Friday, January 30, 2015

My newest favorite cookbook

I like to add food into our learning whenever possible and studying the Silk Road seemed like a perfect fit. The first thing to do, of course, was to find a book. I had found one at the library and it was OK, but I wasn't wild about it. It was very glossy with lots of color pictures. I have found that while these books are beautiful to look at, their value as actual cookbooks isn't all that much. While doing a more intensive book search on Amazon, I found another book. (An aside... I always felt as though I were cheating a little bit when I used Amazon to search for titles and then looked for those specific titles in my library's catalogue. That is until a librarian was helping me find a book at one point and did the very same thing.) This book, though was not available at my library or any of the libraries in its inter-library loan group. The book looked so intriguing that I did something I rarely do and went ahead and bought it.

I am so glad I did! The book is The Silk Road Gourmet by Laura Kelley. The subtitle is A Journey through the Cuisines of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka. The author, trained as an anthropologist, but then ultimately combined her passion for cooking with her career to become an ethnic food detective. The front matter of the book contains information on food movement, the silk road, and origins of spices and cooking methods. For the recipes, the book is divided by country with a selection of recipes for each. It is highly interesting reading, even if you never cooked a thing.

But you should cook some of the recipes because, at least judging by our sampling this past week, they are very, very good. We've had a fish curry from Bangladesh, saffron rice from India, coconut rice from Sri Lanka, and meatballs with garlic and mint and chicken with apricots with lemon-pepper sauce both from Afghanistan. They were all hits and I will definitely be making some of them again. They were pretty straight forward to prepare and the only difficult thing for some people would be to find some of the less well-known ingredients. If you happen to live in an ethnically diverse area, this shouldn't be a problem. I had most of them already and only had to pick-up a couple extra.

Plus, there are lots of other recipes I'm excited to try. Usually I check new cookbooks out of the library first because a book that looks promising often ends up only having a few recipes that I want to try, or are different from the recipes that are in the dozens of cookbooks I already own. Perhaps that is why I'm so excited about this one... it's not the same old stuff I usually cook.

My only quibble with the book is the index. Why, oh why, are indices so difficult for publishers to get right? I have some cookbooks where the index is virtually unusable and is little more than a table of contents in the back. Forget about searching it for an ingredient. Others get it right and I can find whatever recipe I want easily by searching either the name or ingredient. The index in this book nearly gets it right. You can search by ingredient, but then you are only given a list of page numbers instead of the name of the recipe along with the page number. If I'm searching 'rice', it is not so helpful when there is a list of 20 page numbers without any indication as to what they reference.

I would recommend trying this book if you are tiring of cooking the same old stuff every night. Plus, remember that the best way to create children who are adventurous eaters is to expose them to lots and lots of different tastes, textures, and smells in their food. Our taste buds and the nerves which attach them to our brains of some of the most plastic. That is both good and bad in that we can change what we like fairly easily with enough exposure, but we can also solidify pickiness just as easily.

Be adventurous and try something new.
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Hey, local readers... if any of you are heading out to the Winter Jam concert tonight, stop by the adoption information table. H. and I will be there (at least I'm assuming that's where we'll be) and you can say hi.

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