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About Mari Malcolm

If someone dropped a match next to Mari Malcolm’s bed, they’d ignite a pyre fuelled by disheveled piles of books—very select poetry, novels with varying levels of literary cred, and stacks of guides to being a better gardener, crafter, cook, designer, writer, and person. She rarely reads by candlelight.

Posts by Mari

Great American Eats: Five Favorite Fall Cookbooks Out of New York

5pack-GAE-Map-140pxNo other region in America boasts such concentrated culinary genius as the Mid-Atlantic, dominated by New York's thriving food scene. This fall brings new cookbooks from acclaimed restaurants like The Gramercy Tavern and Daniel, plus a Chelsea Market Cookbook and an "autobiography" of Katz's Deli that no true New Yorker will want to miss. Brooklyn's delicious revolution continues with The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, 66 Square Feet, and Mast Brothers Chocolate. And upstate, Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell bring back classic desserts with their Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook. Browse five of our favorite fall cookbooks out of New York below, or see all our New York cookbook picks here.

”The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook by Michael Anthony

With nearly a decade and six James Beard Awards under its belt--including Michael Anthony's award for Best Chef: NYC--Gramercy Tavern's almost overdue for a cookbook--but this meaty volume is well worth the wait. Personal stories and 200 fabulous shots of the venue, its people, and its dishes capture the restaurant’s warm, festive atmosphere. But of course, you’re here for the food: 125 favorite recipes that give new life to American cuisine. Their aim: to inspire food lovers to “make memorable meals and bring the warmth of Gramercy into their homes.” Who can pass up that proposition? Read More
”The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Upstate in Sharon Springs, amid bountiful gardens and meadows, Manhattanites-turned-goat-farmers Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell have created their own brand of modern country—Beekman 1802, after their historic house. They’re famous for their goat’s milk soaps and cheese, but now we get to see how sweet their bloodlines really run with this collection of family desserts, “from Brent’s grandmother’s Fourth of July Fruitcake to Josh’s mother’s Hot Chocolate Dumplings,” each accompanied by a story. From rustic favorites to real show-stoppers, it feels both nostalgic and completely now. Perfect inspiration for holiday baking. Read More
Balaboosta Balaboosta by Einat Admony

"Long before I won Chopped or appeared on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, before there was cooking school, a husband, a better husband, and a couple of kids, before I ever imagined running three restaurants of my own in New York City, there were Friday afternoons with my mother." In the kitchen of her childhood, she learned the Yiddish balaboosta ("perfect housewife") style of cooking from the gut. Today, Admony sees a balaboosta as anyone "who lives life with gust, shuns fear, and relies on instinct over precision." Her collection of Persian recipes with New York attitude has grace and guts. Read More
66 Square Feet 66 Square Feet by Marie Viljoen

"I have always looked at what is growing at my feet to know where and when I am in the world. And then I have tried to eat it." On a tiny Brooklyn terrace, transplanted South African Marie Viljoen blogs about growing, cooking, and living a deliciously seasonal life. For her, New York is an "unfolding, edible calendar" that tells her when to forage maitake mushrooms in Green-Wood cemetery and pick serviceberries along the Hudson. Her lush, intimate prose welcomes you onto her terrace, hands you a generous glass of wine, and leads you through a succession of seasonal menus for shared feasts--"to look into someone's eyes, to see them, to share something good, something in common." Read More
Moosewood Restaurant Favorites Moosewood Restaurant Favorites by the Moosewood Collective

When Ithaca's Moosewood Restaurant opened in 1973, it focused on seasonal ingredients and traditional grain-based dishes, given a fresh spin. Between then and now, vegetarian cooking has gone mainstream, and foods that were rare--like yogurt, coconut milk, and fresh herbs--have become common. And the dozen cookbooks (with thousands of recipes) put out by the Moosewood Collective over the past forty years have undoubtedly helped manifest these vital changes. Moosewood Restaurant Favorites compiles their 250 most-requested recipes, from their Black Bean-Sweet Potato Burritos to Vegan Chocolate Cake. Read More.

