Wednesday, August 17, 2011

If you've read my Istanbul book you know that Claudia Roden, one of my most favorite food writers and cookbook authors, shared the name of one of her favorite restaurants in the city, Borsa in the Istinye Park mall (there are other Borsas in Istanbul, but this is the one she was taken to by her friends Nevin Halici -- who was the first to travel around Turkey collecting regional recipes -- and her brother Feyzi Halici -- a poet and longtime senator who promoted regional cuisine by organizing cooking competitions and gastronomic congresses).

I regularly use several of Roden's cookbooks at home, including Arabesque (Knopf, 2006), Mediterranean Cookery (Knopf, 1992), The Book of Jewish Food (Knopf, 1996), and both of her books on Middle Eastern Food (the original edition was published in 1974 and the new one appeared in 2000). But a few weeks ago, I bought Roden's new cookbook -- The Food of Spain (Ecco)-- and I think it might be her best book yet. It's just fabulous. I've been dipping into it at random and can't stop reading it.

If you have my book on Northern Spain: from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela (Three Rivers Press, 2003) you know that I have a soft spot in my heart for Spain -- I went there with my high school Spanish class, and it was my first trip outside of the U.S. So with Spain in mind, I went last weekend to see 'Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra' at The New York Botanical Garden. What a wonderful garden they've created in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and there is a companion exhibit, 'Historical Views: Tourists at the Alhambra,' in the Mertz Library. This is presented in collaboration with The Hispanic Society of America, which addresses every aspect of culture in Spain, Portugal, Latin America, and the Philippines and whose collections are unparalled in scope and quality. In the gardens surrounding the Conservatory there is Poetry Walk, featuring sixteen poetry boards with the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca , and there are tapas and sangria in one of the cafes as well as flamenco in the Ross Performance Hall. The whole thing was so impressive I became a member!

'Spanish Paradise' closes in just 4 days, so if you are living in or visiting the New York metropolitan area make haste and get there quick. And if you love Spain as much as I do, you'll agree that The Food of Spain is a must-have volume.

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