Friday, November 29, 2013

Great Gifting: Bookin' It

Hello. My name is Kathleen and I love books.

A few years ago I heard someone say that they never traveled without a "flood book." That is, if they were on a trip and couldn't continue because the road was flooded—or the flight was delayed or a bus was late—they'd always have a book at the ready to help pass the time. We subscribe to that philosophy as well, and it's rare that you'll find either Dave or me without printed reading material of one kind or another on our person.

Several books by friends have come out in this past year, and any would make a fine flood book for the folks on your list.

Duck, Duck, Goose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Ducks and Geese, Both Wild and Domesticated by Hank Shaw. This book is a must-have for the hunters on your list. It's also a great choice for cooks who are interested in becoming more familiar with fowl that isn't chicken, especially since ducks and geese are becoming more available to we non-chef types. From hunting and processing wild birds to getting one from the grocery store that's ready to go, Shaw explains what to do with whole birds or parts, breasts to eggs to legs. And as readers of his previous book on foraging and hunting, Hunt, Gather, Cook, know, his recipes are easy enough for moderately experienced home cooks, with clear lists of ingredients and instructions. Holly Heyser's step-by-step photos of boning and other processes, plus mouth-wateringly gorgeous photos of finished dishes, illuminate Shaw's words and make this beautifully designed book a great one for the serious cook's shelf.

Pacific Northwest Cheese: A History by Tami Parr. Author of the premier blog about artisan cheese, the Pacific NW Cheese Project, as well as the first book about the Northwest's booming cheese scene, Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest: A Discovery Guide, Parr's new book is the result of extensive research that shows our current bounty of local cheese is no fluke. Fans of cheese, along with NW history buffs, will appreciate the stories of early cheese-making operations established by the Hudson's Bay Company and the contributions by people like Mrs. Helen West of Tigard, who started the Red Rock Cheese Co. in 1919, distributing her cottage cheese to customers via the Oregon Electric Trolley line which ran along the back of her property. Historic photos of early cheesemaking and quaint labels give way to contemporary portraits of the artisan cheesemakers who formed the backbone of our current artisan industry. Appendixes include the history of cheesemaking in Alaska as well as an up-to-date list of current curdsters. A fascinating read.

The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America by Langdon Cook. Mushroom hunting comes as naturally to many Northwesterners as pulling on their Danner boots. Even those of us who eschew the damp, dirty work of foraging the precious fungi from our forest floors anticipate the start of chanterelle season when stores and menues are packed with these gems. Cook, author of the blog and book Fat of the Land, takes readers behind the scenes into the murky, secretive world of the commercial mushroom hunters who supply markets and chefs with these seasonal treats. It's a truly amazing, and sometimes frightening, journey as Cook "follows the invisible food chain from patch to plate," interviewing new immigrants and scrappy geezers, and will appeal equally to those interested in food, natural history and outdoor adventure.

Crackers and Dips: More Than 50 Handmade Snacks by Ivy Manning. I don't know what it is, but my Portland neighborhood may have more food writers per square mile than anyplace in the country. I am fortunate that Ivy is one of those who lives close by, since, when she's working on an article or book and testing recipes, she will often call and ask if I want some of the results of her meticulous (and delicious) labors. It's especially great when she has to concoct recipes containing meat, since her husband, dubbed Mr. Tofu, is a confirmed vegetarian and there's often too much for her to consume on her own. (A situation that led to her previous book, The Adaptable Feast: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarians, Vegans, and Omnivores at Your Table.) So I can personally testify to both the incredibly variety and insanely tasty recipes she presents in this latest effort. Easy enough for beginning cooks and interested kids, it also includes toppings and dips to serve with these crunchy snacks. You may never buy a cracker from the store again.

Salty Snacks: Make Your Own Chips, Crisps, Crackers, Pretzels, Dips, and Other Savory Bites by Cynthia Nims. This ode to snackage by my friend, Seattle writer Cynthia Nims, is a compelling argument on the savory side of the sweet versus salty debate. It's geared to a more adult palate but, like Ivy Manning's book (above), it would make a great gift for cooks who like to entertain.

Other suggestions: Pure Beef: An Essential Guide to Artisan Meat with Recipes for Every Cut by Eastern Oregon writer Lynne Curry is a comprehensive, eminently useful book for those of us wanting to move from industrially processed meat to a pastured product; includes recipes and shopping tips. The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen: Recipes for Noodles, Dumplings, Sauces, and More by Laura B. Russell is a godsend for those who love Asian cuisine but can't get around its heavy dependence on wheat products; great resource. And one more, non-local but knee-slappingly funny sliver of a book, Nietzsche's Angel Food Cake: And Other "Recipes" for the Intellectually Famished by Rebecca Coffey is a collection of pseudo-recipes/essays with titles like "Ernest Hemingway's Battered Testicles" and "Geoffrey Chaucer's Stinking Bishop's Tart" that begs to be read out loud; perfect as a stocking stuffer or for foodies with (or who need) a sense of humor.

Read the other posts in this series: Gifts That Give Back, Mad Skills, Kids' Stuff and Good Eatin'.

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