The SOMM Journal

February / March 2016

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Page 10 of 132

10 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016 { editor's notebook } A CULINARY WORLD TOUR Since the early 1970s, when Julia Child revolutionized how we cook, the American kitchen has been obsessed with ethnic foods. Bland "meat and potatoes" cooking has been replaced by a cornucopia of internationally-inspired dishes, beginning with pizza and spaghetti. The influence has been predominately Italian, French and Mexican, but now, four decades later, the menu has expanded to include many other disciplines: Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Spanish, German and more are common. Recently, as exotic ingredients have become more widely available, a few even more obscure ethnic styles have appeared. Here are three that we have found to be particularly interesting: Mamushka! What used to be an outdated Ukrainian term of endearment is now making its way into kitchens. Olia Hercules is paying tribute to the age-old traditions of Ukrainian cuisine and bringing them into the modern culinary world with her splendid new book, Mamushka (Weldon Owen, $35). In the face of on- going conflict within her country, Hercules provides a loving record of the classic recipes she loves in hopes of preserving the Ukrainian culture she once knew. Filled with comforting dishes from steaming broths to luscious cakes, Mamushka takes it one step further, educating readers about the art of fermenting foods and creating traditional sweet concoctions. Mamushka is a celebration of food and flavors from Eastern Europe with vibrant pictures and touch - ing narratives—a rich, historic journey through the essence of Ukraine. Cooking international food can make the world seem a smaller place. Felicia Campbell is doing just that with her stunning new book, The Food of Oman (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $40). Middle Eastern food, which many of us love, is extremely diverse and goes far beyond hummus and pita. Smaller countries, such as Oman, feature a plethora of flavorful foods and recipes just wait - ing to be discovered. Wrapped around the eastern flank of Saudi Arabia and open to the sea, Oman is a hub of flavors from East Africa, Persia, Asia and beyond. Campbell covers all bases of cooking, with segments on Omani ingredients, sides, mains and more. Important rice dishes, meat stews and the bounty of the sea are just a few highlights. Transport yourself to the small yet captivat - ing country through recipes, anecdotes, and breathtaking photography. The Food of Oman is a terrific new way to experience Middle Eastern food. Nordic food, after years of being ignored by the culinary world, has become very trendy thanks to the international success of a number of contemporary chefs. One of these is Magnus Nilsson who, Inspired by his travels through the Nordic countries, has authored The Nordic Cookbook (Phaidon, $50), a 768-page volume containing 700 home-cooking recipes. Nilsson, a Sweden native, has made it his personal mission to bring Nordic cuisine out from behind the shadows, sharing how all regional cuisines within the broader Nordic category are related through mutual history and culture. Nilsson impressively encompasses all aspects of Nordic food in 22 chapters, sharing familiar recipes, such as gravlax and meatballs, and less familiar recipes, such as rosehip soup and pork roasted with prunes. The Nordic Cookbook offers an across-the-board under - standing of the region's culinary history and unique cooking techniques. Using his own moody photography to showcase the beauty of the striking Nordic lands, Nilsson has created a comprehensive food-centric encyclopedia of a region we know very little about. The Nordic Cookbook is a monumental achievement. THE READING ROOM You're On WHY IS IT THAT MANY RESTAURANT service personnel are former or out of work actors? True, the hours don't interfere with auditions and most service schedules are fairly flexible. But, actually, working in a res - taurant is not such a contrasting activity, if you think about it. Dining out has become the most popular form of entertainment in the modern world and the service staff—busboys, waiters, captains and som - meliers—are part of the show. If you are serious about your job and you want to be the best sommelier you can be, then you have to realize that part of what you do is pure show business. You are providing a service—helping people enhance their dining experience by choos - ing the right wine to go with their food choices—but you are also a part of the performance that is going on around the customer from the moment they enter the restaurant until they leave. Yes, it's important to know your stuff. You need to be intimately informed about the wine list—every wine, every nuance of every wine, how every wine works with every dish on the menu. You need to be able to talk about previous vintages of each wine as well as future vintages that are maturing in your cellar. But you can never lose sight of the fact that you are on stage. The customer wants a good show and if you provide a terrific wine experience as well as an enhance - ment to the evening's entertainment, you are doing your job and doing it well.

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