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Cheaper by the Dozen
Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Food Heroes: Sixteen Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition

Food Heroes: Sixteen Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition - Georgia Pellegrini This book is a series of short portraits of people in the modern world who work to maintain older traditions of food production, cooking, or preservation.

Overall, the book was interesting, and I learned something about a variety of foods and old fashioned foodways. However, it was a little disappointing because of the inconsistent writing and the sometimes-forced choices for inclusion.

The author traveled around doing short interviews of people in the United States and a few European countries to collect short vignettes. For example, one chapter is about olive oil production in France, another is about sausage making in New Jersey, another is about cacao production in Ghana. This last example is one that felt forced, and is one of the main reasons I disliked the book. She was clearly under some pressure to include a couple of chapters on non-European foods, and so the two chapters that address the lily-whiteness of the rest of the book are the weakest in the lot.

The chapter on Ghanaian cacao, for example, uses as its center a young, white New Yorker who runs a chocolate-making business in Ghana and exports to Europe and the US. Another chapter, which is totally out of place in the book, is about a black woman in Arkansas who makes tamales and sells them from the corner store. Now, in a book about artisan cheese and butter, brewing beer, making whiskey, making olive oil, foraging, preserving sausage, raising bees for honey, and saving heirloom seeds, an old woman who makes tamales stands out like a sore thumb. I can't believe that the author couldn't find a non-white person in the whole of the US or Europe who participates in the artisan foods movement. (The author did find some Japanese Americans in California who use a traditional method of making dried persimmons, I'll give her that.)

Anyway, the book does include some interesting recipes at the end of each chapter that use ingredients discussed in the chapter itself. But overall, I was disappointed with the book. My summary: too scattered, too many examples. The book would have been stronger with fewer, but longer, chapters. And perhaps a more nuanced inclusion of non-white artisan foods would have helped.