Cookbooks that showcase international and regional cuisines are more than just recipe compilations: they can also function as cultural guides. For instance, in a book such as Shahnaz Zikria’s The Afghan Cookbook (Interlink, July), the location photography is as integral as the depictions of the dishes.
“For many of us in the U.S., the only images we see of Afghanistan are those that appear on the news,” says Leyla Moushabeck, associate publisher at Interlink. “It can sometimes be difficult to remember there is a vibrant culture and people [behind] images of destruction and war.”
When representing the cuisine of a region that may be more familiar to U.S. audiences, the key is avoiding tired tropes. Elizabeth Sullivan, executive editor at HarperCollins, says that, in the case of Amber Wilson’s For the Love of the South (Harper Design, Mar.), she wasn’t interested in “recreating a cliché” of the region. The photos, taken by the author, do without the sorts of props—flowered cloths, magnolias—that would “suggest a very Southern setting,” Sullivan says. Rather than imposing a familiar aesthetic on the book, Sullivan foregrounded “the plants, the smells, the senses that are coming to life” through the author’s narrative.
In a similar spirit, the cookbooks collected here aim to present fresh portraits of regional cuisines.
The Afghan Cookbook
Shahnaz Zikria. Interlink, May
Zikria emigrated to Australia from Afghanistan in the 1980s. Here she offers dishes from her home country, such as chutneys and variations on korma. Photos of street markets and Afghan landscapes dotted with pastel-colored architecture help ground the recipes with a sense of place.
The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook
Maya Wilson. Rodale, Feb.
Shortly after moving to Alaska in 2011, Wilson, a chef, started the Alaska from Scratch blog. Its images of Alaskan landscapes and distinctive fauna are echoed in her book, as are recipes for some dishes—reindeer sausage, moose shepherd’s pie—whose main ingredients one would be hard-pressed to find in the lower 48. The author’s California roots come through in other meals, such as a quinoa and egg enchilada skillet.
Coconuts and Collards
Von Diaz. Univ. Press of Florida, Mar.
The title of this cookbook encapsulates its author’s mixed culinary heritage; PW’s review explains that she “grew up shuttled between Puerto Rico and Atlanta.” The book, whose photos show a pre–Hurricane Maria San Juan, includes recipes that combine Latin American and Southern flavors: corn chowder with white beans, chicken skewers with guava barbecue sauce, and anticuado, an old fashioned made with rum rather than whiskey. As our review notes, “Diaz’s gift for storytelling” shines.
For the Love of the South
Amber Wilson. Harper Design, Mar.
Drawing from her blog For the Love of the South, self-taught cook Amber Wilson, whose Instagram account has 168,000 followers, offers recipes for recognizably Southern dishes—pimento hush puppies, oven-roasted okra, bacon-latticed apple pie—alongside family anecdotes. As with the recipes, the location photography ambles across the South, to locales including the author’s husband’s family farm in Courtland, Ala., and the bayous of Louisiana.
National Geographic, Oct.
A collaboration between America’s Test Kitchen and National Geographic, Tasting Italy includes, in addition to 100 recipes, 40 maps that depict the country’s cuisine and influence. Graphics show, among other things, the provenances of certain ingredients—olive oil, prosciutto, cheese—as well as the migration patterns of Italians to the United States and the languages spoken in Sardinia.
Tokyo New Wave
Andrea Fazzari. Ten Speed, Mar.
Fazzari, a photographer and writer in Tokyo, presents what PW’s review called an “insightful look at the current Tokyo food scene,” through recipes from and interviews with 31 Tokyo chefs. The book includes photographic portraits of the chefs at work and leisure, and images of local landmarks such as cherry blossoms along the Meguro River. Recipes show how chefs are inflecting the country’s traditional cuisine with international flavors: Galician-style octopus with potato chips, for instance.
Wild Honey & Rye
Ren Behan. Interlink, Mar.
Behan, a British food writer with Polish heritage, approaches traditional Polish cuisine with an eye toward making it lighter and more contemporary. The results include pierogis filled with strawberry, pistachio, and honey; ribs braised with honey and vodka; and pink sauerkraut served with vegan pastry rolls. Photos show plated dishes as well as Polish food festivals and farmers’ markets.