Around the World in Five Cookbooks


Most likely, an around-the-world travel extravaganza is not on the agenda this summer. If so, kudos for you, and take me with you please. Despite a lack of travel plans, by recreating some delicious eats, you can still journey far and wide, in mind, spirit, and stomach. One of the most visible (and delectable) aspects of a culture is food, and these cookbooks do a particularly nice job of painting the visual food scene in their respective locations. Even for non-cooks, these are worth the read. If your wallet and taste buds are battling it out this summer, please them both with these five cookbooks.

Mexico, One Plate at a Time, by Rick Bayless
No, Rick Bayless is not Mexican, but his enthusiasm for Mexican cuisine is clear, and his ability to translate Mexican recipes (in both language and technique) is undeniable. With a goal of educating the home cook on not only the how of Mexican cooking but also the why, Bayless succeeds in explaining the basics in a simple way. That means you'll gain a solid foundation in preparing Mexican food, and you'll learn the best chiles to choose for each dish. With a few steps and easy-to-find ingredients, prepare and indulge in the perfect guacamole from the comfort of your own home. Unfortunately (or fortunately), for swims in cenotes, history lessons in Mayan ruins, and white sandy beaches, an actual trip to Mexico is required.

The Foods and Flavors of Haute Provence, by Georgeanne Brennan
An exquisite storyteller, Brennan recounts her time in Haute Provence with her family in 1970, when they perhaps naively escaped the tumultuous United States to pursue a quiet, cozy life. Before televisions, telephones, or freezers had made their way to the region, Brennan shares a story shaped by the pulse of the seasons, the bounty of the land, and the rituals of the community. Each chapter highlights a particular ingredient, and she outlines tips along the way. Some tips are useful, such as how to dry herbs, for example. Others, such as brining olives, are not necessarily useful, but are interesting nonetheless. You'll feel like you live alongside Brennan's family in this one, while discovering some great go-to recipes.

Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
With stunning photos and a knack for telling stories through food, Ottolenghi and Tamimi share their own stories in the city of Jerusalem in which they grew up. The personal experience and sense of home can be felt throughout, as can the pride in the diverse and historic city. From simple veggie-focused fare such as fattoush and fried cauliflower to fancier, more complex lamb-stuffed quince with pomegranate and cilantro, the colorful food bounces off the pages. The recipes are accessible and for the most part, easy to recreate, and for almost every ingredient, the authors share its origin and significance.

An Invitation to Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey
Jaffrey boldly begins her book by stating that there is no good place to get Indian food in the whole of the United States. With this, she gets down to business by empowering the reader to create their own Indian masterpieces at home. She begins each chapter with simpler dishes and then amps up the complexity. So once you have mastered the easier ones, you can try your hand at the more challenging dishes to prepare. What ensues is a flavor explosion of kheema, koftas, curry, and many more things that make you say "yum." Building up your spice supply will take an initial investment, but once you've done so, you can easily and quickly throw together the best of the subcontinent without ever setting foot in Delhi.

Japanese Cooking, by Shizuo Tsuji
In an effort to make Japanese cooking seem not quite so foreign, Tsuji's Japanese Cooking presents a cuisine that is both steeped in tradition and open for interpretation. The book outlines the fundamentals of Japanese cooking and food, including an impressive spread on how to prepare sashimi. This cookbook also explains the prominence of nature in Japanese cuisine, bringing a whole new meaning to the earthy flavors of bonito, miso, and seaweed, as well as the focus on seasonal ingredients. The only downside is that you will want to hop that flight to Tokyo or Kyoto pretty much immediately, thereby missing the point entirely of traveling the world by cookbook.

No excuses, people. Start your around-the-world adventure in the comfort of your own kitchen, or if nothing else, learn a thing or two about some incredible food cultures.

Jannan Poppen is a travel writer based in Greenville, SC. She's an explorer at heart and will try just about anything once.