See all our picks for great cookbooks out of New York.

6 Books That Matter to Amanda Lindhout, Author of "A House in the Sky"

House-in-the-Sky-Large

In my life's truly tough moments, I put aside books I'd normally devour and dig into the ones I need. Over the past few years (through advanced-stage cancer treatment, divorce, other assorted craziness), my book bar has been raised: it better dish out real home truths I can draw on when I need to keep calm and carry on, or I'll have to put it aside for another time.

One of the books that's really mattered to me lately is A House in the Sky, Amanda Lindhout's memoir of how she became a fearless traveler and scrappy journalist--and how she survived 460 days of captivity in Somalia, by violent extremists. If you've ever felt powerless at the hands of circumstance, her tenacity and resilience will astound you. I came away keenly aware of my power to choose how I react to circumstances beyond my control.

After her release, she had to work through significant trauma. But she's emerged from her ordeal not just sane (which would have been, frankly, a miracle in itself), but infused with enough compassion to start a nonprofit foundation dedicated to promoting peace and leadership in Somalia.

Here are the books that have mattered most to Lindhout, including several that gave her strength during her time in captivity. --Mari Malcolm

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I remember devouring this book when I was a teenager. It’s the story of a young woman overcoming poverty, adversity, and all forms of oppression. It’s so beautifully written, but also, at the same time, so utterly frank. It helped me understand that a story that addresses some ugly realities can also offer beauty and redemption.

The Power of Now

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

I read The Power of Now under the dome light of a lumbering bus, on an overnight ride through northern India. I was in my mid-twenties, backpacking by myself around Pakistan and India, feeling wonderfully adrift and free in the world. Tolle's book taught me how to quiet my mind and enjoy the present moment.

Eat Pray Love
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I read this book on the heels of a bad break-up. I’d been living in Kabul, Afghanistan, with an American boyfriend, but the relationship had gone off the rails. I’d returned home to Canada and was nursing my broken heart when my best friend Kelly handed me Gilbert’s memoir. Her joyous attempts to find self-knowledge and spiritual growth out in the world motivated me to dust off my backpack and start planning another trip. Plus, there’s so much good eating in her book! I’ve always been a huge fan of street food—the empanadas in Venezuela, the mangoes and sticky rice in Thailand, Turkish delight from the spice bazaar in Istanbul. The world is full of undiscovered treats.

Dark Star Safari
Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux

This became an instant cult classic among backpackers after it was published in 2002. You'd see it in bookshops in all the foreign markets catering to travelers. It chronicles a journey Theroux made overland from Egypt to South Africa, describing the countries and cultures along the way. One evening, in 2006, I arrived at a one-star hotel in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and came across a guy on the porch--Nigel Brennan, an Australian photojournalist--reading Dark Star Safari. I’d read and loved the book on a past trip and took the opportunity to strike up a conversation with him about it. A couple of years later, Nigel and I would be kidnapped together in Somalia. So in a way, Theroux’s book altered the course of both of our lives.

Long Walk to Freedom
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

A few months after Nigel and I were taken hostage, our embassies managed to send us a care package. We were given some toiletries and medication, which were obviously very helpful, since we were being kept in squalid conditions. But the most meaningful item was Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s account of his 27-year imprisonment in South Africa. I read and reread his words many times, deriving great hope from the idea that he could survive such conditions and move forward with his life, choosing compassion over bitterness.

Man's Search for Meaning
Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

After I was released from captivity in Somalia and recuperating at a hospital in Nairobi, my mom handed me a copy of Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl's book about his time spent as a prisoner at Auschwitz and the human capacity to find meaning inside of suffering. During the time she’d spent negotiating for my freedom, my mother had read the book over and over again, and now I have, too. So much of what Frankl has to say resonates for me, but in particular the places where he talks about the life-saving potency of memory and imagination. As a hostage, I learned that when you lack the power to change your external circumstances, you do have power over how you view those circumstances. I have always loved Frankl’s line, "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."

