Crossroads Cooking

Throughout history, cultures coming together because of trade routes, migration, war, travel, and other reasons have found themselves trading recipes, cooking styles, spices, and foods from one group to the next. Over time, some of these blended cuisines have become distinctive in their own right. In the United States, for instance, the Creole cooking of southern Louisiana is a blend of Western European, Native American, Spanish, and African traditions just as the Creole cooking of the Caribbean is; but because the city of New Orleans began as a French city and has retained much of its French feel, the Creole cooking in New Orleans merged with French ingredients and preferences to become its own entity.

The collection in Crossroads Cooking: The Meeting and Mating of Ethnic Cuisines—From Burma to Texas in 200 Recipes is divided by the geographical regions where the recipes originated, and an introduction to each section explains the history and cultural blend. A comprehensive index makes it possible to look up a recipe by an ingredient, so the cook who has an eggplant and is wondering what to do with it can easily find all the recipes that use eggplant and make a choice from there. A most extraordinary feature of this cookbook is its usefulness to the person who seldom follows a recipe exactly. In actual practice, many cooks substitute ingredients based on favorite foods or availability and then wonder why the recipe tastes no different from what they have always made; or worse, wonder why the recipe failed. With this book, such substitutions fit right in with the theme because they become blends of one culture (the cook’s) and another (that of the region specified) to become true “crossroads cooking.”