April 7 wasn't merely a Tuesday, it was the much-anticipated publication date for spring book releases and an exciting milestone for many authors' writing careers. So in the spirit of new book season, I thought I would take stock of the newer-to-me books in my collection and compile a few of my favorites. May you devour these as I have!
If there is any tradition that authors Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall have carried with them throughout their travels- Brones, (a Swedish American) from Portland to Gothenburg to Paris, Kindvall (Swedish) from Stockholm to Brooklyn - it's their abiding love of Fika, a word that literally means “to drink coffee” but that symbolizes an entire set of cultural values. It's also the focus of their new book "Fika, the Art of the Swedish Coffee Break".
As a concept that goes far beyond a love for coffee, Fika is about slowing down – alone or with friends, family or coworkers – to take a break each day; a committed moment to relax. With over forty illustrated recipes, the book provides the launchpad for integrating the practice of Fika into your own life. Translation: coffee break bedfellows like cookies, cakes and breads (including savory variants) that will have you baking and living like a Swede in no time.
You can get a sneak peek of one of the recipes in my article for T Magazine HERE.
Throughout history, French cuisine has been the object of fascination for many an epicurean. And for much of their careers, that was also true for venerated culinary heroes M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child and James Beard, whose work and vision for American cooking was heavily influenced by their experiences in France. Pulling from M.F.K. Fisher's journals and letters, author Luke Barr (Fisher's grandnephew) documents a seminal moment in their lives, when they all found themselves in Provence on the cusp of a major shift in both countries food cultures. On the insularity of this group, Barr writes:
"The food world was indeed a small one, both in Europe and America. Everyone knew everyone else - all of them drawn together by a shared reverence for 'the good life,' and there was indeed a sense of 'closed-circle' exclusivity about it"This experience was to mark the beginning of a new American approach to cooking and Barr does a tremendous job of almost reenacting the exchanges, frustrations, discoveries and successes between the country's leading culinary voices. This book appealed to my Francophile leanings, to be sure, but spoke even more to my curiosity about taste and how that has evolved over time.
Paris Street Style: A Guide to Effortless Chic
There are countless books, magazine articles and blog posts that attempt to parse and decode Parisian style but as legion as this topic has proven worldwide, few come direct from a French source. Fashion journalists Isabelle Thomas (also a personal stylist and blogger for L'Express Styles) and Frédérique Veysset tackle the question of ineffable, Parisian chic with their book 'Paris Street Style'. And as the name suggests, it truly is a guide. It begins with their interpretation of French style (hint: it's not about perfection or an overly-manicured look), moves on to offer tips for defining your own style, tackles hardwired clichés à la 'black makes you look slimmer' and then dives into each area of effortless French fashion that can, in fact, be learned. The little black book of go-to Parisian hot spots at the end is a useful feature but I particularly enjoyed the interviews with twenty-five different Parisian insiders that the authors incorporated to enrich each styling tip.
For those with more of a penchant for accessories, you'll want to pick up this duo's second book, exclusively devoted to shoes (shall we call that mastering the art of shoe style?). Click to see more about Paris Street Style: Shoes
Di Bruno Bros: House of Cheese
There are four things I think my readers have gleaned about me: I love France, Philadelphia, pastries and cheese. Strangely, though, I don't often talk about cheese. My friend Susan of Fleurishing must have sensed I was in need of some new cheesey inspiration because she gave me this divine book which encompasses two of my four passions. Di Bruno Bros is a gourmet grocer in Philadelphia founded by two immigrants brothers from Abruzzo, Italy in 1939 who came in pursuit of the American dream (sound like a familiar tale?). They set up shop in the heart of the Italian Market district and found tremendous success, as much for their admirable work ethic as their treat-everyone-like-family business ethos. When faced with competition from larger supermarkets (and inspired by a 200 pound wheel of cave-aged Emmentaler they tasted in Switzerland), they shifted their focus to specialize in cheese. The brothers' nephews took over the business years later and continue to drive the vision forward. Today, Di Bruno Bros is a Philadelphia institution, a culinary destination for visitors and the go-to shop for an array of goods - fresh produce, charcuterie, fresh-made sandwiches, artisanal spreads - and still boasts the most knowledgeable cheesemongers in the city.
Author Tenaya Darlington, a Wisconsinite professor and journalist whose blog is called Madame Fromage in case her passion for cheese was ever in question, moved to Philadelphia in 2005 and found herself overwhelmed both by the selection of cheeses as by the cheesemongers behind the counter. After spending time getting to know them, chronicling her cheese adventures after each visit and dutifully reading up on the subject, she was naturally ushered into the welcoming community of cheese fanatics. Soon, she was the resident blogger for Di Bruno Bros and that collaboration led to this book. In simple terms, this self-described cheese courtesan calls the book a 'tasty guide to cheese'. But it's so much more. For me, it's the most comprehensive guide to understanding the different types of cheeses available, to mastering the vernacular and, most importantly, to consuming them. It's a must-have tome for anyone who has entertained fantasies of hosting the perfect cheese gathering or preparing the perfect cheese board. Start with 'how to pick a hunk' and 'how to talk to a cheesemonger' then explore 170 artisan cheeses and test 30 recipes. As a cheese-loving Philadelphian, this book was the best gift I could have ever received. Add it to your collection!
A La Mère de Famille: Recipes from the Beloved Parisian Confectioner
Yet another book I received for the holidays and am just digging into now. Fully aware (though not always understanding) of my intense love for sweets, my sister happened to pick up the recipe book from one of my favorite confectionery shops in Paris. The 300 year old shop began as a little grocery store in the 18th century but became mythique, a Pandora's Box of chocolates, caramels, candies, nougats and marrons glacés (candied chestnuts). All of those French classics you've been dying to bake to perfection - financiers, lemon cake, pain d'épice, marshmallows, calissons or tuiles - can be found in this beautiful book. The pages are sprinkled with the confectioner's long history and features gorgeous photography and portraits of regular clients. A delight!
What are you reading right now or looking forward to reading? Share in the comments section below!