Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Oldways Table: Essays and Recipes From the Culinary Think Tank (hardback)

Authors: K. Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnott
Publisher: Ten Speed Press/$21.45 (272 pages)
Date of Publication: 2007
Reviewed by: James J. Gormley (member, National Book Critics Circle)
In June 2001 I was invited by authors K. Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnott to serve as a U.S. media delegate at an Oldways conference in Beijing entitled: "2001 China International Conference on Traditional Eating Patterns: Chinese, Asian and Mediterranean Models."

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my professional and personal life. Oldways knows how to bring together international health experts, policymakers and thought leaders to promote global understanding of and interaction with foods. Dun and Sara's Boston-based Oldways Preservation Trust is, in fact, a think tank that advances cultural exchange through the common (and peaceful) language of food, and incredibly good food at that.

It is no surprise, then, that this book—this contribution to food letters if you will—is a rich feast for gourmets, gourmands and gastronomes of all stripes, in addition to food historians to boot. Broken into such sections as Grains; Olive Oil, Butter and Other Fats; Cheese and Yogurt; and Wine, this book is no low-fat journey but instead an enlightened tour of foods and eating that begins with the authors' dicussion of what's wrong with the USDA and low-fat pyramids and what's right with the excellent Oldways EatWise Pyramid, which partly grew out of the 2001 China conference of which I made mention.

With impeccably researched and fascinating essays and introductory sections penned by some of the world's top experts in food (in a few cases by Dun and/or Sara, appropriately), The Oldways Table includes generous servings of mouth-watering recipes gathered during and informed by the authors' travels and learnings from around the world.

As Dun notes in the Preface: "I saw Oldways as an agent of change, as a new organization that would challenge the corporate world's assumptions about the future of our food—about growing, processing, preparing, eating, drinking and enjoying it." The Oldways Table, which I highly recommend, is not only well in keeping with that vision but is wonderfully entertaining too.
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