If you are an adventuresome eater and you’re interested in traveling to road-less-traveled destinations like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Chile, Cuba, Japan, Laos, Helsinki and Lapland, Namibia, Syria, and Vietnam, you’ll love the taste of World Food Café, a new cookbook/travel book by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott.
World Food Cafe is divided into chapters on each country, and it’s filled with gorgeous photographs taken in the local environments from which the recipes come. Each chapter offers an average of 10 recipes from each region. The authors have done a fine job of describing the culture of each country, the indigenous produce, and the historical events that shape the culture. The pictures and captions give the reader a glimpse of the beauty that can be found and enjoyed in these out-of-the-way destinations. They also write about the famous sites that drew them to visit the country, as well as each area’s weather, seasons, and the personalities of local folk.
Mapless Travel, Delicious Recipes
The authors give vivid descriptions of their basic itinerary in each country. Unfortunately, not a map is found in the entire book, so you’ll need to get out your world atlas or go to Google Earth to trace their journeys if you wish to have a visual of their excursions. The book is also lacking a glossary for unfamiliar terms and ingredients. Most of the time, you can understand in context, but I had to really research to find out that aubergine is another term for artichoke.
As an English major, I also found myself irritated by the poor use of commas in this volume. I’m not a comma fanatic (well, maybe I am), but many times I had to re-read a sentence for it to make sense. If they had put a proper comma in, I could have understood it the first time through. However, this oversight doesn’t impact the use of the cookbook, which is intriguingly delicious.
The recipes in this book would be a terrific way to prepare your taste buds for traditional dishes of these countries. However, you’ll need to shop specialty markets (online or brick and mortar) for some of the ingredients. True to the subtitle of the book, the dishes are easy to prepare. A thick, red lentil soup with all the trimmings from Burma (page 52) and pumpkin sopaipillas (a fried quick bread) and quinoa salad (pages 75, 76) from Chile are on my list of “things to make soon,” and I can make them without a trip to a specialty store.
Not often, but occasionally, instructions for a recipe are separated from the listing of ingredients by a photo and/or a page break, which makes the book more difficult to use as a cookbook. However, I suspect few people would buy World Food Café for just compilation of recipes. It’s more of a travel guide that focuses on the food of the regions that would-be travelers will eagerly enjoy.
While I have never traveled to any of the countries mentioned in this book, after reading the pages and studying the detail of the stunning photography, it’s something I yearn to do. I’ve found my mind imagining a husky safari in Lapland (page 146) and the gardens of the medieval castles in Japan (page 109). If I find those on my traveling radar any time soon, I’ll pull out World Food Café to prepare my palate. — by Lisa George, RFT Contributor