Rainy Day Reads

With the nonstop onslaught of rain over the past two weeks, I've been staying dry indoors and devoting some attention to my growing bedside mountain of books -- both brand-new arrivals and seasoned veterans.

Baja California is the intriguingly long peninsula that juts south from San Diego, Calif., into what is a different country, literally. Although separated from the Mexican mainland by the waters of the Gulf of California, Baja is 100 percent Mexico, amigo.

West coast chef Deborah M. Schneider, who caught the Baja bug 20 years ago, shares her culinary adventures from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas in "¡Baja!: Cooking on the Edge."

Inspired by the variety of fish and shellfish, fruits, veggies, herbs and chiles along Baja's 2000 miles of coastline, Schneider shares the recipes she learned in the villages, be it street food or campfire lobster.

Cookbooks that teach geography are among my favorites, and in this case, I've got a dreamy armchair travel guide to a part of the world I'm now eager to visit. Schneider gets bonus points for sustainable seafood tidbits that are threaded throughout the book, not in a special section. I hope more cookbook writers follow her lead.

From Mexico, we travel to Italy, by way of London. The dynamic duo that is Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, who own the famed River Café in London, have penned a new title, "Italian Two Easy." The Food section's Bonnie Benwick curls up with it and offers her bookish thoughts.

A little older but no less worn for the wear....I'm in the middle of reading "Hope's Edge," the thought-provoking call to culinary action written by the mother-and-daughter team of Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé.

The book is considered a sequel to Frances's controversial "Diet for a Small Planet" which asked in 1971: Why are people starving when there is enough food to eat?

Thirty years later, Moore Lappé's daughter, Anna, joins her in the continued probing of this question, challenging the ways we as an industrialized society eat and buy our food. I am enjoying the tales of their journeys to Bangladesh, Brazil, India and Kenya, but what I really appreciate is the work they took after all the traveling to assemble an entire section devoted to resources and ways to get involved, be it gardening, labor rights advocacy, environmental education or sustainable agriculture.

The authors also teamed up with chefs around the country who offer recipes with a seasonal and local focus (albeit vegetarian), including a few from Washington chef Nora Pouillon (owner of Nora and Asia Nora).

For more info on what the Lappé's are up to, their Small Planet Institute is regularly updated.

Among my favorite summer fruits are those embedded with stones. Apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums - I love them all and have since I was a kid eating sand-dusted fruit on the beach in Ventnor, N.J.

As much as I love the stuff, I get slightly bored eating stone fruit by its lonesome, which is why I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of "Stone Fruit" by Seattle food writer Cynthia Nims.

I'm often asked in my weekly chat for ideas on incorporating summer fruit into one's cooking repertoire. This little gem offers a variety of savory ideas -- plum barbecue sauce, nectarine ketchup, spicy cherry salsa, plum and shrimp stirfry with bok choy - that I'm eager to try, as well as those breakfast-y peach waffles (doesn't that sound tasty?)

On her Web site, Nims offers a (free) recipe sampler from several of her books.

Got a summer read to add to this list? Share your faves in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  July 6, 2006; 9:46 AM ET Cook's Library
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Kim,
Have you read _The Omnivore's Dilemma_? Curious what you think of it.

Posted by: Curious | July 6, 2006 12:51 PM

Hey Curious, yes I have. I wrote about it and other "conscience-raising" food titles last month. Have a look at link below. Happy to further discuss if you want.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/savoringsummer/2006/06/conscienceraising_foodbookery.html

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | July 6, 2006 1:06 PM

Thanks, Kim. I'm planning on reading it and maybe will discuss with you online once I do! Did it change the way you think about what you eat?

Posted by: Curious | July 6, 2006 5:43 PM

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