Sweet Winter Reading: On My Bookshelf

29 Nov

I’m not letting Monday’s 66-degree weather fool me, Massachusetts. You may be all smiles now, but December is almost upon us. The colder it gets, the more likely you will be to find me indoors, snuggling with a book, a DVD, a hot chocolate or a glass red wine (maybe even all four at a time). To that end, here is my round-up of sweet reads for the coming cold weeks:

1. Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert by Michael Krondl

The premise of this book sounds like a pastry cook’s (and history nerd’s) dream. It promises stories of “sweet makers past and present” from around the globe. Food historian Michael Krondl goes well beyond the French and Viennese pastries that dominate American culinary school curriculum and travels to Calcutta, Baghdad, and Istanbul, just to name a few stops along the way. He includes gray box “inserts” on everything from gingerbread to tiramisu to rossogolla (a Bengali “syrup-poached dumpling of fresh curd”), as well as a diverse sprinkling of recipes (e.g. Gateau St. Honore, quatyif, and cupcakes). And of course, this blogger will pay particular attention to the pages dedicated to tortes . . .

2. The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in the West Indies by Matthew Parker

Chocolate more immediately comes to mind these days when you think of the moral cost of the world’s sweet tooth, but sugar (once known as “white gold”) also has a sordid history. In The Sugar Barons, Parker chronicles the rise of the so-called sugar revolution, the crop’s role in swelling the British economy and the human cost (namely the slave trade and racist plantation culture) of cultivating sugar in the former West Indian colonies.  Click here to read a WSJ review of Parker’s book.

3. The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber

Her novel Birds of Paradise made me an instant of fan of Diana Abu-Jaber, so I’ve been eager to track down her earlier memoir about growing up straddling two cultures. Abu-Jaber shares her childhood memories of living in both America and Jordan, and of course, offers a tantalizing admixture of playfully titled recipes (Mona Lisa Cream Puffs, Spinach-Stuffed Fetayer for Those in Search of Home, and Ful for Love). To read excerpts from this memoir, including Abu-Jaber’s recipe for the titular baklava, click here.

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