Monday, May 31, 2010

Communion: Now Available!

Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam is finally out in the world! You can purchase a copy of your very own at your favorite bookstore or one of the following places:

- Traveler’s Bookcase
- Elliott Bay Book Company
- Skylight Books
- Powells.com
- Your local, independent bookstore
- Amazon

*** Review copies are available. If you're a food writer interested in reviewing Communion, please contact me at tawl@thingsasian.com.


About Communion:

Living in Vietnam for four years in the 1990s, Seattle native Kim Fay fell in love with the romantic landscapes, the rich culture, and the uninhibited warmth of the people. A decade later, she grew hungry for more. Inspired by the dream of learning to make a Vietnamese meal for her friends and family in America, Kim returned to Vietnam and embarked on an unforgettable five-week culinary journey from Hanoi to Saigon.

Joined by her sister and best Vietnamese girlfriend, Kim set off to taste as much as possible while exploring rituals and traditions, street caf├ęs and haute cuisine, famine and feast, and Communism and the legacy of war. Together, the three women discovered a society shaped by its ever-changing relationship with food. Every encounter serves up an enticing morsel, from uncovering the secret world of ragu in the French hill town of Dalat to bonding with the Julia Child of Vietnam in Saigon. Epicures and culture buffs will delight in markets, restaurants, farms, fisheries, and cooking classes as Kim assembles her dream meal and shares recipes such as banana flower salad and clay pot fish. Examining how we eat reflects who we are as individuals and as communities, Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam offers a feast for armchair gourmets, as well as a colorful guide for travelers hungering for their next adventure.

You can also read more about Communion, including reviews, at my website

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Food for Giving

When it comes to gift giving, I often run around like a chicken with its head cut off, looking for the perfect present. Then, after wasting many hours, I decide to make it. A fruit jam, an onion marmalade, a sweet treat—or maybe some combination of these three. The most recent gift I needed was for Jim’s mother (whom I hadn’t yet met) for her eightieth birthday. Clearly it had to be special. Since strawberries are in season, strawberry jam seemed ideal. And since the scones I baked could have been used as hockey pucks, I whipped up a batch of my famous (at least in my family) shortbread. Tucked prettily into tea towels in a bamboo bowl from Vietnam, they made a fetching package.

I don’t know why I ever go to stores looking for “just the right thing.” Any time I give a gift of homemade food, the entire experience is satisfying—the making, the presentation, the giving, and often the sharing. And I always make sure there are leftovers. In this case three extra jars of jam and eight stray pieces of shortbread, which I gave to my dad—who ate all of the shortbread (except half a piece he gave to my mom) and most of a jar of jam in one sitting!



Rather than posting a new recipe (and I do have a couple good ones I’ll soon share), I’m including links below to my favorite recipes for giving as gifts, just in case you need something for a wedding shower, birthday, or simply “I’m glad you’re my friend” present.

Jam
The strawberry jam mentioned above is based on the raspberry pear jam recipe that this links to. Just substitute strawberries for the raspberries and pears. I also suggest cutting back on the sugar, depending on how sweet the strawberries are.

Shortbread
This recipe comes from Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking. It’s one of the first foods I learned how to make for myself as an adult after college out in the “real world.” I’m re-reading the book again, and all I have to say is … buy it, read it, remind yourself how easy it can be to be to create happiness in your life. As for the shortbread recipe: this time around I made it in an 8x8 pan and scored it in squares, rather than the wedges suggested in the blog post.

Red Onion Marmalade
For friends who like savory foods, this is a never-fail gift. Served with a sharp, hard cheese, it’s the best appetizer ever!