What do beer, cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, jam, even chocolate—I’ll bet you didn’t know—have in common? They are all preserved foods. Artisanal canned tomatoes and homemade kimchee might be trendy items now, but they come from a culinary need as old as human civilization itself. Can It! celebrates those transformed and transforming foods that have done so much to create the diversity of cuisines found around the world, bringing readers on a tangy adventure of all the ways necessity has bred deliciousness.
Food preservation rests in a simple problem: food tends to come in concentrated periods of abundance and then quickly spoil. Today we might pump it full of preservatives or throw it in the freezer, but for most of our time eating the things that the earth provides, we haven’t had these luxuries. As Allen shows, that’s been a wonderful limitation: our ancestors, knowing next to nothing about organic chemistry, found consistent techniques not only to preserve the foods they grew but to alter them—to delicious effects. Wine is more than old grape juice, cheese more than spoiled milk. Allen details how these transformations resulted in new flavors, textures, and, ultimately, new ways of defining the tastes and culture of a community, which passed down its knowledge from generation to generation. Exploring the history and science of preservation, he examines all the major techniques—from drying to smoking to salting to canning to fermentation—reveling in the cornucopia of different foods they have produced. Allaying the fears of the squeamish, he serves up easy-to-do historic and modern recipes that will help any home cook participate in one of culinary history’s most hallowed traditions.
Created as the ideal reference for anyone with a serious interest in cooking with herbs, spices, or related plant materials, The Herbalist in the Kitchen is truly encyclopedic in scope. It provides complete information about the uses, botany, toxicity, and flavor chemistry of herbs, as well as a listing for nearly every name that an ingredient is known by around the world.
Even including herbs and spices not yet seen in the United States (but likely to be featured in recipes for adventurous cooks soon), The Herbalist in the Kitchen is organized into one hundred and four sections, each consisting of a single botanical family. The book provides all available information about the chemical compounds responsible for a plant's characteristic taste and scent, which allows cooks to consider new subtleties and potential alternatives. For instance, the primary flavoring ingredient of cloves is eugenol; when a cook knows that bay leaves also contain eugenol, a range of exciting substitutions becomes clear. The Herbalist in the Kitchen also provides guidance about measuring herbs, enabling readers to understand the dated measuring standards from antique cookbooks.
A volume in The Food Series, edited by Andrew W. Smith
Herbs: A Global History
Gary Allen Reaktion Books, 2012 Library of Congress TX819.H4A44 2012 | Dewey Decimal 641.65709
Salsa and guacamole wouldn’t be the same without cilantro, and you can’t make pizza without oregano or a mojito without mint. You can use peppermint to settle an upset stomach, ease arthritis pain with stinging nettle, and heal burns and wounds with aloe vera. And then there is cannabis—perhaps the most notorious and divisive herb of all. Despite the fact that herbs are often little more than weeds, cultures around the globe have found hundreds of uses for them, employing them in everything from ancient medicines to savory dishes. While much has been written on cooking and healing with herbs, little has been told about the history of the plants themselves and the incredible journeys they have made.
This book elucidates how these often overlooked plants have become a staple in our lives. Unlike spices that quickly traversed the globe through trade, Gary Allen shows that herbs were often hoarded by their cultivators and were central to distinctive regional dishes. He draws on his extensive knowledge of food history to examine herbs in new ways, making Herbs essential reading for any serious foodie. Filled with beautiful illustrations and delicious recipes, this book will complete the kitchen library.
When you get right down to it, taking the intestine of an animal and stuffing it with the ground meat of that animal doesn’t really seem all that intuitive an approach to food preparation. But, as Gary Allen shows in this rich and engaging history, people worldwide have been making sausage for thousands of years. A veritable alphabet of sausages, from the Cajun andouille—and its less spicy forerunner, a French saucisson of the same name––and Mexican chorizo all the way to the Italian zampone, Allen tells a story of relentless creativity and invention, as different cultures found countless delectable ways to transform these otherwise unappealing pieces of meat. Allen peppers his account with examples from all over the world, as well as antique posters and advertisements, artworks and cartoons; together, they build a picture of a food that has been beloved—even as it’s scoffed at—throughout human history, and remains a spicy favorite today.