Monday, July 26, 2010

Another Cookbook to Rave About

Last March, I won a cookbook from Lorraine Eaton at The Virginian-Pilot. She writes about all things both local and food related. A while back, she had returned from a trip to Spain and she came back with five extra cookbooks. In her blog, she asked about the origins of mayonnaise. The top three answers would each get a cookbook sent to them. I entered that contest with an answer straight from Wikipedia. It ended up winning me the “Cuisine of Spain” cookbook.




Let me first start off by saying I’ve never been to Spain and if I don’t get there someday, I’ll survive. However, this cookbook is AWESOME. It is the best cookbook I’ve ever had (sorry, Betty Crocker)! I dog-eared several recipes as soon as I got it, stuck it on my shelf and promptly forgot about it until about a week and a half ago. My husband decided earlier this year he wanted to start eating healthier, so that meant less red meat and more chicken and fish. After several weeks of that, I was starting to feel a little bored with cooking. So I dug out the “Cuisines of Spain” cookbook and have been using it quite a bit this last week.

According to Amazon, “The Cuisines of Spain is first and foremost a book to read. The author's first two chapters describe in great detail the history and geography of Spain's regions which she groups by shared climate and natural resources. She calls this "following bean stews rather than political boundaries." Woven into this tapestry are traces of the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks, Romans, Celts, Visigoths and Vandals (who left behind livestock farming practices), Moorish and Jewish culture, and, of course, the New World impacts of foods returning with Columbus--tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peppers. She gets granular--which pigs, grown where and eating what, contribute to the great hams of Spain.

“She divides the book by the flow of a meal, and makes suggestions throughout which dishes would typically go together. This is if you were to choose to cook an entire Spanish meal, from tapas to dessert. You could also strive to include a single Spanish dish in your weekly meals, learning as you go, expanding a repertoire, because this is home cooking. This is about every day, not just special occasions.”

True, so true. At first glance, these recipes look elaborate and drawn out, until you realize the pages include information about the dish itself, as well as the recipe: culturally, historically and geographically. But really, as you read (and this is a cookbook that demands to be read and enjoyed, not just used), you realize…these are simple recipes.

I started my foray into Spanish cooking with the first recipe in the book: a potato and onion omelet called Tortilla Espanola. I’ve never made omelets before but this one slid out of the pan, flipped and went right back in as easy as can be.

It has more than 350 pages and the second printing was published in August 2009.

I have only but one complaint about this book, and it’s more of a recommendation for future printings: how about a spiral-bound version so the pages will lay flat? Having this in a large paperback edition is alright but you have to put something on top of the pages to keep it open.

And I write in my cookbooks when I’m trying a new recipe so I know what our thoughts were on new dishes. Having a spiral-bound book would make it easier for a few quick notes when supper is done.

I have been enjoying this cookbook so much, as well as my husband enjoying it, that I emailed a thank you over to Lorraine just the other day. This is a book that will get used over and over again.

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