In Her Kitchen by Gabriele Galimberti

kitchenIs there anything better than food cooked by your grandma? Not likely, but the dishes you’ll find in this lovely book are not your typical Sunday gravy.

Galimberti shares a story early in the narrative about how his grandmother, who lived her entire life in the same small Italian village, was worried about what he would eat during a two-year assignment traveling the world. He realized then that he had an opportunity to explore the concepts of food and family by seeking out people just like his grandmother and looking for common ground. His journey begins with his grandmother, Marisa Batini of Castiglion Fiorentino Italy, and concludes with his mother, Paola Agnelli, a new grandmother herself. In between are the stories and recipes of women, of grandmothers, the world over.

We meet grandmothers from Brazil, Armenia, Canada, Alaska, Morocco, Albania, Mexico, Colombia, Thailand, Malta, Norway, Bolivia, India, Zambia, Fiji Islands, Japan, Sweden, Haiti, and many others. We meet grandmothers who cook over open fires and high-tech ranges, who have all the amenities of the modern world or no running water or electricity, who buy their food in a supermarket or hunt and kill it in the wild. The common thread that ties all these women together is the reason they cook, and it is always family. Grandmothers who cook for their children and grandchildren, whose task is to nourish the family and make them strong. We learn about favorite recipes that have been handed down in the families for generations, treasured plates and bowls that belonged to long dead grandmothers, food and ritual that has great meaning.

Galimberti’s format here gives great honor to the grandmothers. Lovely, full-page color photos of each grandmother in her kitchen or cooking space, followed by photos of the food and then the recipes makes this an easy, pleasant book to read. What lifts this above an ordinary book are Galimberti’s short essays about each grandmother, her country, her recipes, and her family. We learn about his experiences cooking with these women and how the project changed him and many ways. What comes through so clearly is the love in the households of these women. I have many favorites throughout the book, but one that spoke out loud to me is Natalie Bakradze of Tbilisi, Georgia, whose special recipe is Khinkali (traditional pork & beef dumplings). Her photo shows an ordinary woman wearing a mischievous, somewhat self-conscious smile, as though she is thinking “why is this boy taking my picture?” Galimberti’s essay about her says “Everybody in the family wears sweaters and scarves that she knitted for them, and everybody – including her daughter-in-law – brags that she is the best cook in town.”

The admiration, respect, and love shown these women is truly touching and heartwarming. They all welcomed Galimberti into their homes and kitchens, cooked with him, and shared their food – all extremely personal actions. He, in turn, has captured the universal essence of family and food in a readable, very accessible book.

Highly recommended.

little book of BOOK MAKING by Charlotte Rivers

little bookThere are people who love to read and prize the story above all else. These people will read anything – traditional printed books, e-books, magazines, comic books, and so on. Then there are others who love the form of the book as much as the words. These people love the feel and smell and heft of a book. They appreciate the font used to create the words, the paper used to create the pages, the color used to create beautiful endpapers or illustrations, and the art of the cover. A book is a book is a book.

In the little book of BOOK MAKING by Charlotte Rivers, the art of creating a book is broken down into multiple types of processes that artists and crafters can use to create beautiful handmade books. Rivers begins by offering an “anatomy of a book” that illustrates and describes all the different parts of a book – signatures, endpapers, head- and tailbands, the case, covering, backing material, and spine. This simple illustration and accompanying text is useful for any beginning bookbinder and will be something a budding book artist will refer to again and again.

Rivers then introduces the reader to a number of accomplished book binders and artists from around the world. Their featured work illustrates types of book creation such as folded bindings and includes intricate work from artists like Gabriela Irigoyen, Thereza Rowe, and Becca Hirsbrunner among others. Each page features a different artist, including photos and descriptions of their work. The same descriptive process is followed for chapters on sewn bindings and packaging.

Rivers reserves the final chapter for “Bookmaking in Practice” where she gives the tools and steps needed to begin binding your own books. I nice set of illustrations and descriptions of necessary tools precedes instructions written by individual artists on how to make a variety of books, from an “Instant Book” to accordian, carousel, and dragon books. Also included are step by step instructions on various binding techniques such as pamphlet stitch, coptic stitch, long stitch, and Japanese stab stitch. Finally, instructions for creating a case binding, marbling endpapers, hand-dying paper, and creating cloth-covered boards are also included.

While the drawn, illustrated instructions might put some people off, they work in this little book. The instructions are clear, and using photos of real artist bound books to demonstrate different aspects of book making helps makes this a handy guide for anyone interested in trying book making.

Recommended for library collections and students.