Let us now praise Mark Bittman.
His achievements in The Best Recipes in the World are numerous,
wide reaching, even spectacular. Bittman has gathered classic recipes
from 44 countries, a staggering feat on its own, but he has also cut
through the complexity of global cooking, pulling those 1,000 recipes
into a coherent whole. The timid can venture new recipes with confidence,
while the seasoned cook can explore ever-expanding territory fearlessly.
And what may be the most unusual of all cookbook achievements, the book
organizes kitchen cabinets. While the uninitiated may find this a unique
achievement, a dedicated cook will rejoice to know that cabinets no
longer hide prize ingredients in clutter.
Mark Bittman does not like clutter,
least of all in recipes. "I don't use two ingredients where one
will do," says Bittman. Guided by this simplicity, Bittman has
adapted recipes so they represent the country of origin without discouraging
the cook who can't find a too-exotic ingredient. His goal is "to
find a common, good-tasting version of an authentic dish and to re-create
it in ways that do not rob it of its integrity but make it accessible."
Bittman is a friend to the home cook.
With his unique intelligence and
sense of organization, Bittman, author of the weekly New York Times
column aptly called "The Minimalist," states that "ingredients
change, but technique does not. It's all basic." With that guiding
principle, Bittman has found the commonality in recipes from widely
separated countries. Though the book uses traditional chapter divisions,
Bittman organizes by discerning the connections between recipes. Placing
familiar recipes side by side with the exotic, the familiar shed light
on the unfamiliar, bringing the exotic to the doorstep of the home kitchen.
For example, the meat chapter is organized by cooking technique. Braised
recipes are collected together, whatever the meat or spices used. Dealing
with the myriad types of rice, Bittman explains their similarities,
how rice with an exotic name behaves as a familiar one, and advises
which rice to keep at hand for its versatility.
Bittman gives equal emphasis to
European and Asian cuisine. There are easy-to-follow recipes for such
delights as Stir-fried Vegetables with Nam Pal from Vietnam, Pad Thai
from Thailand, Salmon Teriyaki from Japan, Black Bean and Garlic Sparerib
from China, and Tandoori Chicken from India. Spanish, Mexican and Turkish
cuisines are equally explored. And with continued simplicity and brevity,
Bittman has included explanations of foods, foodstuffs and their uses.
Now, let's talk about the unexpected
joy of organized kitchen cabinets. Bittman has a section entitled "The
International Pantry" in which he tells us that "a couple
dozen ingredients belong in every kitchen all the time, and a few dozen
more will allow you to expand your horizons to the ends of the earth."
He has composed basic lists broken down by locality - from Africa to
Europe to the Americas, to Asia. His recommended ingredients are the
ones that will be used and reused. Having them on hand frees the cook
to make a stress-free, last minute decision.
To make this book complete, there
are more than one hundred line drawings, many instructional, and fifty-two
international menus. Many recipes can be made ahead or prepared in under
Mark Bittman is a friend to the
home cook. If only we could get him to write about organizing hall closets.
author: Mark Bittman
is the author of the Julia Child/IACP award and James Beard award-winning
How to Cook Everything, the New York Times column "The Minimalist,"
the three Minimalist cookbooks. When he's not traveling the globe, he
divides his time between New York City, Los Angeles, and Connecticut.