December 30, 2008

The Pleasure of Talking About Food

I came across a book the other day that really caught my eye.

Of course, it was a cookbook. But, not just any cookbook… it was a cookbook of Middle Eastern cuisine.

My initial judgment is that Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food is a treasure. It’s almost 500 pages long. She covers not only recipes, but aspects of the religions and cultures out of which those recipes come.

One of the most interesting things about the book is the fact that she includes variations on the recipes from the different Middle Eastern countries: Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, & North Africa (Morocco).

This book is a feast of food and culture.

The book caught my eye because my wife’s family is Lebanese. I get to enjoy Lebanese cuisine on a regular basis. We even prepare a few dishes at our home. Anyway, yesterday while sitting in the library, I read the following paragraph. It reminded me so much of ourselves that I had to laugh out loud.

“…I ended up meeting some very good cooks. They explained in minutest detail the washing and the handling of ingredients, the feel, the smell, and the color of the food, but usually omitted quantities, weights, and cooking times. I learned that to some ‘leave it a little’ meant an hour, that ‘five spoonfuls’ was in order to make a round figure or because five was for them a lucky number, and that a pinch could be anything from an eighth of a teaspoon to a heaped tablespoon. They were lyrical about how delicious the dishes were, and on the circumstances in which they were prepared. It gave them, I think, as much pleasure to describe the dishes as it gave me to record the recipes” (p.5).

You can see more about the book on Amazon here: The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

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