Amanda Lindhout's memoir, A House in the Sky (cowritten by Sara Corbett), is an Amazon Best Book of the Month for September 2013.

Putting America's Home-Grown Cookbooks on the Map

GAE-Map-FinalIf you saw our Big Fall Books Preview, you might have noticed my pick, Provence, 1970, the story of the weeks that Julia and Paul Child, M.F.K. Fisher, James Beard, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones spent cooking, eating, and arguing in the South of France.

The Americans in this influential circle had long considered France their culinary homeland.

But by the time they went home to the States, something had shifted. They each returned with a desire and appreciation for a new home-grown food culture that embraced simpler preparations of locally sourced ingredients. This was also the same year Paul Aratow and Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkley. It was, arguably, the year modern American food culture was born.

Forty-plus years later, the trend toward embracing local food traditions and ingredients has gone mainstream. Pride in our own regions’ standout chefs, restaurants, and food bloggers has swelled.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing more innovation and cross-pollination than ever: foodies picking up ideas from across the country and the world via blogs and social media, and giving the dish their own spin.

Eaters are becoming more adventurous, as more exciting options become available to them. Some of us even plan vacations around visits to restaurants and bakeries--or wish we could.

As I happily drowned in this fall's flood of gorgeous, endlessly inspiring new cookbooks—many of them from renowned restaurants from New York to Napa, many with a strong regional flair--I got curious about the other American cookbooks I admired that weren’t assertively regional.

Where were they coming from? Which states had the most influential cookbook authors? Which classic regional cookbooks were inspiring a new generation of chefs and home cooks, rediscovering the canning, preserving, fermenting, and nose-to-tail cooking techniques that every American cook worth their salt used to know?

So I came up with a list of over 360 cookbooks. I started with my favorite recent and upcoming releases, the cookbooks from my collection that I love most, plus the books Amazon customers have rated and reviewed most favorably over the years. Then I added winners of awards like the James Beard and did additional research (largely in hometown newspapers) to supplement regions that seemed too light. And I added a few more suggestions from our Facebook fans. Together, they're all Great American Eats.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be highlighting the best (and best-selling) cookbooks from each region. Some parts of the country have much more prolific cookbook cultures that others, due to larger or wealthier populations or healthier restaurant scenes. Many of the books included here revel in the traditional cuisine of a given region, but you’ll also discover powerhouse chefs, home cooks, and bloggers drawing on the culinary of countries around the world--as Americans have always done--and influencing their regional food culture in ways you may not expect.

Channeling the spirit that Michael Pollan brought to Cooked, I hope looking at cookbooks this way will inspire the casual cooks and serial microwavers among you to buck the trend of cooking as spectator sport and play with the flavors from the tastemaking cooks in your community—or a place you've always wanted to visit. --Mari Malcolm

Anthony Bourdain on Why "Grand Forks" Kills Snark Dead

Grand-ForksIn our Yelp!-obsessed era, when everyone's a withering (or overzealous) food critic, it's darn refreshing to find the rare voices of civility among restaurant critics. For an astonishing 27 years, Marilyn Hagerty has covered the restaurants in her hometown of Grand Forks, North Dakota, in a weekly column--including an Olive Garden review that incited snark, followed by an anti-snark backlash that catapulted her to the national stage.

In spring of 2012, Ecco Books invited the Amazon Books Editors to the East Village speakeasy PDT to meet a "special guest" who, to our immense delight, turned out to be Tony Bourdain.

Over Crif dogs and cocktails, we talked cookbooks, food lit and graphic novels, and he gave us a preview of his personal imprint, set to debut in 2013 with The Prophets of Smoked Meat.

The book that stood out most in my memory and notes was Hagerty's Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews. It's coming out at the end of August, and it's every bit as marvelous as imagined, even without hotdogs and cocktails.

To give you a taste, we share Bourdain's intro from the book.

Grand Forks will be available August 27, 2013.


An INTRODUCTION to Marilyn Hagerty's Grand Forks

by Anthony Bourdain

If you’re looking for the kind of rapturous food porn you’d find in a book by M.F.K. Fisher, or lusty descriptions of sizzling kidneys a la Liebling—or even the knife-edged criticism of an A.A. Gill or a Sam Sifton—you will not find it here.

