The Art of Flavor: Practices and
Principles for Creating Delicious Food.
By Daniel Patterson and Mandy Aftel.
Aug. 2017. 272p. Riverhead, $28 (9781594634307). 641.5.
Patterson, an acclaimed chef, and Aftel, an
artisan perfumer, take on the audacious task of
building a lexicon and methodology to describe
not just the nuances of flavor but the process
of layering multiple flavors to construct new
ones. The authors borrow from Aftel’s world of
scents, so that like a perfume’s fragrance, a dish
may be described as having base, middle, and
top notes, but with emphasis according to the
cook’s composition. Using recipes as examples,
the book maps out where herbs and spices fall
on a “flavor compass” and presents “rules of flavor” that guide the combining of ingredients.
And ingredients themselves, the authors point
out, contain multiple flavors—think of a Gala
apple that’s redolent of flowers and vanilla, or
freshly ground cardamom with its elements of
mint and black pepper. The book also discusses
how different cooking methods (e.g., poaching
vs. grilling) affect flavor and how to fine-tune a
dish’s flavor through “the seven dials” or tastes,
such as salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. Overall,
Patterson and Aftel offer a complexly articulated but original approach to understanding
how to cook with a chef’s intuition for delicious results. —Alison Neumer Lara
The Comfort Food Diaries: My
Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend
a Broken Heart.
By Emily Nunn.
Sept. 2017. 320p. Atria, $26 (9781451674200). 641.5973.
The shelves of memoirs are full of stories of educated, accomplished women whose glittering
lives have crashed into titanic icebergs, strewing about them the wreckage
of substance abuse, austerity,
and emotional ruin. Cheryl
Strayed strapped on a pair
of hiking boots, Elizabeth
Gilbert ate her way through
Italy, and Helen Macdonald
trained a bird of prey. Nunn
did what most of us would
probably do in the wake of multiple personal
tragedies—she drank, she inappropriately Facebooked, and she turned to food and friends for
comfort. In graceful, candid prose, Nunn never
flinches while brutally examining her fears and
anxieties, seemingly rooted in her dysfunctional
southern family. But Nunn takes a different, far
more relatable approach to her healing process.
She visits friends and family, cooks for them, allows them to cook for her, and slowly comes to
learn that accepting the smallest acts of human
kindness in times of greatest need is not only
one of her issues, but it is a universal one. Never
preachy or smug, Nunn’s memoir of healing is
full of warm, bracing honesty and the humor
and paradox in family memories and sprinkled
liberally with the type of recipes that will make
book-club members say, “I could make that.”
—Kaite Mediatore Stover
The Cooking Gene: A Journey
through African-American Culinary
History in the Old South.
By Michael W. Twitty.
Aug. 2017. 464p. Amistad, $28.99 (9780062379290).
Referring to the Old South as a forgotten Little Africa, culinary historian Twitty
explores southern cuisine
through the lens of the nation’s troubled racial past,
which has created an amalgam of races and cultures, a
blend often denied. Through
a crowd-funded campaign,
the “Southern Discomfort
Tour,” Twitty traveled from
Civil War battlefields to southern plantations
to black-owned organic farms, reviving old
recipes and using old cooking methods to get
a taste and feel for the food that sustained his
ancestors. Along the way, he uncovers his own
family history and rediscovers for himself a
connection he felt he was losing. Twitty puts his
revelations in the broader context of the heritage of black cooking, noting contributions by
unsung great black American cooks, including
James Hemings, enslaved by Thomas Jefferson.
Hemings learned French cuisine while in Paris
with Jefferson but added his own heritage to
create a blend for Monticello that was credited
to his master. In this amazing memoir of food
culture, Twitty draws the connection between
Hemings and many other historic individuals
and contemporary notions of southern cuisine
that have ignored a neglected and often-bitter
past. This is a joyous journey of discovery by
a man with obvious love for history and the
culinary arts. —Vanessa Bush
The Moosewood Restaurant Table: 250
Brand-New Recipes from the Natural
Foods Restaurant That Revolutionized
Eating in America.
Sept. 2017. 416p. illus. St. Martin’s/Griffin, $35
(9781250074331); e-book (9781466885974). 641.5.
The latest book from Moosewood, one of
Smitten Kitchen Every Day:
the country’s most well-known natural foods
establishments, is a fount of flavorful, acces-
sible vegetarian recipes that reflect the latest
global tastes. The collective focuses on food
that’s delicious and healthful, but not puritan
(or hippie), and it’s easy to imagine cooking
your way through all 250 recipes. Start with
cauliflower quinoa bites made with chickpea
flour, or try potato wedges dredged in masala
spices. Change up your soup repertoire with
Thai corn chowder or watermelon gazpacho.
The book covers sandwiches, burgers, pastas,
and all manner of salads. Even tofu skeptics (if
any remain?) will be intrigued by spiced tofu
simmered in sofrito for Cuban picadillo or soy-
marinated tofu crusted with black sesame seeds.
Especially on-trend is the grain-bowls chapter,
which tackles the meal-in-a-bowl idea from
various cuisines, including Indonesian, Middle
Eastern, and Mexican. Throughout, recipes are
concise and confident, accompanied by help-
ful preparation tips and serving ideas. Whether
vegetarian or not, home cooks looking for fresh
inspiration will appreciate this book built on
years of experience. —Alison Neumer Lara
Triumphant and Unfussy New
By Deb Perelman.
Oct. 2017. 352p. illus. Knopf, $35 (9781101874813);
e-book (9781101874820). 641.5.
Little food blog that could (and did), The
Smitten Kitchen has been delighting a faithful
and growing audience
for more than 10 years,
and author Perelman
manages to improve
upon her wonderful
first cookbook, The
Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (2012), in her
second. After having a
second child, Perelman “began to understand
why not everyone jumps with joy when it’s
time to make dinner.” Thus, these recipes are
meant to minimize home cooks’ strife and
maximize the enjoyment they can share with
appreciative others. In her introduction and
the narrative lead-ins for each recipe, Perelman
showcases her fine, friendly writing; her approach to perfecting and inventing foolproof
recipes; and her self-effacing charm (no, the
recipe she found online for smeteneh küchen
was not a shout-out to her, embarrassingly
enough, but a great cake results). Some 100+
recipes for all the day’s meals include salads,
soups, main dishes that are more vegetarian
than not, and plenty of treats. Measurements
in both weight and volume and a guide to
mixing and matching elements for a quickly
made special-occasion cake are especially useful. With Perelman’s signature photos, this is
one to enjoy cover to cover. —Annie Bostrom
The Kardashians: An American Drama.
By Jerry Oppenheimer.
Sept. 2017. 336p. St. Martin’s, $27.99
Oppenheimer, known for unauthorized
biographies and exposés about pop-culture’s
biggest stars, dishes the dirt on the Kardashian
family in this readable biography covering Kris’
teen years through the family’s reality show.
The author’s sympathies clearly lie with husband and father Robert, whom he describes
as a good Christian man who genuinely loved
his wife and family. Kris gets rougher treatment. Oppenheimer systematically debunks
most of Kris’ claims in her memoir, painting
the “momager” as money mongering, celebrity
grasping, and unfaithful. Oppenheimer takes
care to back up his accusations with plenty of
quotes from friends and family as he works
through the rumors, scandals, and gossip.
He’s not afraid to drop names or fill in all the
juicy details, from Kris’ escapades to the O. J.
Simpson trial to daughter Kim’s sex tape to