They say the best way to a person’s heart is through his or her stomach. It is the same for cities. After all, what are cities but millions of beating hearts and regional tastes, the combination of which results in a local spirit (not the alcoholic kind) that you cannot find anywhere else?
Before you realize you can’t afford a plane ticket and resign yourself to a strong drink of your own local spirit, remember that the cheapest and fastest way to travel to a different place is through a vivid imagination — and a cookbook. Cookbooks that are inspired by countries and cities generally have illustrative, historical introductions and stunning photographs of local landscapes (as well as of the food you’ll make in your very own kitchen). They might even teach you more about a country and culture than a guidebook can.
Best-selling cookbooks, essential cookbooks, and celebrity cookbooks often steal the spotlight from these locally inspired volumes, but that has more to do with mass appeal than the quality of the books. Adventurers, adventurous eaters, and people who want to spice things up (even without using spicy flavors) need to get their hands on these five cookbooks right now.
‘Bill's Sydney Food’ by Bill Granger
Bill Granger put Australian food, the cuisine long known for little more than Vegemite and kangaroo meat, on the map. By taking us on a tasting tour of Sydney, Granger proves that Australian food combined Asian, Polynesian, and European flavors unlike any other cuisine, and the emphasis on fresh produce, short ingredient lists, easy-to-follow recipes, and informality in his meals (there is a lot of breakfast-all-day) is emblematic of the city itself.
‘The Food of Taiwan’ by Cathy Erway
Cathy Erway takes us through Taiwan’s much-loved restaurants, homes, and street foods alike, highlighting pork belly buns, beef noodle soup, and mango crushed ice. She also includes recipes for dishes you might have never heard of, but could easily make at home, such as dried radish omelette and stuffed gourd. Beautiful pictures of the food and the country will make your stomach churn with hunger and wanderlust.
‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
This one simple trick for making hummus proves Yotam Ottolenghi is a genius: sauté the chickpeas with olive oil before grinding them. The dense, rich results are what you would find on any street corner in Jerusalem. Tamimi is from the Arab east side of town, while Ottolenghi grew up in the Jewish west. By combining their native flavors with the Christian culinary influences of Jerusalem, they not only provide a slew of colorful vegetable, meat, and sweet dishes, but also make a case for peace and unity in this breathtaking city.
‘Latin American Street Food’ by Sandra A. Gutierrez
It would be brutally unfair to single out the street food of just one Latin American city. Luckily, Sandra Gutierrez has written a cookbook that takes us from Mexico City to Lima to Rio, where street food is not a trend, but a tradition carried on by family-run carts whose recipes have been passed down for many generations. Any home chef who loves throwing parties needs this on his or her bookshelf.
‘My Paris Kitchen’ by David Lebovitz
There are a handful of cookbooks with recipes straight from the kitchens of various culinary institutions in Paris, but David Lebovitz’s beautiful writing and palpable love of the city — not just its classic culinary history but its adaptation of modern, international flavors — gives My Paris Kitchen the liveliness and soul that other Paris cookbook writers neglect in favor of traditional French fare. While making his delicious coq au vin or dukkah-roasted cauliflower, you’ll almost believe that you’ll open the curtains and see the Eiffel Tower.