Reviews for Historical Cookbook of the American Negro

Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 November 2000
International influence on the nation's tables continues despite the growing strength and maturity of uniquely American cuisine. America's professional and home cooks continue to seek out and learn from the cooking of nations far from their own borders.Japanese food has conquered America's palate almost as completely as Japanese cars have come to dominate the nation's highways. America's teens, especially, have become fascinated with the joys of sushi, and wasabi vies with salsa as a source of tongue-tingling pleasure. Hiroko Shimbo eruditely introduces the American home cook to The Japanese Kitchen and its centuries-old traditions. Beyond her explicit instructions for expertly preparing sushi, Shimbo offers a host of other recipes that don't require a source of pristine raw seafood to succeed. Noodle dishes, soups, and even a version of roast beef in a sake sauce show the range of edibles turned out by today's Japanese cook. Shimbo takes pains to place each recipe carefully within its context, explicating the history and character of each dish and painstakingly inventorying the varieties of rice and noodles used.Italian food is arguably America's most beloved foreign cuisine, pizza and pasta being only the most obvious imports. So adaptable is Italian cuisine outside the peninsula's borders that Lori de Mori contends that one can follow an Italian diet anywhere. In Italy Anywhere she provides simple but uncommon recipes, such as sausage-stuffed olives, that are bound to become hits at cocktail hour. In lieu of the familiar Italian American pasta "fazool," she suggests a lentil, tomato, and spinach combination to sauce spaghetti.Respected food critic John Mariani cuts directly to the essence of these fused cuisines with The Italian-American Cookbook, surrendering to the fact that America's take on Italian cooking doesn't always replicate the pure product of the motherland. Partnering with his wife, Galina, Mariani offers antipasti and pasta dishes sure to please with the sort of robust flavors found in their Farfalle with sausage, tomato, and porcini sauce. They do not hesitate to include recipes for such items popular with Americans as manicotti and St. Louis' "toasted ravioli," which are unrecognizable in Italy. Acknowledging the American penchant for combining as many ethnic traditions as possible, the Marianis include an oxtail stew fragranced with indisputably Asian lemongrass.Purists who nevertheless demand authentic Italian cooking need look no further than Frances Mayes' In Tuscany. This heavily illustrated volume draws on the great success of the author's travel books, fleshing out her descriptions of Tuscan quotidian life with a handful of recipes for those simple, basic foods that sustain the residents of Italy's heartland. Other currently available Tuscan cookbooks provide a greater palette of foods but few so rich a visual detailing of the region.Italian Intermezzo, the latest in Sharon O'Connor's Menus and Music series, brings together recipes from Italian eateries in Italy and the U.S. Recipes reflect current restaurant cooking trends, with items such as porcini mushroom souffles and fruit soups particularly notable. One of the book's best-conceived menus hails from a Seattle restaurant where wild-mushroom-sauced spaghettini and rich braised lamb shanks precede dessert of pears and gorgonzola, perfect flavor complements. An accompanying CD of light classic Italian music helps to inspire the cook laboring over the stove or to create a romantic atmosphere at dinner.Although the kitchens of the Vatican constitute at best the world's most exclusive microcuisine, the Holy See has had its share of influence on American eating habits through its calendar of abstinence days. Mariangela Rinaldi and Mariangela Vicini have compiled a brief culinary history of the Vatican, from the start of the Christian era through the present. Buon Appetito, Your Holiness offers simple recipes of the sort consumed in the fourth and fifth centuries through elaborate banquets favored by Renaissance popes. Cooks will find precious few recipes for everyday family consumption, but the book's appeal lies in its historical anecdotes and its broadly conceived notions of papal history, where even Pope Joan and her Aphrodisiac Sea Bass have a place at the table.Moving east from Italy, travelers encounter Greece and its archipelago. The foods of the Greek islands, as described by Aglaia Kremezi, have suffered from the decreasing harvest of surrounding seas. Nevertheless, these islands carry forward a grand tradition that marries aspects of Western cooking with ingredients of Eastern provenance. In addition to the book's attractive recipes, readers profit from Kremezi's suggested variations for many of the dishes--for example, turning a large lemon custard in phyllo pastry into individual, handily served packets.East of Greece lies the home of one of the world's great culinary traditions, that of the Middle East. Claudia Roden has updated her classic work, first published in 1972, and presents The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. She has used this occasion to add variations to classic recipes and to update readers about newly available foods, such as the increasing variety of eggplants found in contemporary markets. Libraries will want this new edition for the wealth of reference information on Middle Eastern cooking the volume holds.Mort Rosenblum eschews recording recipes in favor of giving the reader a sense of the role of food in the lives of the French. Although the pressures of globalization have altered the way young French people in particular eat, the world's preeminent food culture still carries forward its national obsession. A Goose in Toulouse examines some of France's most significant contributions to the table in a series of essays covering Roquefort cheese, cassoulet, champagne, goat cheese, truffles, and that indispensable annual catalog of French restaurants, the Michelin Red Guide. Rosenblum profiles chefs from the aged Raymond Thuilier, who conceived Provence's Le Baumaniere, through contemporary artists on the order of the Savoie region's Marc Veyrat. In 1958, the National Council of Negro Women published a cookbook documenting their food heritage. Organized to serve as a means of observing annual holidays, it presented recipes from the earliest days of the nation, with contextual commentary. The cookbook marched boldly into territory beyond plantation life with exotica such as sukiyaki and Ceylon curry. A new reprint of The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro offers insight into both the cooking of the first generations of African Americans and the self-perception of their female descendants at the outset of the sixties' civil rights movement.Julia Child's career has now come full circle. Her newest book assumes the reader's mastery of the kitchen skills outlined in her previous tomes. Julia's Kitchen Wisdom offers few traditional recipes; instead, the grande dame of chefs shows how a real cook operates, cooking from ideas and from techniques polished during years of working over a stove, not from a formal recipe. This short book will appeal to anyone whose imagination is as central to cooking as technical skill.Mark Knoblauch, formerly a restaurant critic for the Chicago Tribune, is a longtime Booklist reviewer.Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews