CM January 26, 
1996. Vol. 2, Number 15

image Kitchens of the World.

Ken MacKenzie-Smith.
Burnstown, Ontario: The General Store Publishing House, 1995. 192pp, spiral-bound paper, $17.95.
ISBN: 1-896182-34-8.

Subject Heading:
Cookery, International.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by A. Edwardsson.


As you read this book and use these recipes, I urge you to think about people, their societies, the meaning of food and its natural resources. Think about how to prevent starvation and the gross nutritional imbalances in the world. Think about the African or Latin American peasant and the beauty of living, the growing of food, its preparation and its eating. Then think about the millions of people who have lost their traditional sources of food so that the land can be used to grow our luxury products -- cotton, tobacco, and sugar.
I have eaten in numerous restaurants throughout North America and gazed in dismay at huge quantities of food left on other diners' tables. Likewise browsing in bookshops, I've seen whole sections devoted to cookbooks, each filled with tasty recipes to tempt our already overfed bodies. . . To address this injustice, I resolved that monies generated from the sale of a cookbook should be used to feed and provide better living conditions for those less fortunate

This international collection features favourite recipes sent to the author by eighty-four foreign diplomats based in Canada. "Having personally travelled and eaten in some 65 countries, I used my experience in choosing those [recipes] which, hopefully, will best tantalize your palates," Ken Mackenzie-Smith writes. He has also generously pledged nine dollars from each book purchased to OXFAM-Canada.

Each recipe is introduced with the name of the ambassador who contributed it, and some background information on their country. The double-page spreads have the Geography (location, population, climate, and agriculture) and Cuisine (common or popular dishes and flavours) on the left, with the (often) short recipe on the right. There is an index of recipes at the back, with the countries' names in brackets.

Although Kitchens of the World could be a useful book for an extended study of world cultures, many recipes may not sound appealing to teens -- for example, Le Amiwo (oil paté), or rabbit with prunes. So this collection would probably be better suited to adventurous cooks.

There are some hard-to-find ingredients with no suggestions for substitutions. Yuca croquettes call for a pound and a half of yuca, and you'll need eighteen plantain leaves and two rolls of pita cord to make Nacatamales. Mango soup calls for a half-cup of soda pop, but what type? Cola? 7-Up?

Other problems with ingredients are their fat or alcohol contents. Honduran Rompopo (a drink) uses twelve egg yolks and four cups guaro, a grain liquor. Scampi needs one and a half cups of white wine and three and half pounds of costly prawns.

There are no pictures or illustrations between the covers, but the layout is clear and ingredients are listed in both imperial and metric measurements. A language glossary of common foods and spices at the back has French, German, and Spanish translations for a list of English ingredients. Readers can also see a list of countries OXFAM-Canada is helping, along with a brief description of its work there.

Also in its favour, this well-intentioned book steps off the well-trodden ethnic path to give us some different dishes. Mexico isn't tacos, it's stuffed, grilled fish wrapped in tortillas. From France we get Daube a la Provencale, rather than French Onion soup. The short length of the recipes means they're approachable, not intimidating, and there are a number of dishes for vegetarians.

This book might work at the senior-high level for expanded geography or food science/home economics studies. The cuisine paragraphs and wacky ingredients might be of interest to junior high students. For open-minded chefs, it could be a good purchase.

Recommended with reservations.

A. Edwardsson is in charge of the Children's Department at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library. She has a Bachelor of Education degree and a Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Authors' Association.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to

Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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