Book Bag: Gift Books Help Readers Eat, Drink and Be Merry…

book_the_wild_table.jpgReviews by Sharon L. Shervington

The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes
Written by Connie Green and Sarah Scott

For many Ashevillians and for visitors, the almost magically abundant landscape here is a huge attraction. Late last summer that idea became very personal to me on a hike at the Arboretum. That day it seemed that everywhere I looked there was an unusually shaped or exotically colored mushroom. I saw at least a score of varieties.

“The Wild Table” is a perfect gift for those who may have experienced something similar – wandering the woods and wishing for the knowledge to safely identify nature’s succulent, delicious and lesser-known bounty. Ms. Green has been a great force in promoting the use of foraged foods in fine dining, something that she explains was a tough sell at first. Foraging is an ancient craft, and she has been one of its key exponents in today’s world.

Arranged by season, the book also features foraging fundamentals and
etiquette, with beautiful recipes for all sorts of wild-foraged foods.
Among those that can be found locally are ramps, fiddleheads, stinging
nettles (yes, prepared properly they are edible.), as well as numerous
mushroom, berry, and morel varieties.

The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes, by Connie Green and Sarah Scott, Viking Studio; 343 pages; $40
Also Noteworthy:

book_foodheroes.jpgFood Heroes: 16 Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition
Written by Georgia Pelligrini

When I opened this book I was immediately charmed by this line: “Cheese
rinds have so much unrealized potential.” Who would have thought it? And
the chapter “Healing with Olive Oil” also grabbed my attention.

Imagine a cross between food writing and fairy tales, except it’s real.
You’ll meet a ninja lamb-midwife, a chocolate pioneer, and an
extraordinary beekeeper, the latter in the chapter “Hans and the
50,000,000 Sisters.” That’s Food Heroes, in an oyster shell. It’s the
past and the future of food all wrapped up in one.

Food Heroes: 16 Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition, by Georgia Pelligrini; Stewart, Tabori & Chang; $24.95; 240 pages

book_good_meat.jpgGood Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat
Written by Deborah Krasner

Having met so many vegetarians in Asheville, I confess that there have
been times when I have actually felt guilty about my meat-loving ways.
Not anymore.

In Good Meat, Deborah Krasner guides readers into a much more aware
process of meat consumption, emphasizing the animal’s sacrifice and
stressing how using every part of an animal without waste is a way to
honor that. And the author does not shrink from certain ethical
ramifications of eating meat, such as animals’ quality of life.

One day, Ms. Krasner says, she asked herself why it was that in the
modern world people seemed able to cook only steaks, burgers, and chops,
and she wanted to change that. Not surprisingly, she is known for her
original approach to food and food writing, and for her guided eating
tours and vacations.

She recommends buying meat in whole- and half-animal quantities and, if
necessary, sharing. As a food expert, she writes here about a sea change
in availability of locally raised, grass-fed and pastured meats.

Along with diagrams showing just how an animal is butchered (lamb, beef,
pork, poultry, and rabbit), there are glorious photographs of amazing
recipes, many simple enough for the novice cook. One example would be
the lamb meatballs with cinnamon and cherries, pictured on the book’s
back cover and also inside. Guilty pleasures abound, such as
maple-glazed popcorn with bacon. Addictive and yummy!

Good Meat;  The Complete Guide To Sourcing And Cooking Sustainable Meat,
by Deborah Krasner; Stewart,tabori & Chang; $40; 400 Pages

book_tempest.jpgThe Tempest: Julie Taymor
Adapted from the play by William Shakespeare

This lavishly illustrated and poetry-infused book is a journey into the
unique dramatic and visual genius of Miss Taymor. The
just-in-time-for-the-holidays film version of The Tempest, features
Helen Mirren as Prospera, a female version of the Bard’s masterful
sorcerer, Prospero.

Delivered to the austere volcanic island where Prospera has lived for
years after being betrayed and stripped of her rightful rank in Milan,
Prospera’s enemies are delivered into her hands in the wake of a magical

Shakespeare’s tragicomedy is also a romantic love story featuring
Prospera’s daughter Miranda, and the action is facilitated throughout by
her elemental servants, Ariel and Caliban (Djimon Hounsou).

As she did with Titus a decade ago (her version of Shakespeare’s Titus
Andronicus, and arguably his most violent work) the director mixes
historical and contemporary imagery to create a textured hybrid that
practically leaps off the page. This is a fine choice for film, theatre
and Shakespeare buffs, especially since the film opens this month.

The Tempest: Julie Taymor, Adapted from the play by William Shakespeare, Abrams; $29.95; 176 pages

book_earth_the_book.jpgThe Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth the Book: A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race

This is not a book that you will want to sit down and read
cover-to-cover. But if you open it to the right pages, and there are
many right pages in this book, you may well become hysterical with
laughter. It’s that funny. While humans are certainly invited (by the
authors, who are too numerous to name) to read this overview of human
history in a peanut shell, the conceit is that it is written for an
alien audience.

I swear I am not making this up. The format, the glossy pages, endless
diagrams and an overall textbook-like look can’t save it from being
totally tasteless and vulgar. And, of course, that is the very point
here and the reason this book is such a huge hit. But that’s America
these days, eh? And in the right hands it’s hilarious.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart presents  Earth the Book: A Visitor’s
Guide to the Human Race; Grand Central Publishing; $27.99; 245 pages

Also Noteworthy:

book_our_dumb_world.jpgOur Dumb World, Atlas of the Planet Earth – 73rd Edition
For those deeply in need of laughs this could almost be considered a
companion to “Earth.” This offers a very similar format and belly-laugh
quotient. This is classic comedy in a modern format. Three years on it
is still a popular favorite.
Our Dumb World, Atlas of the Planet Earth – 73rd edition; Little, Brown; $17.99;
245 pages

book_this_is_npr.jpgThis is NPR: The First 40 Years
Forward By Cokie Roberts
I recommend this book because it is just what it says it is, and I
believe in public broadcasting. It is a fine gift for NPR lovers
especially since it comes with a CD of six classic broadcasts, including
David Sedaris’s Elf at 34th Street Macy’s.
But I was disappointed to see, after looking through the book several
times, that in at least a hundred photographs there are only four with
relevant images of African Americans, and one of those is Barack Obama.
Particularly in the wake of the Juan Williams firing, this reflects a
sad and long-term omission in America’s media landscape.

This Is NPR: The First 40 Years; forward by Cokie Roberts, Chronicle Books; $29.95; 272 pages

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