You Don't Even Have to Leave Town...

By Norm Laskay, And Now for Something Completely Different Series

New Orleans has earned its name as a restaurant town, but what it lacks is a large presence of international food, such as what is found in the large melting pot areas of the Middle West and northeast. Cities like New York and Toronto abound with any number of restaurants that serve dishes from Central Europe, Russia, or many countries in Africa.

Back in the 70’s I was introduced to international cooking by the Time-Life Foods of The World series. This was a 27 volume set, and we had 23 of them. There are a number of recipes from the Middle East and Africa that are still in regular rotation at our house. The John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary library has amassed all 27, and there are here and available for research and inspiration. 

If you are interested in “exotic” cooking the Culinary Library is the place for you to visit. In addition to the Time-Life series, there are several book that are entering the system that are truly rooted in the original country.

The Ethiopian American Cookbook was written for Ethiopian women to cross the language and culinary divide. It is written in English and Amharic (Ethiopian) and has ingredient translations and measurement translations. (1 ladle=3/4 cup; 1 kuna=5 kilos). The first half of the book contains Ethiopian recipes while the second is “American” recipes to help the Ethiopian woman acclimate.

A second book is Persian Cookery by Nassrollah Islami. The book has no copyright date. The names Persia and Iran were used interchangeably from about 1935 until after World War II. But I know people who lived and worked in Iran in the 1950’s who referred to the country as Persia. The book speaks of Persians and Iranians, and some recipes are in metric measurements while most are in English measurements. The recipes are actually pretty simple, although the Dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves) assume you have your own fresh grape leaves and not those from a jar.

A newer book is Taste of Tanzania-Modern Swahili Recipes for the West, by Miriam R. Kinunda. Besides being a beautiful cook book, the recipes are a delicious sounding blend of African, Indian and Middle Eastern. We made Kuku Choma, Swahili Barbecue Chicken, and that will become a new “company dish.”

Finally, I've noticed that the restaurant Compere Lapin has been a hit in New Orleans. If you love their food and would like to explore more of the cooking of the Caribbean, find the 641.59729 section at the John & Bonny Boyd Library. I’ve seen some great Caribbean cookbooks there. And you don’t need a passport, or to get through security, to spend a culinary night in the Islands.