Are you new here?
Let me introduce myself.
We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming today. The Kitchen Review of Books was featured in From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy last week (thanks, Alicia!) and as a result, I now have double the number of subscribers. So, I wanted to take an opportunity to re-introduce this newsletter, share some highlights, and let you know what's coming up.
At its core, this is a cookbook review newsletter. I have a fairly extensive cookbook collection, so the initial idea was to draw on what I already have to write reviews. I have read any cookbook featured here cover to cover (at least every top note, not necessarily every recipe) and have cooked at least three dishes out of it.
But, I have more to say than whether or not a book’s recipes work. I want to talk about what a cookbook says about the racial, environmental, and labor politics of chefs, home cooks, food media, and other segments of the industry. For example:
Exploring the work and legacy of California chef and restaurateur Alice Waters helps us understand how “consumer advocacy” in the form of buying local and organic became mainstream;
Hand-pulling noodles and folding dumplings from NYC restaurant Xi’an Famous Foods invites us to see how insular communities like Chinatowns in help immigrants make a home in the U.S.; and
Woven into accessible (and sometimes fanciful) home cooking recipes from Molly Yeh and Cynthia Chen McTernan we get slices of life that demonstrate why we should pass the mic to people of color to share the context for recipes from their families’ cultures.
And you need to know that this summer, I’m exploring the food of the 1970s counterculture. I’m interested how over a decade of political upheaval inspired young people (mostly from the white middle and upper class) to “opt out” of the evils of modern society by forming intentional communities that included and ultimately propagated new ways of thinking about food. They tried to live their politics through going vegetarian, eating local and organic, and cooking from scratch. Fifty years later, we know the food industry is broken but we’re still trying to fix it with these same consumer-driven imperatives. I want to dig deep into the ways people tried to live their politics back then and see if we can learn from their successes and mistakes to fuel a more impactful food movement today.
You can read the intro to the 70s series here, which will give you some background on the food philosophies of the time. The next issue will explore The Political Palate: A Feminist Vegetarian Cookbook by the founders of the Connecticut restaurant Bloodroot and how they built a business on the tenets of second-wave feminism.
Thanks so much for joining me! I’m excited to have you.
P.S. Generally, I publish every two weeks. If you want to see content from me with more frequency, my home base is Instagram, where I post what I'm cooking and occasional how-tos as @yungggarlic.