The Cooking of the Eastern MediterraneanI got interested in Paula Wolfert's work during the mid-1990s on the repeated mentions to her in Jim Harrison's writings. It turned out to be a fortuitous inquiry as she was embarking on a roll of great cookbooks including this one, which is my favorite.
"The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean" is a collection of recipes that Wolfert collected during her travels in the Balkans, Turkey, Syria and Greece over the span of a half-decade. It is a culinary snapshot of a region that is often unjustly ignored despite its long and rich traditons. There are a lot of similarities to other syles of provincial cooking but the local differences are a wonder to behold.
This book gives an interesting approach to grains, legumes, vegetables and nuts you won't see regularly and in a way that sparks inspiration for your own favorite dishes. Every recipe is laid out in a clear cookable manner and with a blurb that sharply explains its historical and cultural background. It helps that Wolfert has a casual style that instructs without the slightest pretense of patronization - a rarity in the field.
What appealed to me is how Wolfert chose to avoid the five-star restaurants and the prounoucements of famous local chefs and, instead, took to the kitchens of the countryfolk where these dishes are cooked regularly as part of their everyday lives. That's the kind of cooking I have found I enjoy most, particularly given my roots in South Louisiana.
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