National Dish: Around the World in Search of Food, History, and the Meaning of Home by Anya Von Bremzen

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  • ISBN 10 0735223165
  • ISBN 13 9780735223165
  • Published Jun 20 2023
  • Format Hardcover
  • Page Count 352
  • Language English
  • Countries United States
  • Publisher Penguin Press

Publishers Text

The acclaimed international food writer and award-winning author of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking explores the history and future of six of the world’s most fascinating and iconic food cultures—France, Italy, Japan, Spain, Mexico, and Turkey

We all have an idea in our heads about what French food is—or Italian, or Japanese, or Mexican, or…. But where did those ideas come from? Who decides what makes a national cuisine? Anya von Bremzen, award-winning international food writer, has written definitive cookbooks for Russian, Spanish and Latin American cuisine, and delved into the world’s great food traditions as a three-time James-Beard-award-winning food journalist. Now, in National Dish, she embarks on a fascinating journey to the heart of six of the world’s most storied food traditions, going high and low, from world-famous chefs to people on the street, in search of how cuisine became connected to place.

Paris is where the whole idea of a country’s food as its national heritage was first invented, and so it is where Anya must begin. With an inquisitive eye and unmistakable wit, she ponders the invention of the restaurant, the codification of French food, and the tension between the cosmopolitan and locavore tendencies of the modern eater. From France, she moves quarters to Naples, where she comes face to face with the myth and reality of the pizza in the city where it all began, and takes on the Italian-ness of pasta in the bargain. Next is Tokyo, where Anya and her partner Barry explore the mystique of ramen, rice, and the distance between Japan’s future and its past. From there they move to Seville, to search for the essence of Spain’s tapas culture and sense of community, and then Oaxaca, where culture wars over the pretty dream and the complex reality of postcolonial cultural integration find expression in the form of maize, mole, and mescal. In Istanbul, a traditional Ottoman potluck with friends becomes a lens on how a great multi-cultural empire defined its food heritage. Finally, they land back in their beloved home in the melting pot of Jackson Heights, Queens, for a Ukrainian dinner centered around borscht, a meal which has never felt more loaded, or more precious.

A book of astonishing range and connoisseurship, National Dish peels back the layers of myth, commercialization, and fetishization around these great world cuisines. In so doing, it brings us to a deep appreciation of how the country makes the food, and the food the country.

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