What’s Cooking | Book Reviews

by Rona Berg

Sometimes books about food and cookery can be almost as delicious as a good meal. We guarantee that you will devour these two new releases—and they are perfect gifts for any bonafide foodie!

Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen: A novel of Victorian Cookery and Friendship

By Annabel Abbs

Beautifully written by bestselling author Annabel Abbs, this engrossing novel tells the tale of real-life poet and feminist Eliza Acton, who was well-known for her poetry, but less so for her major innovations in food and recipe writing.

Acton was the author of Modern Cookery for Private Families, one of England’s first cookbooks aimed at the home cook. She pioneered the technique of listing recipe ingredients upfront, along with instructions on how long to cook them, a standard that cookbook authors follow to this day.

Acton was concerned with food waste, healthy eating, use of fresh ingredients, “and the importance of making good food available to everyone,” says Abbs. Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen tells the story of Acton’s struggle to challenge Victorian mores 200 years ago, and her friendship with the gifted cook who stood by her side in the kitchen.

Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide

By Cecily Wong & Dylan Thuras

Anyone with an insatiable appetite for food history and culinary tidbits from around the world will find this book irresistible. Gastro Obscura—by the team behind the #1 New York Times bestseller Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, is as comprehensive as it is beautiful, with no less than 500 entries across seven continents and 50 states. “This book is more than a menu of foods worth tasting,” say Wong and Thuras. “It’s a collection of forgotten histories and endangered traditions, obscure experiences, culinary ingenuity and edible wonders.”

From an Alabama peanut festival to table etiquette in the Victorian era, from a recipe for Chairman Mao’s Red-Braised Pork to the back story behind Mexico’s Huitlacoche and South Africa’s Bunny Chow, Gastro Obscura is a trove of endlessly appetizing, easily digestible gastronomic tidbits that will keep you hungry for more.

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