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Food for Thought
8/4/2014
Satisfy your hunger for family history with ethnic and cultural cookbooks.
Eating. Everyone does it — and so did your ancestors. We've often suggested getting to know your ancestors by reading about their culture and customs. Now get to know what they ate. Even some of the most obscure ethnic and cultural groups have a cookbook. As you'll see from this sampling, you can discover not only recipes for dishes your ancestors may have eaten, but also something about the culture and customs surrounding those meals.

1. The American Ethnic Cookbook for Students by Mark H. Zanger (Oryx Press) Don't let the word “students” in the title keep you from exploring this book — it's written for adult students of ethnic cooking. Most of us are a mixture of several different ethnic groups, so this cookbook truly offers something for everyone: It covers 122 American ethnic groups, from the Pennsylvania Dutch to Black Muslims. That includes foods of more than 20 Native American tribes, from the Cherokee to the Potawatomi. Each section opens with a short history of the ethnic group followed by two to six recipes. Every recipe is accompanied by a note about where the recipe came from and how it was used or changed. This book is perfect for those occasions when an ethnic potluck is the theme. Serve Cherokee Huckleberry bread, Jewish carrot-sweet potato tzimmes, Norwegian kringles or Turkish sis kebab. And for additional recipes, visit the book's Web site at <www.ethnicook.com>.

2. Basque Cooking and Lore by Darcy Williamson (Caxton Printers). Idaho, Nevada and Utah are home to most Basque-Americans. Basque people originate from the Pyrennees region between Spain and France and came to the Americas to work as sheep herders. Growing up in Idaho, Williamson became interested in Basque culture and foodways. The first half of her cookbook is a collection of Basque recipes, such as Dutch-oven cornbread, Basque garlic soup and braised lamb with cilantro and lemon. The second half is a collection of Basque lore, told in short essays from her experiences and interviews with the Basque people.

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