Sunday, December 11, 2016

Far Afield

Title:  Far Afield: Rare Food Encounters from Around the World
Author:  Shane Mitchell (author). James Fisher (photographer)
Publication Information:  Ten Speed Press. 2016. 304 pages.
ISBN:  1607749203 / 978-1607749202

Book Source:  I received this book through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It was not a soft landing."

Favorite Quote:  "Travel should be about expanding your universe, even if that means venturing beyond other people's comfort zone."

Far Afield both satiates and triggers my wanderlust. This book combines some of my favorite things -  a book about food, travel, and people around the world composed with amazing photography. The aim is not to cover the globe but "to sit longer in one green valley" and savor the individual interactions. It is a culmination of journeys over the course of a decade.

If you lay out a traditional world map, the destinations in this book going from west to east are as follows:  Hawaii, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Iceland, France, Kenya, India, and Japan. The destinations within these countries are not the cities or the commercial areas but rather completely off the beaten path. A Maasai warrior in Kenya. A refugee in France. A gaucho in Uruguay. A tribeswoman in India.

All told, the book comprises ten profiles, each focused on an individual and community in one location. Each section of the book includes text, photographs, and recipes. The text is not facts and figures. Nor does it attempt to capture every detail about the culture or tradition. It is a brief story that captures people, place, tradition, and, of course, food. It is a very personal recollection of the author's visit. It is that personal recounting that takes this reader along on the journey with the author.

The photographs are full color, with many full page and many double page photographs. They include portraits, landscapes, and, of course, food. You could not read the text and simply look through all the photographs and still walk away with a complete sense of the people and place. The portraits particularly capture an intensity and a depth that make the book come alive. The physical size of the book - 9 inches by 11 inches in hardcover - and the glossy paper it is printed on enhances the impact of the photographs. For this book, I think the medium (print vs. electronic) will definitely make a difference.

This book has recipes but is not truly about the recipes. As the introduction says, "The recipes ... are souvenirs of this long journey. They are a highly personal reflection of meals shared in the moment." In other words, the book is about the journey and the people. The recipes that are included from all over the world are approachable for a home cook. That might seem surprising at first because of the range of cuisines and cultures covered. However, it really isn't These recipes are not restaurant food but rather "dishes intended for the family table." Most of the ingredients are relatively straight forward. Where a recipe calls for a specific, perhaps unfamiliar, ingredient, the author mostly includes a more familiar substitute - for example, oregano for epazote or shiitake mushrooms for hamakua mushrooms. In addition, the book includes a short list of resources for ordering ingredients or spices online.

In reading and looking through the photographs in this book, Maya Angelou's words come to mind. "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." In today's world, we need this reminder more and more. The commonalities in this book - food, food traditions, and hospitality.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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