oysterbook.jpg We’re finally to the months with Rs in them. Thank goodness. And just in time for oyster season is one of the most remarkable single-subject books to come along in a while: Rowan Jacobsen’s “A Geography of Oysters.” Jacobsen, a staff writer for Ed Behr’s The Art of Eating newsletter, covers oysters in exhaustive detail, but with writing so engaging and sprightly that reading about the briny darlings is almost as compulsive as eating them.

Whether you are a timid newcomer or a veteran slurper, this book will improve your oyster eating immeasurably. Jacobsen walks you through some of the oyster basics. This even includes a chapter on “What Kind of Oyster Eater Are You?” that analyzes your slurping style and then recommends specific oysters that are likely to please you (“Shrinking Violets” will probably prefer Beausoleils or Kumamotos; “Connoisseurs”  will be happier with Olympias and Totten Virginicas.)

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pavlovabookApparently the origin of this meringue-based dessert is somewhat unclear, but seems to have been created in honor of Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova’s visit to New Zealand and Australia.

The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years, but according to Helen Leach’s research in her book, The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand's Culinary History, New Zealand is the source of the ethereal dessert.

It’s a fairly easy recipe to master, and although the cloudlike meringue shells are somewhat delicate, they are easy to make in large batches, and will keep for a few days in an airtight container.

They are usually served with fruit and whipped cream, but I prefer this version that incorporates lemon curd. Because you can make the shells ahead, it’s a great dessert for entertaining, and they can be assembled in minutes.

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simply-truffles.jpgSimply Truffles: Recipes and Stories That Capture the Essence of the Black Diamond, by the celebrated chef/author/teacher Patricia Wells is, well, simply marvelous.

It is fresh truffle season.  Let me say up front that I have truffle butter in the freezer, truffle salts, truffle honey, truffle balsamic vinegar, black truffle oil, white truffle oil – including a vial of truffle concentrate that makes me weep whenever I open it – truffle powder for thickening sauces, truffle paste, truffles in jars, white truffles on order, and I nearly bought a bar stool that was described as having “truffle leather upholstery"...

Let me also say that I made a polite request to One For The Table for an unlimited truffle allowance so that I could try one or two...or twelve recipes. Did I get a response? Yes, I did.  It said, “ha ha...”  (Do you think the means there might be room for negotiation?)

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spicedreamscover.jpgSpices and herbs as flavor agents came to me late in life.  Growing up in a typical American household where the occasional Taco Night, or a meal out at the local Chinese restaurant was about as close as I got to anything resembling an exotic spice or herb.  Even then the word ’spice’ often referred to the La Victoria hot sauce we put on our tacos.  The idea that there was a whole world of flavors out there, and even other cultures that cooked with them was a surprise to my palette.

Like cardamom for example.  I first tasted the flowery, layered loveliness of this spice in Indian food on a trip to London at age 17.  I have loved Indian food — and cardamom — ever since.  Years later I ate a whole lot of Indian food when I was a film student at New York University.  On East 6th Street in New York’s East Village there is a block of cheap Indian restaurants where I could get multi-course meals for a few dollars.  It was splendid.  Living in New York, and traveling occasionally, I ate more and more non-European and non-American cuisines.  I loved them all.  The incredible flavors that emerged from these exotic dishes.

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I sometimes buy books for their title alone. Like a perfect haiku, a perfect title conveys knowledge beyond its words. My all time favorite title is “Space, Time and Architecture”. SPACE! TIME! ARCHITECTURE! One can dream without end on these words alone. I bought the book in college and felt by simply possessing the book and its title I possessed all that was inside. Silly huh!

Well, Actually I still feel that way. Books may be going out of fashion, but no Kindle presentation can offer the sensuous, tactile pleasures of touching a book, of leafing through the pages, noting chapter headings, lingering at illustrations – it all has the blissful satisfaction of rummaging through the print bins of a Left Bank art stall!

My current favorites – and the ones I am fondling at this moment - are “SEX, DEATH & OYSTERS” and “FRENCH FEASTS .”

Any book written by Robb Walsh, author of THE TEX-MEX COOKBOOK is OK in my book! The full title is “SEX DEATH & OYSTERS: A Half-Shell Lover’s World Tour COMPLETE WITH FAMOUS RECIPES AND A LIST OF NOTABLE OYSTER BARS” Oh yeah! SEX! DEATH! OYSTERS! (Well, two out of three ain’t bad.)

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