The territory covered here is not New York or Paris or London or San Francisco. And Marilyn Hagerty is none of those people.

For 27 years, Marilyn Hagerty has been covering the restaurant scene in and around the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota, population 52,000. She also, it should be pointed out, writes a total of five columns a week, about history and local personalities and events, in addition to her writing about restaurants and food. As one might expect, she knows personally many of her subjects. Given the size of her territory, it is not unusual for her to write about the same restaurant two or more times in a single year. In short, she is writing about a community that she is very much a part of.

If you knew her name before picking up this book, it was probably because of her infamously guileless Olive Garden review which went viral, caused first a tidal wave of snarky derision--followed by an even stronger anti-snark backlash--followed by invitations to appear on Anderson Cooper and The TODAY Show, dinner at Le Bernardin, an appearance on Top Chef, an Al Neuharth Award, a publishing deal--a sudden and unexpected elevation to media darling.

Why was that?

What is it about the 86-year old Ms. Hagerty that inspired such attention and affection?

Why should you read this book?

Of the 7,000 pages of articles and reviews I read while assembling this collection, there is little of what one would call pyrotechnical prose. Ms. Hagerty’s choices of food are shockingly consistent: A “Clubhouse sandwich,” coleslaw, wild rice soup, salads assembled from a salad bar, baked potatoes. She is not what you’d call an adventurous diner, exploring the dark recesses of menus. Far from it. Of one lunch, she writes:

“There were signs saying the luncheon special was soup and a Denver sandwich for $2.25. In places where food service is limited, I tend to take the special. I wasn’t born yesterday.”

She is never mean—even when circumstances would clearly excuse a sharp elbow, a cruel remark. In fact, watching Marilyn struggle to find something nice to say about a place she clearly loathes is part of the fun. She is, unfailingly, a good neighbor and good citizen first—and entertainer second.

But what she HAS given us, over all these years, is a fascinating picture of dining in America, a gradual, cumulative overview of how we got from there... to here.

Grand Forks is NOT New York City. We forget that—until we read her earlier reviews and remember, some of us, when you’d find sloppy Joe, steak Diane, turkey noodle soup, three bean salad, red Jell-o in OUR neighborhoods. When the tuft of curly parsley and lemon wedge, or a leaf of lettuce and an orange segment, or three spears of asparagus fashioned into a wagon wheel, were state of the art garnishes. When you could order a half sandwich, a cup of soup. A pre-hipster world where lefse, potato dumplings and walleye were far more likely to appear on a menu than pork belly.

Reading these reviews, we can see, we can watch over the course of time, who makes it and who doesn’t. Which bold, undercapitalized pioneers survived—and who, no matter how ahead of their time, just couldn’t hang on until the neighborhood caught up. You will get to know the names of owners and chefs like Warren LeClerc, whose homey lunch restaurant, The Pantry, turned down the lights to become the sophisticated French restaurant Le Pantre by night. And Chef Nardane of Touch of Magic Ballroom who, in his 6,200-square foot ballroom, served cheesecakes inspired by Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor, and envisioned an exclusive private membership club with frequent celebrity entertainment. And Steve Novak of Beaver's Family Restaurant, who when Marilyn visited his establishment, spoke of reviving his beaver act, complete with costume, for birthday parties.

And you will understand why the opening of an Olive Garden might be earnestly anticipated as an exciting and much welcome event.

Ms. Hagerty is not naïve about her work, her newfound fame, or the world. She has travelled widely in her life.

In person, she has a flinty, dry, very sharp sense of humor. She misses nothing. I would not want to play poker with her for money.

This is a straightforward account of what people have been eating—still ARE eating—in much of America. As related by a kind, good-hearted reporter looking to pass along as much useful information as she can—while hurting no one.

Anyone who comes away from this work anything less than charmed by Ms. Hagerty—and the places and characters she describes—has a heart of stone.

