With war in the Gulf, international travel is down. But thos hungry for some foreign sunshine might consider opening an international cookbook. The best have history, illustrations, and much of the charm of a real trip overseas.
Sunny Provence, in the south of France, is the star of "Bouquet de Provence,"(Clarkson N. Potter 1990, $16.95 hardback, 113 pages). The miniature cookbook by restaurateur Jean-Andre Charial-Thuilier is a gustatory nosegay to the region; the book contains only 40 recipes, but is filled with exquisite color paintings of Provencal landscapes and fabric patterns on every page. Recipes are definitely chi-chi--leg of lamb in puff pastry, scrambled eggs with sea urchins and caviar. Two five-course menus are offered to celebrate each season of the year. Delicious quotes about Provence from Colette, Henry James and others also season the stew. In all, "Bouquet de Provence" is low on practical cooking information, but high on romantic travel lore.
"The Sugar Reef Caribbean Cookbook" (Dell paperback 1991$9.99, 224 pp.) has a great deal more recipes that can be cooked for hearty family and party meals. Written by Devra Deveau, owner of a New York Caribbean restaurant, the recipes call for well-known ingredients from the seafood and vegetable families jazzed up with spicy seasonings. Old favorites like jerk chicken and fried plantain are included along desserts ranging from rice pudding to chocolate flan. A section of fancy frozen drinks and other alcoholic punches adds a real kick to the book.
"Down-Island Caribbean Cooking" by Virginie F. and George A. Elbert (Simon & Schuster, 1991, $24.95 hardback, 364 pages) takes a scholarly approach to Caribbean cooking, with a history of island cooking and a thorough glossary of ingredients. Recipes use somewhat rare chilies and herbs that must be gathered from gourmet or foreign food stores. While the classic, best-known Caribbean dishes are described, one chapter of the book covers rijstafel, the "rice table" tradition that began in Indonesia and was transplanted by the Dutch to the Carribean islands of St. Martin, St. Eustasius, Curacao, Aruba and Surinam. A rijstafel menu includes 14 to 20 bowls of rice, soup, condiments, vegetables and fruit all served at once on the table. Indians living in Trinidad and Tobago influenced dishes such as Roti, pancake-like breads, and Dhal, a split-pea puree.
International cookbooks have style