March 26 2015 12:00 AM

Food and Fun


THURSDAY, MARCH 29 — There's a Scottish theme to this week's newsletter. Purely by coincidence, two of the authors are from the north end of the UK. The third book? I'll let you decide what group it might belong to. Here's what we're reading:

Graham Holliday

The book nerd part of me keeps a running list as the year passes by of my favorite books in each genre. My top choice is always fair game to be surpassed as I read more, and the final list in December usually bears only a passing resemblance to the list in, say, March. This one is currently the clear favorite in the food category, and I think it's going to be tough to beat.

Mr. Holliday was a restless young Scot with no clear career path in front of him when lit out for Vietnam (with a short stop in South Korea) as an ESL instructor. After spending time in both halves of the country, he became completely focused on the teeming street food culture that's been a part of Vietnamese culture for generations. Anthony Bourdain thought enough of his food blog to help with the delivery of this absolutely delightful book. The author shows utter fearlessness as he creeps down alleys, haunts doorways, squats under trees, peeks into cookpots and hanging baskets, looking for the real deal - the ingredients, flavors and techniques the locals know is their real heritage, not the stuff that gets presented to tourists. His passion (and appetite) will become yours. kobo eBook

Kelly Hudson, Dan Klein and Arthur Meyer

Speaking of books about food, I'm not really sure this is one. The foreword, written by Mario Batali, doesn't help to clear up the uncertainty, as he seems befuddled about why he's writing it.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is a humor book masquerading as a cookbook. I don't believe the Mizeretti Brothers, credited for the recipes, really exist, let alone being winners of the 2004 Excellence in Saltiness Award or the 2009 Nobel Prize for Pancakes. The recipes? I'm going to let any of you take a shot at them and let me know how it turns out. I don't think my kitchen, much less my stomach, is ready for some Devil's Meatcup (christened with a side of Grayed Chicken Spikes) or Chicken Ethelyne Oxide. Oh, now I see. On the back cover it mentions that the online FUDS menu was recently voted one of the "100 Funniest Things in the History of the Internet" by GQ Magazine. Humor it is.


Johanna Basford

Go ahead, it's OK. Stop by the bookstore and pick up a copy of Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford's latest amazing coloring book and tell the person ringing you up it's for the kids or grandkids. The booksellers will say they believe you, and admire your parenting skills, knowing full well there's a copy laying open on the break table in back that the staff is working through. Ms. Basford's detailed and fanciful drawings are irresistible and enchanting - before, during and after the coloring process. We'll know who you're really buying it for, but your secret's safe with us.

Mr. Holliday's marvelous book has me intensely interested in the food of Vietnam. How about you, fellow foodies, which country's cuisine puts your appetite on full alert?

Until next time,


NeilNeil Rajala is Currently Director of Community & Business Services for Schuler Books, Neil's decade with the company has included the wearing of many different hats - and lots and lots of reading.