This book kills snark dead. --Anthony Bourdain

Photos from the Era of "Provence, 1970" by Luke Barr
— A Big Fall Books Preview Selection

Provence_jacket At this past spring's BookExpo, Clarkson Potter gave me a preview of their exceptionally beautiful and inventive cookbooks for fall. Luke Barr's Provence, 1970 stood out: they rarely publish food lit or bios, so it was already special, but they clearly adored this book, and when they explained its story and origins, the hairs on my arms stood on end. I felt like I was being handed a long-lost diary that promised access to what had to be one of the most fascinating, consequential moments in American culinary history (which, yes, happened in France).

Over the long last weeks of 1970, the era’s true tastemakers--Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, James Beard, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones, among others--found themselves gathered in Southern France, where they cooked, feasted, and talked deep into the night, arguing about technique and taste until loyalties were redrawn and opinions reinvented. Decades later, Luke Barr, M.F.K. Fisher’s grand-nephew, discovered journals and letters recording conversations and details of their dynamics, and he set about recreating this time of improbably wonderful convergence. He succeeds with elegance and gusto.

At our request, Barr has selected photos--from the Schlesinger Library at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute--to give you a preview of the marvelous world of this book. You won't actually find these photos in the book, but when they arrived, I thought "Yes--this is exactly how I imagined these people, in that place," a testament to the evocative quality of Barr's prose. I also realized that I felt genuine gratitude for these people, the visionaries who believed so deeply that Americans could eat just as well as, or better than, the French that they spawned a movement of simply delicious food and cooking. When prepackaged food fails to satisfy our soul (or even our bodies), they keep calling us to the table, imploring us to cook and enjoy great meals with friends. And amid our own feasting, talking, arguing, and laughter, we can almost feel the Provençal sun warming our backs.  

Provence, 1970 will be available October 22, 2013.

 

 

 


 

M.F.K. Fisher at Last House, in Sonoma County, California. The house was built during her trip to Provence in the fall and winter of 1970. “I’m about to make a real break in my life,” she wrote in a letter to a friend just before she left, as she contemplated the future.

MFK Fisher at Last House

Continue reading "Photos from the Era of "Provence, 1970" by Luke Barr

— A Big Fall Books Preview Selection
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BookExpo America: Calling All Power Readers

Bea_power_readerDo you consider yourself a "Power Reader"? Then you'll want to be in New York on June 1, when BEA--the year's biggest book bonanza--opens its doors to the book-obsessed public. We look forward all year to BEA because it's an amazing opportunity to learn about the year's biggest books months before they come out, so we think it's very cool that they're opening it up to bibliophiles of all stripes! This is your chance to get your hands on advance copies of the buzziest books, hear favorite authors talk about their new projects, get autographs, get to know the publishers (from the biggies to the niche presses), mingle with fellow fans, and come away with bags of excellent swag. Read all about it here.

The real draw for Power Reader day is the star-studded author line-up, starting with an Author Breakfast featuring Helen Fielding, Diana Gabaldon, Chris Matthews, and John Lewis. Later, Elizabeth Gilbert and Wally Lamb will talk about Creating the Ultimate Book Club Experience, and Neil Gaiman, Jim Gaffigan, and other favorites will take the Author Stage, while about 100 other authors will be on hand to sign autographs.

Last year was the first time Power Readers were invited to BEA, and the response was hugely enthusiastic. Check out this video of Power Readers raving about their experience--and then save your own place for this year! Here's how to register.

Anthony Bourdain and Daniel Vaughn Talk True BBQ

Prophets-Smoked-MeatIf you keep your ear to the food-world ground, you may have heard that Anthony Bourdain--chef, storyteller, tastemaker, traveler, and fearless eater of Parts Unknown--is launching a line of books. Aside from rumblings of a Mark Miller kickboxing memoir, he's mostly (no surprise) focused on food. His inaugural offering, The Prophets of Smoked Meat, comes from Daniel “Barbecue Snob” Vaughn of Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog fame. It's aptly billed as a "rollicking journey through the heart of Texas Barbecue." You'll find the occasional recipe, but it's much more of a guidebook and tribute to the holy men of Texas meat than a traditional cookbook. It's also on my list of May picks for the Best Books of the Month in Cookbooks, Food & Wine.

