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Beyond Gumbo : Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim Hardcover – February 25, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

"Creole food," writes Jessica B. Harris, author of The Africa Cookbook and Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons, "the preeminent taste of the Atlantic Rim of the New World, is a triumphant food that comes from sorrow's kitchens. It was conceived in the kitchens of the hemisphere's big houses, casas grandes, fazendas, and plantations, and nurtured over coal pots and three-rock stoves in the slave cabins and shanties of the black shack alleys." Creole food is composed rice dishes, abundant hot sauces, dumplings and fritters, seasoning pastes like sofrito and Bajan seasoning. All that and much, much more. Harris cracks the subject wide open with Beyond Gumbo, her beautifully written, carefully researched, lovingly created seminal work.

There's a helpful glossary of ingredients right up front, and sources for the more obscure spices and the like. Her chapters break out as "Appetizers," "Soups and Salads," "Condiments and Sauces" (this chapter alone is worth the price of the book), "Vegetables," "Main Dishes," "Starches," "Desserts," "Beverages," and "Menus." You'll find Green Mango Salad from French Guyana; Black Bean Soup from Cuba; Creole Tomatoes and Olives from New Orleans; Spinach and Green Bananas from Guadeloupe; Corn Stew from Costa Rica; Quechua-style Chicken Stew from Peru; Roast Pork with Passion Fruit Sauce from Costa Rica; and Aunt Sweet's Seafood Gumbo from New Orleans.

The flavors are compelling, layered, often highly spiced--this is the food where Africa, Europe, and the New World all came together, the original fusion food. And there is no better guide on this glorious adventure than Jessica B. Harris. She brings scholarship and passion to her subject. Her self-discovery is another ingredient in this rich stew served over rice. Ashé! --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

Harris achieves the same balanced blend of personal insight, history and recipes that made her previous works (The Africa Cookbook and The Welcome Table) shine in this examination of creole food. Her first hurdle is defining the word "creole," and she comes up with a credible interpretation representing a fusion of the foods of Africa, the Americas and Europe that is "greater than the multiple dishes that spawned them." Recipes are top-notch, and Harris never skips an opportunity to illuminate in a header. Some of these notes report the origins of a dish, as in the header for Limpin' Susan, a rice and okra dish from South Carolina that is a cousin to the better-known Hoppin' John. Harris generously credits far-flung friends who have provided ideas and recipes and sometimes re-creates their notes on the dishes, as in a letter from Chef Fritz Blank of Deux Chemin‚es restaurant in Philadelphia that arrived with his recipe for Pepperpot Soup with Seafood and Pumpkin. For other recipes, she vividly sets a scene, explaining that bites of the Roast Corn of Jamaica are meant to be alternated with coconut, or at least that's what's encouraged by "ladies who plant themselves and a brazier under the shade of a large tree or umbrella and grill away" throughout the Caribbean. Despite the title, there are recipes for eight varieties of gumbo, including Aunt Sweet's Seafood Gumbo. Sometimes cookbook glossaries feel like throw-away elements, but in typical fashion Harris makes good use of hers, not only to define such potentially unfamiliar items as the fruit cherimoya, but also to entertain (chiles "crosspollinate with the speed of rabbits") and inform.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (March 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684870622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684870625
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,581,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. M. Peterson on January 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
What makes this cookbook, (as well as others by Harris) a delightful read and a solid source of information on Pacific Rim cuisine is the amount of history and the wonderful anecdotes that accompany the recipes. For those of us who are not lucky enough to have lived in or traveled to the many places that comprise the Atlantic Rim, her book is much-needed.
I only ever heard of the soursop fruit, or the wonderful beverage mauby when I finally traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands a few years ago, so was eager to learn more. And although there are many familiar foods, such as black-eyed peas, and okra, to an amateur cook like me, the Atlantic Rim variations gave me more reasons to like these favorites from childhood. I especially loved to see cane syrup; it reminded me so of my father, who grew up in Alabama and processed cane at the mill as a child. He couldn't get enough of the syrup or the juice. It also reminded me of the purpose of the book: To show, through cuisine, the marvelous connection between the cultures of Africa, the Caribbean, Central & South Americas, and the United States
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a fan of gumbo and New Orleans cooking in particular, this was a fascinating book because it spells out a much broader heritage of gumbo. The most interesting are the West Indian and even South American ones! If you think you make a mean gumbo, check this out.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best Island Cookbook that I have and I have many! Easy to follow recipes with purchasable ingredients.
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9 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
oddly soulless versions of the classic recipes of the caribbean and ports of call south; the average <i>criolla</i> cook from bahia to calle ocho has zestier methods of cooking, say, plain black beans -- put the bay leaf in with the beans first, not last, add a small splash of cooked vinegar at the end, serve sprinkled with minced cilantro, lime wedges, avocado slices, and so on.
from a chef like this one, with restaurant credentials, i would expect first, the classic recipe amped with restaurant kitchen techniques, short cuts and cooking techniques, for example paul prudhomme's cook-everything-on-a-high-flame-stirring angle; second, well-chosen new or fusion flavor touches, garniture, accompaniments, serving suggestions, as per steven raichlen (miami spice).
from a chef with these academic credentials, i did enjoy some of the work she did, for example, on the sources of pepperpot soup. i wish she had done more of that, given the enduring flavors of africa under the harshest conditions of slavery -- mixed with french, spanish, native american and other influences. that book, defining creole, remains to be written.
there's also an unpleasant undertone of self-congratulation for having "discovered" recipes that are neither original or All That, for example, molasses-flavored chantilly cream.
for an expensively published book, nice paper, two color pages, this one has too many typos and unrealistic cooking times.
one and a half stars. steven raichlen is still the caribbean fusion king.
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