• Recommended Reading: A Baker’s Odyssey

A Baker’s OdysseyHere’s a book that fits right in with the Newcomer’s exhibit. Greg Parent has collected recipes from America’s rich immigrant heritage in “A Baker’s Odyssey.” 

Parent was born in Shanghai, China.  His mother was from Iraq and his father from Russia.  They immigrated to the United States in 1950.  Parent earned a PhD from Berkeley and became a professor of zoology at the University of Montana.  He eventually left academia to pursue a career in cooking. 

For “A Baker’s Odyssey,” Parent collected recipes from others who had immigrated to the U.S.  He traveled the country, and visited the kitchens of over 60 immigrants from 30 countries to sample and record recipes from the old country.  He explains his reason for doing this as follows:

Food is like language.  You grow up learning to speak your mother tongue, and at the same time you develop tastes for specific foods.  If you move to a new country, you yearn for connection to the place you left, and food is the magical link.  My parents were no different from other immigrants in wanting to connect with familiar foods in a foreign land.  

Parent’s publisher describes the book as follows:

A Baker’s Odyssey is a rich collection of recipes and culinary history, all gleaned from Patent’s exhaustive research in the American home kitchens of immigrants from around the world. Through his travels across the country, Patent learned the secrets to traditional baked goods originating from thirty-two different nations. From Scotland and Austria to India and Thailand to Mexico, Norway, and West Africa, the recipes represent the best of each culture’s beloved culinary traditions. Chapters are organized by categories of baked goods, and include Fried Pastries and Doughs, Flatbreads and More, Savory Pastries, Sweet Pastries, Savory Yeast Breads and Pies, Sweet Yeast Breads, Cookies and Cookie-Like Pastries, and Dessert Cakes, Tortes, and Pies. Patent provides detailed information on the origin of each recipe and its ingredients, and gives a real sense of the cultural heritage behind each dish. Recipes are easy enough for home cooks of any level to master, and include everything from Jewish Matzoh, Eastern European Rugelach, and Sweet Irish Soda Bread to Russian Meat Piroshki, Italian Pignoli Cookies, and Chinese-Style Almond Sponge Cake.

You can listen to an interview with Greg Parent on NPR’s Sunday Morning by clicking here.

Please share your family recipes with others at the firm by posting them on A Warner Tapestry by clicking here.