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The World of Food Abroad and At Home

By Arts & Culture Editor Joan Kirschner

In my travels I love discovering the cuisine of my destination, its signature dishes, markets, and specialty shops, while gathering at least a few edible souvenirs. But no passport or visa is required for armchair travel via guidebooks, cookbooks, and memoirs, or a transportive escape through fiction and films.

Denmark

Babette’s Feast (1987) won Best Foreign Film. A glorious meal by a French chef transforms a remote 19th century Danish village. From a story by Out of Africa author Karen Blixen.

France

Let’s Eat Paris by François-Régis Gaudry. The ultimate Francophile foodie guide to the City of Light. Almost encyclopedic at 300+ large-format pages. Selected recipes.

Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray. Art, history, romance, and cuisine. In 1936 a young woman works in her parents’ restaurant in the South of France…decades later, her American granddaughter arrives in search of a unique legacy.

Chocolat (2000) stars Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, and Johnny Depp. Romance, drama, and comedy in 1959 France. From the novel by Joanne Harris.

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014), starring Helen Mirren. A comedic culture clash in the Michelin-starred restaurant world.

The Taste of Things (in theaters). Juliette Binoche is a cook and more in the 19th century Loire Valley.

Italy

Portico: Cooking and Feasting in Rome’s Jewish Kitchen by Leah Koenig. Essays, recipes, and exquisite photography bring the history of Rome’s ancient Jewish community, which survived centuries of persecution, into the present.

In Eternal, novelist Lisa Scottoline explores the fascism and deportation that devastated Jewish Rome during World War II.

From Scratch, on Netflix. An American artist in Italy meets an aspiring Sicilian chef. Based on Tembi Locke’s From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home.

The Mediterranean and Middle East

Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen by Donia Bijan. A memoir of an Iranian professional family before the Islamic Revolution, their move to California, and the author’s struggle to become a chef. With recipes.

The Last Days of Café Leila is Bijan’s novel. Fleeing heartbreak, Noor and her daughter return to Tehran. The father who sent Noor to America for a less restricted life is gentle, complex, and resolved to his final battle – a tribute to devoted fathers everywhere.

Pomegranates and Artichokes: Saghar Setareh is a food photographer who left Iran for Italy to study art and learn its cooking. She writes about life as an expatriate, and pays homage to Claudia Roden, the matriarch of Middle Eastern cooking. Recipes from Iran, Italy, and around the Mediterranean.

Flavors of the Sun by Christine Sahadi Whelan. The Sahadis established their Middle Eastern food importing business in 1895 in Manhattan’s Little Syria. Boston’s Syrian community shares a similar history.

Istanbul & Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey by Robyn Eckhardt. Sparkling photography, commentary, and recipes.

Mexico

Like Water for Chocolate (1992). A Golden Globe nominee adapted from the novel by Laura Esquivel.

Portugal

Porto: Stories from Portugal’s Historic Bolhão Market by Gabriella Opaz and Sonia Andresson Nolasco. A photographic culinary guide to northern Portugal. Selected recipes.

United States

A Cambridge resident for 40 years, Julia Child (1912-2004) needs no introduction. Creating The French Chef at WGBH was dramatized in HBO/Max’s Julia. Loyal fans want a third season! Julia petition

I cried at the loss of beloved novelist, short story writer, and Gourmet contributor Laurie Colwin (1944-1992). Read her articles in Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen and More Home Cooking.

Ruth Reichl is a leading restaurant critic, former editor of Gourmet, cookbook author, memoirist, and novelist. Her latest fiction is The Paris Novel.

Joan Kirschner is a Boston area writer/blogger who reviews books, museum exhibitions, theater, film, music, and travel experiences. Her commentary previously appeared on SonsiWoman.com, UllaPopken.com, WomenofGloucesterCounty.com, Trazzler.com, and IndieReader.com. She attributes a lifelong love of reading and cultural events to parents who encouraged her interests early on. Joan began as a retail and mail order catalog copywriter when typewriters, carbon paper, X-Acto knives, and hot glue were found in advertising offices everywhere. She advanced through the ranks and changes in technology, eventually taking on corporate communications, social media, and digital advertising and promotion. She managed and mentored younger writers, acquired skills in art direction, and had responsibility for print and digital communications reaching millions of customers. Surrounded by the babble of languages in Manhattan and Brooklyn and sympathizing with the challenges of non-English speakers, she earned a certificate in the Teaching of English as Second Language (TESOL) and began teaching and tutoring adults and college students. Joan now works part-time in grants administration, freelances occasionally, and covers books and the arts at No Shortage of Words.

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Carolyn Finkelmeier
Carolyn Finkelmeier
3 months ago

This is FABULOUS!,,,,,,,,,,,

Joan Kirschner
Joan Kirschner
3 months ago

Thanks, Carolyn! ❤️

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