Here, Bourdain gets the low-down from Vaughn on all things BBQ. Enjoy. --Mari Malcolm

Bourdain: Why Texas BBQ? Why not NC or KC or Memphis?

Vaughn: There is only one state where the barbecue culture holds the brisket up to the highest regard, and that is Texas. The brisket is the hardest of the smoked meats to master and the hardest to do well consistently. In Texas we celebrate great brisket by not messing with it. If it's done right then you slice it pencil thick and slap it on a piece of butcher paper. It's naked, quivering and vulnerable, so it has to stand on its own.

Bourdain: Is enough ever enough BBQ for you?

Daniel-VaughnVaughn: I recently took a road trip to North Carolina just for barbecue. On the first day we ate at seven different barbecue joints across the eastern side of the state and came back to Raleigh where we were staying. We were stuffed, but wanted some pie at Poole's Diner. At the counter there we learned from another diner that a place down the street did North Carolina pulled pork empanadas. It was midnight and we were beyond the uncomfortable point, but we paid our bill and immediately went to order barbecue empanadas for our real nightcap. The short answer: No, I don't get sick of barbecue, especially good barbecue.

Bourdain: Define "the cookie"; also, "pink ring."

Vaughn: The sugar cookie is the intersection of fat, salt, smoke and time at the corners of a brisket slice. When the fat starts to render and contracts it concentrates the flavors of the rub and the smoke and the fat nugget even tastes a little sweet like a buttery sugar cookie. The smoke ring is the pink line just beneath the crust of smoked meat. It doesn't taste like smoke, but it does show that the meat has been cooked at a low temperature for a long period of time with good air (smoke) flow across the meat while it cooks. When those all come together a smoke ring forms and chances are the meat will taste good and smoky.

BourdainPhotoBourdain: Competition BBQ or stationary: what's the difference? What's better?

Vaughn: I prefer the discovery of barbecue joints around the state and the country rather than eating bite after bite of faceless barbecue at a competition. Learning the stories of who is cooking your meat and how it ended up on your plate the way it did is part of the fun, and that connection isn't possible in the blind tasting setting of a competition. I'm also a bit of a purist, so simple seasoning with salt, pepper and smoke is what I prefer on my smoked meat. Loads of brown sugar and squeezable margarine that are common on the competition are no way to treat a defenseless brisket in my opinion.

Bourdain: What are some warning signs which definitely indicate imminent arrival of sub-optimal BBQ?

Vaughn: If you don't see a stick of wood around the property, there's really no need to get out of the car. Barbecue joint signs that include 'catfish' or 'salad bar' are also dubious, but I still try to go most anywhere that serves smoked meat.  

Bourdain: Does anyone in NYC come close to "great" BBQ by Texas standards? Anywhere else up north?

Vaughn: I haven't eaten at a barbecue joint in New York that comes close to the greats in Texas, but I'm hopeful that something will come up in my search when I visit again in May. Smoque in Chicago is the furthest north that I've eaten great brisket.

Bourdain: Is wrapping brisket or ribs in foil EVER okay? Why not?

Vaughn: Foil is known as the "Texas crutch." Once the briskets are wrapped, it's hard for them to dry out because they steam inside the foil package. This might result in tender brisket, but it sacrifices a great crust and can easily lead to slightly smoky pot roast instead of well smoked brisket. It's hard to condone, but there are a few places out there that can still use it successfully. The best joints either don't wrap at all or wrap them in butcher paper.

Bourdain: Sauce or no sauce?

Vaughn: Good barbecue does not require sauce. Period.

Bourdain: When Australians refer to the “Barbie,” what the hell are they talking about?

Vaughn: I have no idea. I think I've only seen American actors with fake Australian accents refer to the "Barbie," but I think it has something to do with grilling, which isn't barbecue.

