Near & Far

Heidi Swanson and her online recipe journal, 101 Cookbooks, have long been a favorite voice and site of mine in the food blogging sphere. Her recipes are healthy and easy to reproduce, vegetarian but adaptable to include meat. Her photography is clean, beautiful and captures a sense of place.

Her third cookbook, Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel, is my favorite publication of hers yet. She shares her experiences in traveling the world and how she has related to food both Near: at home in San Francisco and “en route” and Far: places including Morocco, Japan and India among others. Each location has its own chapter sharing stories, recipes from the area, and Swanson’s iconic photography to give a visual of the place.

The beginning of each chapter includes a few of her reflections about the country and a list of the recipes. She also includes a “pantry” list of ingredients that are commonly used in many of the recipes and will be helpful to have on hand. The recipes are generally recognizable names and ingredients with a clear bent towards the region they are featured in. All are very accessible in their technique. The book as a whole is her unique blend of experiencing cultures other than her own but creating flavor profiles in final dishes that are authentic to her standard of cooking and eating.  As she states in the Introduction, “Everything starts with me trying to garner a sense of place, particularly when I’m traveling. On the culinary front, I attempt to gain a basic understanding of the traditional culture of the cuisine I’m immersed in, gather some historical context, get a handle on what ingredients are typically used and which cooking techniques are deployed, and understand what people are cooking and why…..It’s from this vantage point that I begin to think about cooking and recipe development, and where I often find my own angle, voice and technique.”

The best complimentary piece to this book is the behind the scenes series that Swanson did to show how a cookbook is created from the beginning stages through the printing process. I knew almost nothing about the book process as a whole prior and it was really educational to see the way it all comes together. She traveled to Hong Kong and was able to have access to the book as it went through the printing, binding and finishing process.

Best uses for this book: vegetarian based recipes with international undertones; Swanson’s perspective and stories from her travels; pretty as a display book or decoration for reading short excerpts.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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