Recipe from the book: Kaklo (Banana and Chile Fritters)
Eight hundred and twenty six pages! That's a big book!
When I first chose this book, I thought it would be lots of pretty pictures and a batch  of recipes. I was only partly right. It's size leads you to think this is one of those books that have every recipe under the sun and pictures to go with it. It turns out it's not that way at all.
Let's get this part out of the way first, the pictures. With all due respect to the photographer, this is not a food photography book and it shows. There are 32 color plates, and they are okay at best. The remaining pictures (I didn't bother to count those) frankly are pointless and do nothing for the book. They are in black and white. The book is supposed to be a textbook for students and unless they are teaching culinary arts to the colorblind, black and white photos, while cheaper certainly, contribute very little to a cookbook! They would have done better and saved money had they not even bothered with them to begin with! But enough ranting, lets get to the merits of the book, and there are many!
International Cuisine was developed as a textbook for students of The International Culinary Schools program. The school is part of the Art Institutes collection of trade's schools. With this many different schools they have the curriculum down to its own art form. In coming up with the curriculum for the culinary students they have decided that in order to make a completely well rounded culinary professional it was important to teach the basics of cooking, but also the history and development of not only the major cuisines (i.e.: French, Italian etc.) but also those of the rest of the world. A smattering of recipes from other countries would not be teaching anything about the world.
It used to be said that the United States was a melting pot of cultures. That is becoming true of the entire world and most of its countries. And as it turns out they pretty much all were melting pots at one time or another. Because of this it's important to know as much as we can about where other peoples culinary history comes from. Frankly, in my opinion, International Cuisine is less of a culinary book and more of a Readers Digest version of World History. Personally I found it quite fascinating. I learned more about world history from this book than I remember learning in high school.
The book is broken into countries and regions. From the Latin countries south of the United States to the Caribbean Islands up to the Far East, and down to Southeast Asia. It goes across the Middle East to Europe, Scandinavia and finally to the Slavic region.
In one way this is a very easy book to review. It has a definitive format and doesn't deviate. Each country is treated exactly the same.
Each section starts out with "The Land" which gives you a brief overview of the country. Its terrain, its weather and how it's broken into states or regions. A map of the country is included. I found this very useful as it gives you a really good albeit short, view of the land.
The next section is "History". Here is where you get the lesson in the country and its peoples. The history lesson goes all the way back to the beginnings of the country. In the case of Mexico it goes back a thousand years to the Mayans. In the case of China the chapter starts in the neighborhood of 2000 B.C. Again, while brief, the lesson is quite thorough in terms of how its history, land and people contribute to its cuisine.
"People" is of course just that. I found it really fascinating personally as it really goes in depth into the people that have made the country what it is in terms ofits ethnicity. I learned a lot about the world around me that I'm sorry to say I didn't previously know. In fact recently during a conversation I was able to pull out a little known fact that I learned from the book.
Then we get to why we came here, "The Food". This section breaks down the cuisines of the states or regions much like we would have in the US, such as Eastern Seaboard seafood, Colonial traditions, to the South and Southern cooking, and Midwestern farm cooking. .
This part, of course, is the most in depth. We learn how the area, the weather and the culture contribute to the cuisine of that region. For example, China, where you have  Hunan, Sichuan, Canton and Peking provinces and how different each one is, and why it is that way. Many countries are very different from region to region as we are here in the states. It's unlikely you'll find Grits and Redeye gravy in Beverly Hills and it's unlikely you'll find a Duck Confit pizza in Brooklyn! It's pretty much the same in many other parts of the world!
You get a "Glossary" of culinary terms and ingredients to familiarize yourself with the utensils, methods, ingredients, etc. Some of the additions to the glossary almost appear as filler material, but until such time as I really delve into the cuisine of the area I have to think that way.
And lastly we have "The Recipes". In each countries section you will get three to four menus based on the cuisine. In some cases you may get a menu from each of the area's regions, or you might just get  three to four menus of a variety of foods. Sometimes you get a recipe for a familiar item such as Cha Gio,( Fried Spring Rolls) from Southeast Asia or something a little more foreign to the pallet such as Kaklo, (Banana and Chile Fritters) from Western Africa. It gives you a sense of what the people eat, not just what a restaurant may want you to think they eat.
This book I think teaches you more about the overall history and culture of a country and what makes its cuisine what it is, more so than being a book about the foods of a region. In my opinion the student that reads this book is overall better suited not only to be a better chef, but a better person in their knowledge and empathy into what makes up the people of that country, whether original descendants or transplants. This book would make a fine addition to the regular curriculum in the High Schools as well. After all as Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said, "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.
|Author||The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes|
|Dewey Decimal Number||641.59|
|Number Of Items||1|
|Number Of Pages||864|
|Product Type Name||ABIS_BOOK|