I’m fond of the books that are part recipe, part history. I really do want to know how something appeared, what created this or that recipe. I’m not as thrilled by the chemistry of it all; ironic given my university degree. But these two books tickle both my need for a good recipe and my need for the context of it all.
Robb Walsh is an excellent food historian. In this book he gives a simplified version of his Houston Press articles on Tex Mex and the fajita. In it there are useful charts of meats, some food experiments he tried that works (yes, in a Gene-Jon-Sean-Jimmy kind of way – ever try galbi fajitas?). But if you’re like me, and write or seriously think about food, you buy what Robb Walsh writes because he cares enough to do his research and get his story right. He doesn’t pull it out of thin air.
Colleen Taylor Sen’s book is lighter and breezier, a two to three hour read. But there are recipes that go back hundreds of years in this book, varieties of curries probably not easily made today. It covers a lot more of the earth than does Robb’s book, touching usefully on things like Thai, Dutch and Japanese curries. But the best coverage is of the Indian recipes, what they are, where they come from. It talks about the origin of tandoori chicken, for example and has plenty of colorful photos.
Both recommended. I’d say that Robb’s book is a must read for anyone trying to critique Mexican restaurants in America.