International, Regional, and Ethnic Cuisine

“Food month” is still in full swing here at Hunter Library. Today we’re highlighting three books that look at ethnic cuisine in different ways: one is a history, one a memoir, and one a cookbook; but they all provide recipes that are likely different from your typical daily fare. Read on, and check back next week, when we will be reviewing some food-related novels.

Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America, by Frederick Douglass Opie
This book presents a history of African American foodways, chronicling the origins, development, and influences of what is now known as “soul food”. Author Frederick Douglass Opie starts with the Atlantic slave trade and examines how traditional African cooking was adapted by slaves in British Colonial America, and follows historical events such as the Great Migration, the Great Depression, and segregation with an eye for how they influenced culinary trends in the African American community. The text includes historical photographs, a handful of recipes, and notes on where to go for further reading.

Tastes Like Cuba: An Exile’s Hunger for Home, by Eduardo Machado
A memoir based around playwright Eduardo Machado’s remembrances of the food of his home country. Machado and his family fled from Cuba in 1961, and here he tells the story of his early life in Cuba followed by his family’s adaptation to life in the United States, with food as the thread that ties the story together. Every chapter includes recipes.

You Are Where You Eat: Stories and Recipes from the Neighborhoods of New Orleans, by Elsa Hahne
A fascinating combination of biography and cookbook, documenting the lives and recipes of more than thirty home cooks in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Each chapter introduces a different cook, and each includes unique and interesting recipes, ranging from crawfish samosas (page 38) to “Cold Alligator Pear Bisque” (page 119; this doesn’t actually include alligator, “alligator pear” is another term for avocado!). As with the composition of New Orleans itself, the cultural and culinary backgrounds of the people in the book are diverse – including Creole, Native American, Mexican, Cajun, African American, and German, to name a few. The book is fascinating and appealing; a combination of cookbook and cultural study, complete with impressive photography and uncluttered design.

– Anna Craft, nonfiction selector

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