Bourdain: Which BBQ joint would you currently choose to die in?

Vaughn: Franklin Barbecue. When I die I want to be forever preserved in a brisket fat confit from Aaron Franklin's brisket.

Bourdain: What is the best beverage to enjoy with BBQ in an ideal situation?

Vaughn: I love beer, but I don't love it with barbecue. I'd rather have something sweet, so give me a Dr. Pepper or a half sweet, half unsweet iced tea.

Bourdain: What's the most egregious misconception about BBQ?

Vaughn: The most egregious misconception about barbecue is that every pitmaster has some sort of secret ingredient or sauce that makes their barbecue superlative. To a true pitmaster the rub is about as important as the brand of sandpaper is to a master wood carver. If you think knowing that "secret" will substitute for having the skill and experience of a master, then you're an idiot.

Michael Pollan's Favorite Cookbooks

Cooked After transforming the way we think about our  relationship with plants and the world-altering impact of what we eat, Michael Pollan invites us to rediscover the elemental pleasure of transforming raw ingredients into meals--through grilling (fire), braising (water), baking (air), and fermenting (earth)--in his fantastic latest, Cooked.

Pollan contends that learning to cook elevated our ancient ancestors from lone animals into increasingly intelligent, civilized groups--and gave us the fuel for expanding brains--it's one of the essential acts that made us human. Now, we spend scant time doing real cooking, but we've become obsessed with watching people cook, a paradox that signals longing for that lost experience.

In his own quest to close the seed-to-table loop, he spent three years learning to cook with great pit masters, chefs, bakers, and “fermentos,” making Cooked a lively, passionate exploration of the elemental appeal of making a meal.

In the spirit of diving back into our own kitchens with renewed gusto, we asked Pollan to send us his favorite cookbooks.

The Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler: As much a philosophy of everyday cooking as a cookbook (though the recipes are terrific), Adler's book shows us how to cook beautifully with the most modest of ingredients and skills.

A Platter of Figs by David Tanis: A former head chef at Chez Panisse (and now a columnist for the Dining section at the New York Times), Tanis offers a gorgeous cookbook with perfect, elegant menus to suit the season. A mainstay of our dinner parties.

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters: All of Alice Waters’ cookbooks are wonderful, but this once is the most readily approachable and offers the essential recipes for everything from a great vinaigrette to salsa verde, roast chicken and polenta. Reminds me of The Elements of Style, and just as necessary.

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson: An inspiring book for the bread baker--my favorite primer on bread.

The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz: The definitive volume on all the arts of fermentation, from yogurt to kvass, sauerkraut to pickled anything you can imagine.

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman: If it’s not already in your collection, you’re either already a great cook or in deep trouble. The basics on everything, and indispensable.

The Everlasting Meal A Platter of Figs The Art of Simple Food

Tartine Bread The Art of Fermentation How to Cook Everything

"The Orphan Master's Son" and More Pulitzer Prize Winners

Orphan-MasterAfter 2012's odd omission of a Fiction winner, this year's Pulitzer Prizes delivered on all fronts: Nonfiction to Gilbert King for Devil in the Grove, History to Fredrik Logevall for Embers of War, Biography to Tom Reiss for The Black Count, Poetry to Sharon Olds for Stag's Leap, Drama to Ayad Akhtar for Disgraced--and Fiction honors to Adam Johnson for The Orphan Master's Son, described by the judges as "an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart."

In a piece here on why we'd picked Johnson's novel as our spotlight for the Best Book of the Month (over, I might add, John Green's phenomenal Fault in Our Stars) when it was released in January of last year, I shared how our team's obsession with this book in December 2011 took a strange turn when we heard that Kim Jon-il had died. The outpouring of news about and propaganda from North Korea felt like an alarming intrusion into reality of the fictional world we'd been compulsively descending into each night, a searing reminder "that the surreal, brutal universe Johnson evokes continues to unfold just across the Pacific."

