Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coming Back Home

I have always been the type of person who gets out of the house to explore. I don't necessarily make it to the far flung parts of the outer boroughs (although often, when in need of some good food and a change of scenery I do), but I tend to be out and about for at least a little while most evenings after work and on the weekends. I suppose I'm what you'd call a stroller. One of my great indulgences is to forgo the subway and walk from my apartment north, twisting and turning as I please, getting up close and personal with the odd side streets I wouldn't normally seek out. I stroll through familiar neighborhoods with an eye out for new additions, but also to stop by favorite haunts.

But lately for some reason, I know not why, I've found myself heading to specific destinations for specific purposes rather than vaguely ambling in some direction, any direction. It began to take a toll on my imagination seemed to have all but shut down!

Vowing to get back in the groove and loosen up my brain cells a bit, I recently opted to start out with a saunter through one of my old favorites, the area joining Nolita, Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown. Home to my favorite library, bakery and bookstore, it always feels like home. And the heart of that home is the cookbook nook at the back of McNally Jackson Bookstore.

Much to my delight, it had been so long since I had been to said bookstore that I was faced with a raft of new options, with the cookbook section offering a particularly rich array.

Of course, given the fawning press surrounding Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home

and David Chang's Momofuku

I was not surprised to see them on the shelf. But I was a bit taken aback by how much I liked the look of the books. Particularly Momofuku...I have heard that the text is laced with some salty language, and although I am certainly in favor of the occasional well placed choice word, I find their overuse to be grating. But a quick flip through the book had me imagining scallion ginger noodles in the afternoon, slow cooked pork at night, and steamed buns in the morning.

I was also thrilled to see a reissue of M.F.K. Fisher's classic translation of Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste with an introduction by Bill Buford.

For some reason I had always recalled this book to be of an imposing length, but the one I saw seemed quite manageable. I may finally have to read this classic text!

I had heard vaguely of Clotilde Dusoulier's new translation of the classic french cookbook I Know How to Cook

and after flipping through it I am totally smitten. Something about the easy elegance of the fish recipes grabbed me and still hasn't let go. Ever so french to give mere housewives the tools to live a completely refined life.

How to Roast a Lamb has been on my mind ever since I read about it in the New York Times recently,

and seeing the book in person has only served to increase my desire to get my hands on these delightfully unfamiliar recipes.

Perhaps the best thing about my little literary haven is that I am always introduced to titles I have never heard of, and this trip was no different. I have officially been turned on to Stephane Reynaud's French Feasts: 299 Traditional Recipes for Family Meals and Gatherings,

a collection of rich French weekend dishes. I have images of leisurely multi-course midday feasts dancing in my head as a result.

I am also mightily intrigued by Artichoke to Za'atar and by The Iraqi Cookbook.

When the weather is blustery and cool as it is now, I find the warm mellow spice of Middle Eastern food to be the perfect antidote. Which I suppose is odd as the cuisine was born of sunny warm weather. But I suppose there's no accounting for (my) taste!

So which should be the first purchase?


Laura in Paris said...

I love the idea of "meditating about gastronomy"!

Maggie's garden said...

I think Mathiot's book I Know How To Cook would be first to peak my interest. How fortunate that you can just step out your door and stroll. I live in the country and it's a fifteen minutes drive to a small town just to get a cuppa. Not much but box stores, and homogenized restaurants and shops. I love your blog...I can live vicariously through it.

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

OH Laura..this was perfect..I just walked in the door from Borders..not very quaint..but the parking was easy...and I saw some of these..but not gave me some new cookbooks to FAVORITE thing to do....

Thanks for sharing them...I'll be checking them out....

More later,

Angie Muresan said...

All right! I'll take them all and just forgo gifts for everyone else this Christmas. Will cook for them instead!

Melly/Melody/or Mel said...

Oh..MFK Fisher is what I want! and all the others. I am so envious of where you get to stroll!

Millie said...

Oh I'm drooling Laura! As a lover of Asian cuisine, I say make David Chang's tome a priority, colourful language & all.
Millie ^_^

Jane said...

I would go for the Thomas Keller having just read the reviews in fact it is now on my list. Probably not available yet here but of course that is what Amazon is for ! xoxo

Lori said...

I so want to try those scallion noodles!

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