps - cultural, intellectual, and artistic life did exist within its hellish walls. The handwritten cookbooks are proof that the Nazis could not break the spirit of the Jewish people.



Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival: The Remarkable Stories and Authentic Recipes of Holocaust Survivors
by June Feiss Hersh gives voice to the remarkable stories and cherished recipes of the Holocaust community.  The first professionally written kosher cookbook of its kind is a moving compilation of food memories, stories about food and families, and recipes from Holocaust survivors from Poland, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and Greece. 
 
Holocaust Survivor Cookbook: Collected From Around the World by Joanne Caras and her follow up Miracles & Meals Volume 2 of the Holocaust Survivor Cookbook (The Holocaust Survivor Cookbook)  is a collection of recipes from survivors but more importantly these books contain the stories of the strength and resilience of these women. I've read both books and passed them on to others. I felt keeping these titles on my shelf was not as important as sharing these stories.

Iron Chef America coming back to Food Network

 Iron Chefs

Fans of the television series Iron Chef America will be happy to learn that the show, which left Food Network in 2014, is returning in spring 2017. The reboot of the show includes a new name: the new program will be called Iron Chef Gauntlet

Reports indicate that Alton Brown will be reprising his role as host of the competition. It's hard to believe that the first Iron Chef America premiered in 2005 - over a decade ago! Next Iron Chef premiered in 2007 and the two shows ran concurrently for five seasons, after which Next Iron Chef was dropped. If you didn't realize that Iron Chef America was no longer on the airwaves, that is because although the program ended its run on Food Network in 2014, it moved to Cooking Channel for a year before being mothballed.

Bobby Flay remains the most winning chef on Iron Chef America, racking up 43 wins. He's followed by Michael Symon, whose tally stands at 34. Symon enjoys the best win percentage, beating his opponents over 80% of the time. At this time there is no word on whether these - or any - of the former Iron Chefs will return. 

Alton Brown announces internet cooking show

Alton Brown EverydaycookFans of Alton Brown have mourned his departure from the Food Network, but now they have something to cheer them up. In a live chat on Facebook on Saturday, Brown delighted his audience by revealing that he will be soon starting a new internet cooking show.


The new program will allegedly be called "A Cooking Show", and it will be a sequel to his popular program Good Eats. Brown decided not to try to put the show on television for two reasons, the first of which is that he wanted freedom to do what he wanted without worrying about "what a larger corporate entity might or might not want." He listed several subjects that the Food Network wouldn't let him cover, which included cooking game like rabbit and venison, and working with offal. Brown also said he would be using a digital scale in his cooking. He warned fans that they would have to become proficient in using one, and was adamant that he would be using metric measurements, because he "hates fractions and hates decimals", stating that "grams is grams."


The second reason for placing the show on the internet is that he wanted to be able to respond to his fans' requests. In Brown's hour-long Facebook chat, he proceeded to do just that: notepad in hand, he scribbled down subjects that his fans were writing in the comments. One of the topics was "more steaks" - to which Brown replied that he would be interested in working with meat other than beef. Another topic was yeast breads, and Brown promised to bring back the "yeast puppets" that he killed in an episode of Good Eats. While no exact timeline was announced, Brown said the new show will debut sometime next year.

America's Test Kitchen sues Christopher Kimball

Milk Street magazineIf the EYB Forum and Facebook posts are any indication, plenty of our members recently received the charter issue of Milk Street, Christopher Kimball's new publication. The magazine may have seemed familiar to Cook's Illustrated in its approach to recipe development: create the best version of a dish by listing, and subsequently eliminating, the problems that often arise in other recipes. The concept is a bit too familiar to his former company, which has filed a lawsuit against Kimball, alleging that he "literally and conceptually ripped off America's Test Kitchen."

The suit claims that Kimball not only copied the model, but that he took steps to build Milk Street as a direct competitor to ATK, including using the company's databases and recipes, while still employed at America's Test Kitchen. Jack Bishop, currently the Chief Creative Officer at ATK, said that Kimball "kept on saying he wasn't going to compete. I took him at his word." Bishop noted several similarities between Cook's Illustrated and Milk Street, including graphical properties and the magazine's 32-page size.

The lawsuit cites a number of emails that purportedly show Kimball, or those working under his direction, surreptitiously completing tasks for the benefit of Milk Street, such as obtaining office space and copying recipes. This is not the only litigation involving Milk Street: the owner of Boston's Milk Street Cafe filed a trademark lawsuit earlier this year.

Gourmet Traveller turns 50

 Australian Gourmet Traveller

Fifty years ago last February, the first edition of what would become Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine appeared on newsstands. To celebrate a half century of celebrating Australian food culture, the magazine has issued a 'virtual reprint' of its inaugural magazine, when it was known as The Australian Gourmet Magazine

The magazine notes that a lot has changed since its inception. They note that they "no longer address readers as "my darling girls". Nor would we recommend prawns on ice, or prescribing glazed wing rib of beef as "the way to his heart", they continue. Major graphical changes have occurred along the way as well. 

In an era where magazines frequently fold, it's refreshing to see a food publication celebrate such longevity. While our index doesn't go back to 1966, we have indexed almost every issue of Gourmet Traveller since 2010, so you can browse the magazine and learn more about it. Recent issues have had averaged about half of the recipes available online. 

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!

Archives