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Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States: A Dinner Party Approach To International Relations Hardcover – August 3, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Foreign affairs analyst Fair combines current events, history and cookery in this unorthodox book. Provoked by Bush's 2002 State of the Union address and her brothers' call-up by the National Guard, she posits that one way to a more tolerant post-9/11 world might be through the stomach. The author takes on 10 countries: the axis of evil triad of North Korea, Iran and Iraq; global players like Israel and China; alleged thorns-in-freedom's-side like Pakistan, and finally the Great Satan, the U.S. She compiles dossiers of perfidy—a history of each nation's geopolitical sins—followed by culinary plans of attack. The research and experience backing the dossiers is considerable, if filtered through a shrill, leftist-corrective sensibility. The representative recipes, meanwhile, range from an Iraqi lamb and okra stew (Be warned: Okra is a finicky flora) to steamed Chinese eggplant and Kashmiri spiced tea. There's even Beer Butt Chicken to represent Uncle Sam. The genuine political and culinary passion don't organically connect; rather it's a crazy salad of dark leftist humor. Whether it's possible to laugh while despairing and cooking (the recent natural disasters particularly skew the tone of the chapters on Burma and China) remains to be seen. (Aug.)
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Review

"Self-described 'think-tanker chick' Chris Fair has whipped up a creative cookbook concept."--USA Today
"I first met Chris Fair years ago in what could have been a staid, dull academic conference on one of the many troubled areas in the world. Ten minutes in the room with her, and I knew academe would never be the same--she can swear like a master sergeant, lifts weights for fun, and keeps pit bulls, to name just a few of her more endearing habits. In Cuisines of the Axis of Evil, Fair combines the culinary mastery of "Iron Chef" with the biting and acerbic wit of Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" in a snarky romp through some of the world's most picturesque and problematic hotspots. Imagine Julia Child, John Bolton, and Borat on a desert island, and you have the general tone of this creative, informative, and amusing look at the cuisines and policies of our enemies and our not-quite-friends. This could be the opening salvo by our next Secretary of State."--Timothy Hoyt, academic, musician, and occasional anarchist (US Naval War College)
"Chris Fair's treatise on America's enemies--real and imagined--is just the remedy and recipe for a host of foreign policy failures. Especially tasty is her menu to celebrate the ignonimous end of our fifty year showdown with the demon island of Cuba with its dangerous culinary arsenal of sugar, rum, and coffee."--Ann Louise Bardach, author of Cuba Confidential and Without Fidel

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (August 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599212862
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599212869
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Fred on August 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Like some unholy hybrid of Rachel Ray and Fareed Zakaria, Ms. Fair uses her extensive knowledge of the world's hotspots and her love and talent for cooking to undertake the heretofore little-attempted mission of helping the reader actually learn something of use outside the kitchen whilst preparing to strap on the feedbag. The result subjects international relations, American foreign policy, and a sizable majority of the non-human animal kingdom to a healthy skewering.

Based on my own personal experiences with the author's cooking and rapier wit (she once helpfully explained to me the difference between "Northern Alliance" Afghan food and "Taliban" Afghan food), I believe you can safely assume that, in the end, you will be entertained, a little smarter for the effort, and in any event well fed.
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Format: Hardcover
This isn't a book for the average foodie -- the recipes are pretty cool, but that's only half the book. The rest of it is a whirlwind tour of the biggest annoyances on the world stage today, from Iraq to... the US. Give this to a Fox News fan, they will have a boilover on the Israel chapter and probably pop a blood vessel on the US section. The history and analysis behind the book are heavily and impeccably researched and provide a tremendous amount of background information on places the average American knows very little about. However, it's not pure propaganda -- every country has its upsides pointed out (Cuba's huge corps of home-trained international doctors, for example).

The book isn't quite what you'd expect -- rather than being collections of recipes, each chapter is set up with a dinner party menu after the historical sketch of each country. The recipes were picked by the author specifically for their authenticity (her extreme reluctance to include the rather ubiquitous flan in the Cuba section is noted rather humorously) and include appropriate drink selections; the author isn't averse to humor, and it even shows in some of the recipes, going so far to create a frozen dessert for the US chapter called "Vanilla Ice". (In any case, given the subject matter, one might argue that humor is rather necessary to keep from losing your faith in humanity as a whole.)

I don't know at what point "hard-nosed realism" turned into "leftist bias", but this book is most certainly more the former rather than the latter. Both fearless and impeccably appetizing, this book should be high on any foodie's reading list. After all, as Jared Diamond pointed out years ago, food and history are intimately connected, and that history doesn't stop just because it's being made now rather than a century ago.
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Format: Hardcover
Every once in awhile, I stumble across a book that is just purely enjoyable to read. And as odd as it may sound to classify a book on politics and the nuclear arms race in that category, Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States was exactly such a book. As you can probably tell from the title, this wasn't your average political commentary. One endorser described it as Iron Chef meets The Daily Show - culinary mastery with wit and snark. In short, my type of book.

In the book, author Chris Fair takes a close look at the evil powerhouses in the world (i.e. those countries with the bomb or those who are trying to get it) and humanizes them with an exploration of their cuisine. From the so-called "axis of evil" (Iraq, Iran, North Korea), to nuke-possessing human-rights violators (Israel, India, and Pakistan), to the dashers of democracy (Cuba, Burma, and China), to the Great Satan herself (USA), the reader embarks on a rather peculiar world tour. Fair is unashamedly biased and opinionated, and yet manages to present a balanced perspective on many of these countries. What is extremely helpful is her brief modern histories of each country. Basically she explains why these countries hate the USA and what our past relationship with them has been. So for all of us 30-somethings who were too young to watch the news while, say, the Iran-Contra affair was unraveling, and whose history textbooks and teachers never made it past World War 2 (because what teacher wants to touch Civil Rights and the Vietnam War), these brief histories are the most concise explanations of these events you will have ever heard. One reads of the whole convoluted history of our relationship with Saddam Hussein, how the Taliban got its weapons, and why we let China walk all over us.
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The recipes are good, but the acerbic concise analysis of the region still holds true and will get even the least news interested person laughing and then arguing.
Wonderful book. And the recipes are really good.
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This book, recommended in the Foreign Service Journal, manages to combine insightful political commentary with great international recipes. The author has lived in the countries included which gives credibility. Her sense of humor and ability to laugh at the absurd make her political commentary worthwhile. The only problem is that I was so absorbed with turning pages that I could not get up to cook the recipes in each section (Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, India, Pakistan, Israel, Cuba, Burma, China and even the US)...
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