I have come to praise Miami Book Fair International, not to bury it. I mean seriously: Is there any other event of this size that runs so seamlessly and trouble-free year after year? Plus, if not for Mitchell Kaplan, a lot of people in Miami might still not know what a book is.
All I'm saying is that the cookbook authors secured for this year's event are not necessarily the cream of the crop. And there are some legitimate reasons. Many of the top-selling cookbooks of 2011, for instance, were penned by chefs who have restaurants to run and can't be flying off to do every book fair (Heston Blumenthal, Daniel Humm, and so forth). Other authors were simply unavailable due to their own meager personal reasons.
The book fair did manage to get Calvin Trillin, whose The Tummy Trilogy remains one of the best collections of stories about eating ever written (although he is known for far more than food writing).
Other food events include:
Later on Saturday, at 4 p.m., there will be a See, Learn, Eat! cooking demo with Daniel Orr.
BUT, here are five authors who have not only written great cookbooks but also could have taught us all a whole lot about food and cooking.
5. David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
Miami Heat is more than just a basketball team due for a long layoff -- it's a way of life down here. We all howl for ice cream in the humid hell we call summer, and Mr. Lebovitz has produced one of the best ice cream books ever. Once you master simple recipes for Pear-Pecorino ice cream or Miami-influenced Mojito Granita, you'll never have to put up with those stupid Ben & Jerry's flavors again. Just hearing somebody talk about ice cream can be refreshing.
4. Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food
Who could possibly be more informative about cooking than a man with a cookbook entitled How to Cook Everything? It's a re-release, but Bittman's work has become one of those classic cookbooks that actually get used -- as in pulled from the shelf on a daily basis. Plus he has an extra allure as a speaker in that he has long written the great The Minimalist blog and column for The New York Times.
3. Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, Ideas In Food, Great Recipes and Why They Work
A husband-wife culinary team -- now that's entertainment! The couple use chemistry, biology, and innovative cooking techniques to produce fascinating recipes (like grilled potato ice cream) and to explain things such as which woods produce the most flavorful smoke, and why folding dough rather than kneading it is the key to easy artisan bread-making. They are not, as we point out, going to be at the Book Fair, but you can check out the writing at their wonderful Ideas In Food blog, or at their Kitchen Alchemy column for Popular Science. This week's topic in Alchemy: Blowing Up Cheese With Nitrous Oxide. As I say, it would have been interesting.
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2. Edward Behr, The Art of Eating
Mr. Behr's quarterly independent culinary magazine, the Art of Eating, has been called "Aruguably America's most erudite and prestigious food publication" by The Wall Street Journal (arguably America's most eurdite and pompous newspaper). It started as a newsletter in 1986, so Behr has 25 years worth of knowledge to impart. He is bluntly honest in his discussions concerning the best food and wine -- what they are, how they are produced, and where to find them. But we've already told you this.
1. Christopher Kimball, The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011: The Year's Best Recipes, Equipment Reviews, and Tastings
I'm extra biased on this pick, as I think America's Test Kitchen on PBS is by far the best food/cooking show on the air. The whole crew takes credit for the cookbook, but Kimball is the star of the enterprise. Like many of the aforementioned authors, Kimball and his team delve into what exactly makes one cooking technique -- or product -- work better than another. Sample questions: Why does baking soda increase browning? When a recipe calls for stale bread, what's the best way to stale it? And is adding salt to buttermilk in a fried chicken recipe really necessary to ensure meat that's also juicy? In the process they come up not just with answers, but with singular recipes that are easy to make and come out great. Kimball is a polite New Englander, but he exhibits healthy doses of skepticism and sarcasm -- an ideal representative of the food world for a book fair.