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Desert Terroir: Exploring the Unique Flavors and Sundry Places of the Borderlands (Ellen and Edward Randall Series) Hardcover – March 1, 2012
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In Desert Terroir, he focuses on the flavors of the US/Mexico borderlands. He details the tastes and traditions of foods like mesquite, fish, and camels. There is a good bit of history in this book, including an extremely interesting section on some shipwrecked Moroccons and Spaniards who traveled across the Southwest in the 1500s.
Nabhan is a talented storyteller, and he is able to describe sensory details so well that you almost feel like you have already experienced what he is writing about. I'd also like to mention that the illustrations (done by Paul Mirocha) are a perfect fit for the book and really add more depth to the whole story.
As readers of his books will know, Nabhan is an American of Lebanese (and ultimately Omani) origin, making connections with the American and Middle Eastern deserts. He describes grass-grown cattle and traces their origin to Mexico, the Canary Islands, Spain and Morocco. In a little place in Baja, he sees traces of Moorish and Sephardic Jewish culture. And of course, terroir because all the stories center on food.
He intermixes history as well. The first chapter discusses Mostafa al-Azemmouri, a Moroccan Muslim, converted to Christianity as a slave, better known as Esteban with the four survivors of Cabeza de Vaca's expedition, told through how Mostafa/ Esteban would have found similarities with the African desert he knew. Then there's the chapter, somewhat wry, about camel chorizo, which tells of eating camel, and also much about Hadji Ali, the chief cameleer (if that's a word) for the US Army, which brought camels and Hadji Ali to Texas in the late 1850s. Both stories, please note, along with his own, show people of Arab and Muslim background to be part of American history.