International & Ethnic Cookbooks
The international cookbook category is largely composed of books which focus on the food of a particular country or ethnic group. There are some truly international cookbooks here which encompass the food of a region or even an entire continent, but many of the most exciting books offer you a deep dive into a national cuisine.
To our way of thinking, a great international cookbook offers you more than just a recipe collection. It should tell you about the history of a cuisine and answer many kinds of questions about the food of a country.
For example, is the dish strongly associated with a particular part of a country, like risotto in northern Italy or mole in Oaxaca, Mexico? Is it important to a holiday, the way matzoh is at Jewish Passover or rice dishes are in some Muslim countries during the observation of Eid al-Fitr?
A good international cookbook should help you understand how a dish may have changed over time. A good example is gazpacho, the Spanish cold soup. The most common way it is made now is with tomatoes, but there were no tomatoes in Spain before the sixteenth century and the soup was originally made with bread or almonds and other fresh vegetables.
We think this kind of perspective is important because it helps a cook understand a cuisine the way someone who grew up in a country does. For example, if you’re American and you visit someone in another country and they offer to cook American food for you, what would you think of being served a dinner of pizza, tuna casserole, and jambalaya? Those are all American foods. But you would know from having grown up here that putting the three of them together for dinner is just weird.
So a good international cookbook helps you begin to understand how people in another country think about what makes a good meal. It should always give you more than just recipes, and after you spend some time with it, you should have an idea about what’s important to cooks and diners in another part of the world.
Of course, sometimes you're just thinking about enjoying the flavors from a certain country and we offer those books as well. Look for descriptive words such as simple, accessible, or weeknight to help identify books like that.