Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Our Edible World by Julia Rothman with help from Rachel Wharton. Storey Publishing, 2016. 9781612123394.
Gene: This is totally the book for you.
G: There is so much in here about food and cooking — goodness and drawings and amazing stuff. The part in the beginning that I love so much is where Rothman is talking about how hungry working on the book made her.
S: Oh, yeah?
G: She had to go out and try food. She wants the book to inspire you to experiment with cooking and be more curious about what you’re eating. Chapter one is a timeline of food history that looks like a board game.
S: Oh, yeah.
G: 1700, the Earl of Sandwich, 1686, the croissant is born in Austria. Ice cream cone invented at the St. Louis World’s Fair, 1904. With nice little drawings of everything.
S: I think there were several foods that first appeared in the US at that Word’s Fair, because the fair is where people try out weird new food!
G: First sushi restaurant in America, 1966. In California!
S: Wow! I guess in Seattle back then there were Japanese restaurants, but it was only sukiyaki.
G: This is like one of those Blackstock illustrations. You seen them?
G: He’ll draw 15 crows on a page, with all the differences. He’s an amazing artist. This is drawings of forks and spoons. These are international cooking devices.
S: Aebleskiver pan!
G: A thing from India that looks like two rocks, a sil-batta. This is strange, the katsuobushi kezuriki, a Japanese box that shaves dried blocks of skipjack tuna. I don’t understand.
S: Have you ever seen the little curls of it?
G: That you put on top of stuff?
S: That sort of wiggles around?
G: Is that what that is?
S: That’s what that is.
G: Old stoves!
S: Oh, cool!
G: This about refrigeration before refrigerators. I really like this: the coolguardie safe, which was apparently developed at a Gold Rush site. The ice would melt onto the burlap, and it would drip down and the burlap would stay cool, covering the shelves.
It’s got lots of good stuff, I’ll just show you some highlights. The Parents of Produce section shows you what the original peach looked like, before it was developed into the thing we have today. It was like a little lentil.
S: Oh yeah!
G: The original carrots, with their big long Cthulhu-like fibers.
S: The original corn was tiny!
G: How to slice a mango, how to slice a watermelon.
S: I just started doing that, slicing a mango in a grid like that, I’m a convert.
G: I disagree with that technique. My dad’s friend in Florida, Paul, showed me how to use a water glass to get all of the meat out of the side of a mango in one scoop. You slice the two halves off the seed, like the book says, but instead of cutting a grid into the “meat” you put the skin just up over the lip of a glass and just scoop it off the skin and into the glass. If it’s ripe it just peels right out.
S: Ooh! I’ll try that.
G: Little known terms for common tree fruit. A drupe. Have you ever heard that term?
S: Yeah, but I took botany.
G: Pome, thats is very close to the French word for apple, pomme. Is that something we use in English, too?
S: Yeah. Well, if you take a botany class and learn the different types of fruit.
G: I’m never going to take a botany class. This is how to make tofu, which I thought was relevant to us.
S: Yes! I always want to like tofu skin, but I just don’t. I get it at the hot pot restaurant, it comes with the vegetable assortment.
G: I found this interesting, to coagulate the soy milk, they use the stuff that’s left over after salt is extracted from seawater.
G: What is that? I don’t understand!
S: In US recipes, I think it’s Epsom salts.
G: When I was talking to you about tofu before, I guess it was pressed tofu. There’s this machine I saw in Korea that’s electric. You put soft soybeans through the top. This faux stone spins and it’s like a weight, it pushes the soy through and the ground soybeans are extruded from the bottom. The cook takes that and presses it really fast, then slices it up and give it to you in soup or on a plate or whatever. It’s still kind of warm. It’s so good.
There aren’t many recipes in here, but here’s one about how to make Finnish rye bread. Apparently you need something called a “root,” which is like sourdough starter. And here are the sandwiches.
G: Look at all the sandwich pictures! Toast Hawaii, from Germany: white bread, toasted, ham, cheese, pineapple and a maraschino cherry. What the hell? Why did the rest of the world adopt the maraschino cherry? I’ve gotten it it on pizza several times overseas.
Then a picture of different kinds of pasta, which is beautiful, then making noodles and how they differ. The parts of the cow. Cheesemaking. Eating the whole chicken.
S: This is the basics you need to know about food, but world food, and in a way that’s interesting enough that I would sit down and read it.
G: How to make seasoning blends from all over the world. Drinks and desserts from around the world. I tried to think of who would love this book when I saw it in a catalog and I thought of you. Because you will read it. (I would put it in the bathroom for people who read in the bathroom.)
S: Yeah, you can pick it up and read two pages and then get back to it later. Not have to read it in any particular order.
G: This is the book I wish I had read when I was twenty and started traveling, to make me more curious about food around the world.
S: Yeah, it gives you a base level familiarity, then the bravery to try it out.
G: It’s beautifully drawn. There’s not really a story to it, but there’s enough information in there to make you curious. For the record, Sarah can’t put this book down.
S: I can’t.