As North Korea's new leader incites increasingly nervous debates about his true threat level, Johnson's novel feels all the more relevant and haunting. I keep finding myself drawn to Internet accounts from escapees and satellite images of the camps where a (roughly) estimated 3.5 million have so far been killed. No other modern nation is a more brutally constructed Orwellian fiction than the DPRK, and it's easy to see how Johnson became obsessed with questions about how it must be to live within this gulag of the mind. He wrote about this experience for Amazon Books:

I wondered what happened to personal desires when they came into conflict with a national story. Was it possible to retain a personal identity in such conditions, and under what circumstances would a person reveal his or her true nature? These mysteries--of subsumed selves, of hidden lives, of rewritten longings--are the fuel of novels, and I felt a powerful desire to help reveal what a dynastic dictatorship had forced these people to conceal.

Of course, I could only speculate on those lives, filling the voids with research and imagination. Back home, I continued to read books and seek out personal accounts. Testimonies of gulag survivors like Kang Chol Hwan proved invaluable. But I found that most scholarship on the DPRK was dedicated to military, political and economic theory. Fewer were the books that focused directly on the people who daily endured such circumstances. Rarer were the narratives that tallied the personal cost of hidden emotions, abandoned relationships, forgotten identities. These stories I felt a personal duty to tell. Traveling to North Korea filled me with a sense that every person there, from the lowliest laborer to military leaders, had to surrender a rich private life in order to enact one pre-written by the Party. To capture this on the page, I created characters across all levels of society, from the orphan soldier to the Party leaders. And since Kim Jong Il had written the script for all of North Korea, my novel didn't make sense without writing his role as well.

If you want to understand North Koreans--and how they have been conditioned to think about Americans--start with The Orphan Master's Son.

See new and past Pultizer Prize winners at Amazon Books.

2013 IACP Award's Cookbook Winners

CookbookAwardWinnerThe International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) announced their 2013 awards last night. The winners included many of our favorite cookbooks of the past year, and many that are poised to double-medal with James Beard Awards, announced May 3. Browse highlights here or check out all 2013 IACP Award winners at Amazon. Congrats to all the winners and nominees!

JerusalemCookbook of the Year and International Winner
Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi: Powerhouse London restaurateurs born on opposite sides of Jerusalem came together for this cross-cultural culinary exploration--and celebration--of their home city.

American Winner
Hiroko’s American Kitchen: Cooking with Japanese Flavors by Hiroko Shimbo: A brilliantly easy method draws from one of six sauces in 125 recipes that put traditional Japanese dishes on the everyday American table.

Baking Winner
Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish: Portland's most beloved baker delivers a master class in exceptional artisan breadmaking at home.

Chefs and Restaurants Winner
Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan: In the words of Alice Waters, Phan's book "captures the very heart of Vietnamese food: fresh, pure, full of life, and vibrant with flavor." I heartily concur.

Culinary Travel Winner
Burma: Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid: Once again, Duguid transcends our expectations of a traditional cookbook with a gorgeous, coffee table-worthy tome that invites readers to the feast of a new culture.

First Book: The Julia Child Award Winner
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deborah Perelman: The lauded food blogger's debut effort wowed old and new fans with (as Deb says) "approachable recipes made with accessible ingredients that exceed your expectations."

Food and Beverage Reference Winner
Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet: The inventive Cooking Lab champions of the Modernist culinary revolution infiltrate kitchens with home-scale bleeding-edge technology. Jaw-popping photos.

Food Photography and Styling Winner
Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller, Sebastien Rouxel, and Deborah Jones: An astonishingly accessible guide to making swoony Bouchon magic. Another beauty you may want to permanently display when it's not propped next to your mixer.

Literary Food Writing Winner
Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson: The renowned chef's life story takes us from a harsh childhood in Ethiopia to his grandmother's Swedish kitchen to his coming of age in the most celebrated (e.g., cutthroat) restaurants of Europe and New York, where he opened Red Rooster in Harlem. Told with disarming candor and humility, his journey feels miraculous and inevitable.

See all 2013 IACP Award winners at Amazon Books. --Mari Malcolm


Omnivoracious™ Contributors

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