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by Steve Mitchell

Food Porn EditionFood Porn is a relatively recent development, probably dating back to the first few seasons of Top Chef, which made chefs looks like average assholes and complex recipes seem doable. In the old days, cookbooks were just lists of ingredients and instructions with all of the romance of math word problems. Nowadays, cookbooks are called upon to appeal to our senses and imagination, leaving us breathless with sweaty palms and watering mouths. The volumes below contain more than recipes: they include ravishing photographs, stories about locations and chefs, anecdotes about ingredients. They create a picture, not only of the foods we cook and eat, but their origin and culture.

Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand by Andy Ricker and JJ GoodeAndy Ricker has “spent the better part of the last twenty years roaming around Thailand, cooking and recooking strange soups, beseeching street vendors for stir-fry tips, and trying to figure out how to reproduce obscure Thai products with American ingredients.”All the recipes in this book have been tested again and again in Ricker’s Pok Pok restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Many of the recipes require a little work, either in tracking down obscure ingredients (Hello, Super G!) or the investment in said ingredients, but once you see the stunning pictures of the food itself, you won’t be able to resist.

Leon: Ingredients and Recipes by Allegra McEvedyThe first half of this lovely book is all about ingredients. Filled with facts, history, and cultural lore and packed with photos and illustrations, it’s a short history of the pantry and the market. The second half puts that knowledge to use in over 140 recipes from the Leon Superfood Salad to Spanish Omelets and Better Brownies. There are pull-out maps, cut-out pages, stickers: all a part of the beautiful design guaranteed to keep you coming back to it again and again.

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam OttolenghiNot just a book for the vegetarian, Ottolenghi’s offers 120 vegetarian recipes that will have you looking at your vegetables, at all of your ingredients, in a new way. The photos are ravishing, the flavors bright and new with a Mediterranean theme. You don’t have to have culinary training to prepare Ottolenghi’s recipes and you don’t have to spend $150 on obscure ingredients, but you will learn a new skill or two in the process.

Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of the Foods We Love by Simran SethiTaking the three items of the title as one point of departure, Sethi shepherds us around the world to discover how our food is grown, processed and shipped and why we are slowly losing diversity in the foods we grow and consume. This is not a boring scientific text but a personal exploration of how we approach and experience food and the simple choices we can make to both deepen that experience and make it more sustainable. Along the way you’ll meet people involved with every step of production and learn their stories. Here’s the Wall Street Journal on Simran Sethi.

The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet by Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gerp and Marcel DickeIn this book, two entomologists and a chef try to make the case for including insects in our diets as a sustainable source of protein. Tarte tatin with chocolate covered grasshoppers or mealworm ice cream anyone? While you might not be quite ready to serve these at your next dinner party or upcoming Super Bowl bash, it’s still a fascinating book about the farming and preparation of insects as a food source. In addition, it addresses questions of how to interest First World countries in trying it. C’mon, just take a bite. Just one bite!EventsSimran SethiBread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of the Foods We LoveDecember 19 3:00 pmScuppernong BooksNamed ‘the environmental messenger’ by Vanity Fair and a top 10 eco-hero of the planet by the UK’s Independent, Simran Sethi is a journalist and educator focused on food, sustainability and social change. She’ll be talking about her book (above) at Scuppernong Books.Providence Restaurant5790 University ParkwayWinston Salem, NC 27105An expansion of Triad Community Kitchen, itself a program of Second Harvest Food Bank. TCK trains food service workers while utilizing donated perishables to make prepared food then sourced to area food banks. Providence is a new fine-dining restaurant providing menu items such as Pan Seared NC Grouper and Grilled Vegetable Napoleon’s while fulfilling a wide-ranging social mission.The Next Supper

It “is an “underground dining” experience based in Greensboro, North Carolina. We think of them as encounters with good taste. Our virtual restaurant can travel anywhere there are tables and a working kitchen. We focus on healthful foods, flavors that intrigue us, fostering a sense of community, and enhancing environmental awareness.Each guest on our email list will receive an announcement of an upcoming event (usually a week or so in advance). Following your RSVP you’ll receive information about the event and its location. Most Suppers are byob but occasionally we’ll do a wine pairing or begin the evening with a cocktail. “And, Julia Child Re-mixed! Bring on the Roasted Potatoes!Please send any announcements of writerly or bookish events in the Triad area or beyond to: neuralarts@triad.rr.comSteve Mitchell’s short story collection, The Naming of Ghosts, is published by Press 53. He has a deep belief in the primacy of doubt and an abiding conviction that great wisdom informs very bad movies. He’s co-owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC.

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