Nonfiction on Napa Cuisine, John Fahey, Making Mead, Nazi-Occupied Paris, & Ancient Egypt | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 15, 2014

Kostow, Christopher. A New Napa Cuisine. Ten Speed. Oct. 2014. 304p. photos. index. ISBN 9781607745945. $50. COOKING
Kostow is a rising chef and one of the youngest to be awarded three Michelin stars. After stints in San Diego and San Francisco (Campton Place under Daniel Humm), Kostow presides over the Meadowood Inn in St. Helena, CA. In this, his first book, which might be called a “cuisinebook” rather than a cookbook, he writes of his transformation into a chef and putting down roots in the Napa Valley. He discusses the four influences in his life at Meadowood—gardening, artisan collaborators, foraging, and bounty. Interspersed in other chapters are 100 recipes that he says may be prepared in the home kitchen provided you have the “requisite equipment,” which would include a wood-burning oven and a dehydrator plus a number of unusual ingredients: manzanita berries, dried kombu, and goat loin, for example. The restaurant now has its own garden, and the recipes use what is available on any day. The photographs are stunning visuals of Kostow’s creations.
Verdict This will be enjoyed by those who dream of eating at a unique restaurant, taking home the recipes, and understanding the philosophy of the chef.—Christine E. Bulson, emeritus, Milne Lib., SUNY Oneonta

Lowenthal, Steve. Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist. Chicago Review. 2014. 240p. illus. discog. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781613745199. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781613745229. MUSIC
danceofdeath081514Aside from John Fahey’s own semifictional memoir, How Bluegrass Destroyed My Life (2000), Dance of Death is the first book-length biography of Fahey, one of the great outsider musicians of American music. Born in 1939, he became an accomplished acoustic guitar player, achieving renown for his unique picking style sometimes termed American Primitivism, which combined avant-garde minimalism, blues, and folk and later incorporated wider musical styles from around the world. Although often lumped in with the folk revival of the 1960s, Fahey was not part of any collective style or movement and suffered from depression and alcoholism and remained largely an outsider in his personal as well as his professional life. This short but detailed and sensitive book chronicles his life and career, including his often difficult personality and health issues that let him into poverty and semiretirement in the 1980s and early 1990s before an artistic resurgence in his final years; Fahey died in 2001. This is the first book by Lowenthal (contributor, Spin, Fader, Village Voice), and it includes a foreword by music writer David Fricke (Rolling Stone).
Verdict A fascinating read for fans of Fahey and American roots music.—Dave Valencia, Seattle

Meredith, Leda. Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More. Countryman. 2014. 272p. index. ISBN 9781581572421. pap. $19.95. HOME ECON
Can one book actually show you how to preserve everything? Meredith (Northeast Foraging) emphasizes the variety of techniques available for food preservation, allowing readers to learn methods that can be applied to other ingredients. Preservation techniques covered include fermentation, canning, pickling, dehydrating, salting, smoking, freezing, and preserving in fats and alcohol. Each part includes several recipes to try; sections on using cold storage and creating simple dairy foods also highlight additional ways food can be preserved. Chapters on gear needed and troubleshooting processes round out the book.
Verdict While no section delves too deeply into complicated recipes, this volume is an eye-opening look at food preservation as a whole process. Readers just starting to preserve, or those who are looking to move on to other techniques, will enjoy this title.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., South Deerfield

Phillips, Roger. The Wild Food Cookbook. Countryman. 2014. 179p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781581572186. pap. $18.95. COOKING
As the popularity of foraging has grown, so has the number of publications about this topic. Most of these books are focused on identification of edible plants. Phillips (Mushrooms of North America), however, does not intend for readers to use his book as an identification guide but instead as a cookbook for a wide variety of edible plants, mushrooms, seaweeds, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Each entry provides a description of the plant, where and when it can be found, and even some history, such as how the plant was used in ancient times, or a record of its discovery by an early explorer or settler. Most entries include one or two recipes or instructions on how best to prepare the plant. The recipes tend to be simple and easy to follow and range from breads, soups, and pasta to fritters, scones, jellies, and more.
Verdict A good choice for readers interested in foraging but not sure what to do with wild edibles. A useful addition to communities where foraging is popular.—Melissa Stoeger, Deerfield P.L., IL

Piatz, Steve. The Complete Guide to Making Mead. Voyageur. Aug. 2014. 160p. photos. index. ISBN 9780760345641. pap. $24.99. BEVERAGES
With the popularity of craft beer brewing, it is no surprise to see home brewers turning to mead to expand their skills and experiment with different ingredients and flavors. In his first book, 2008 American Homebrewers Association Mead Maker of the Year Piatz beautifully tackles the science and art of mead making. He begins with “A Brief History of Mead,” followed by chapters on essential ingredients (honey varieties, yeast strains) and basic and advanced techniques. Special ingredients such as fruits, spices, and chocolate are also covered, and measurements are provided in metric and U.S. standard units (e.g., pounds and kilograms of honey). The exacting nature of the brewing process is complemented by encouragement to investigate flavors and customize packaging. Piatz’s comprehensive treatment includes a glossary, an index, a sources page, and a “Troubleshooting” chapter.
Verdict Recommended for experienced home brewers seeking a new challenge as well as novices who want to begin their brewing practice with mead. With honey as the basic component, this title may also appeal to readers interested in beekeeping.—Meagan Storey, Virginia Beach

Rosbottom, Ronald C. When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940–1944. Little, Brown. 2014. 352p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780316217446. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316217453. HIST
whenpariswentdark081514A center of learning and culture since medieval times, Paris has long been known as the City of Light. For 1,500 days during World War II, however, both the literal and figurative lights of the city were dimmed, although never completely extinguished. Rosbottom (humanities, Amherst Coll.) recounts the events in Paris after the city’s siege by German forces in 1940 until its liberation from German rule in 1944. In this fascinating perspective on that period, the author draws extensively from primary and secondary source material including fiction, art, and personal interviews to paint a portrait of the psychological and emotional impact an intimidating military presence had on the city and its occupants. The author also describes citizens’ responses to a repressive occupier, ranging from resigned politeness to full-scale resistance. He purposely concentrates more on impressions and the thoughts and emotions of ordinary people than on dates, events, and personages.
Verdict Strongly recommended for general readers and those with an interest in French or World War II history. [See Prepub Alert, 2/10/14.]—Linda Frederiksen, Washington State Univ. Lib., Vancouver

Snape, Steven. The Complete Cities of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. Sept. 2014. 240p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500051795. HIST
Snape (archaeology, Univ. of Liverpool; Ancient Egyptian Tombs: The Culture of Life and Death) shares his expertise as a settlement archaeologist in this richly illustrated study of the development of ancient Egyptian urban centers. The first part of the book discusses the reasons for their location and methods for estimating population during that era. Other chapters explore government, sanitation, education, crime, and leisure in the dynastic urban setting. Governmental changes implemented under the Ptolemaic Dynasty and Roman administration are also analyzed. Snape concludes by presenting both notable and lesser-known urban remains from Elephantine in the south to other remains along the Peninsula as well as the Mediterranean coast. This authoritative text is supplemented with an extensive, classified bibliography and a listing of Egyptian terminology.
Verdict Although adjusting to the varying font sizes between the introduction and subsequent chapters can be a challenge, this unique publication offers the general reader a comprehensive special perspective on Pharaonic Egyptian culture and is definitely recommended for anyone interested in that fascinating civilization.—Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Pierce, FL