I found myself with a couple of hours to kill before picking my son up from Chess Team, and not enough time to go home, so I decided to haunt my local (Park Slope, Brooklyn) Barnes and Noble. This can be a very dangerous thing to do but with no spare cash I decided it would be harmless to peruse the books and snap them on my mobile phone; an easy illustrated want list.
1) I love to eat; therefore I love to cook. So how can I resist The Great American Cookbook? It has regional recipes from all 50 states and a must have even if it includes a recipe for “Long Island” Clam Chowder.*
*Most New Englanders (myself included) refuse to believe there is any such thing; to add tomatoes is unholy. There is only one kind of “chowdah” and the sobriquet “New England Clam Chowder” is superfluous.
2) Since its publication I’ve been dying to read this tome, The Autobiography of Mark Twain: Volume 1. He is the quintessential American humorist and this book demands to be read despite its daunting size.
3 & 4) 2012 is the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, so both, Mr. and Mrs, Madison’s War: America’s First Couple and the Second War of Independence and Knights of the Sea: The True Story of The Boxer and The Enterprise and the War of 1812 are probably necessary reading (at least for me and one other person, Dad). The War of 1812 is usually glossed over in history classes and needs to be re-examined. My understanding of this war is weak but it seems to me that this war ended in a stalemate because both the US and Britain were not fully prepared for this conflict; the US being a fledgling nation and Britain’s preoccupation by the shadow of Napoleon’s greater threat to the British Isles.
5, 6, & 7) Of course, this led me right to the section of English history. Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure intrigues me because of the very “English” ideal of exploration and empire. The romance of Mr. Henry Morton Stanley finding Dr. David Livingstone in their quest to discover the source of the Nile is still potent and one defined by folly, courage, heroism, and endurance. Ghosts of Empire: Britain’s Legacies in the Modern World shows the rise and fall of Britain’s once mighty empire and how its policies and its inconsistencies shaped the problems of the modern world from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Hong Kong (to name a few). And combining American and British history, Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War. This is particularly interesting to me because as a child touring all those [American] historical places (Philadelphia, Williamsburg, Boston) I was intrigued by the loyalists and always felt an affinity for them, so much so that Dad believed I would have been tarred and feathered.
11 & 12) And full circle back to food again because one cannot live on books alone: Feeding the Dragon: A Travelogue Through China with Recipes (I am half Chinese and love Chinese cuisine) and The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without by Mollie Katzen (of Moosewood fame) because how does one cook fennel and braising greens? A dilemma I’ve brought home because of the vegetables acquired from my farm share. Although, disappointingly, does not discuss kohlrabi.