Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Report - My First One After 47 Years

I wrote the other day that Duang and I had been busy the past week with Immigration Visa application activities.  Besides assembling the Package #3, and traveling to Bangkok to get Duang's Police Certificate from the Embassy or Brunei, we had visitors to our home on Sunday.

Our friends, Kees Sprengers and his wife Dorothy Culloty, stopped by our home in Udonthani on their way to Lao People's Democratic Republic.  Kees and Dorothy were on their way to Laos to promote their recently published "cookbook", "Food from Northern Laos, The Boat Landing Cookbook".

We became friends with Kees and Dorothy through the Internet.  While researching her cookbook, Dorothy came upon my blog and my photography websites.  My interests and preferred photography subjects as well as locations are very similar to theirs.  She mentioned it to Kees, and he contacted me through the Internet.  We have corresponded over the Internet for over a year and became Facebook "friends".  Dorothy and Kees visited us last December and it was through them that we became familiar with Luang Namtha and the Boat Landing Guest House.

Duang and I had the pleasant surprise of meeting and dining unexpectedly with Kees during our trip to Luang Namtha and stay at the Boat Landing in late January of this year.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Internet allows people of similar interests or backgrounds to share their experiences and knowledge.  I doubt that we would have travelled to Northern Laos if we had not first seen Kees's photographs and listened to Kees and Dorothy's stories about the area.

Dorothy and Kees were going to Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Luang Namtha in their car filled with promotional materials and copies of their book.  After browsing their "cookbook", I purchased a copy of the book - my first book ever purchased from the authors.  Having paid for our copy of the book I am not obligated in any manner to Kees and Dorothy in my ensuing book report.

I believe that my last book report was in the ninth grade some 47 yeas ago.  I have long forgotten the prescribed format for a book report but in my older years I am convinced that it really doesn't matter.  So let's read about this book.

I consider the book to be more than a "cookbook".  I have a paper back edition of "Joy of Cooking" - 847 pages of wonderful recipes and some pretty horrendous cartoon sketches (calling them illustrations would be hyperbole). I have another cookbook, "Better Homes and Gardens, New Cook Book" which has more great recipes, no horrible sketches, and some photographs. "Food from Northern Laos, The Boat Landing Cookbook" is 200 pages of wonderful and definitely unique recipes.  If you are tired of the same old meat, potatoes, pasta, and Chinese food options, these 88 Northern Laos recipes are something to consider.  The "cookbook" is also a photography book.  Kees is a professional photographer.  At one time in his life he was the photographer for a museum - photographing articles for catalogues and promotional materials.  "Food from Northern Laos, The Boat Landing Cookbook" is filled with Kees's photographs of the various dishes.  The photographs are well composed, exhibit fine detail, and accurately display the color as well as beauty of the dishes - a tribute and attributable to Kees's experience as a professional photographer. The "cookbook" is also a guide book.  The authors provide useful and accurate information regarding this very interesting area of Laos including the ethnic minorities that inhabit the region.

One of my favorite sections of the "cookbook" is the section entitled "Ingredients".  In the "Ingredients" section, there are photographs and descriptions for the items used to create the Northern Lao dishes.  I have lived here in Thailand for almost three years, and only after reading this "cookbook" do I know what so many of the things are that I have seen in the local markets here in Isaan and in Laos.  Included in the "Ingredients" section are the English or Anglicized name for the ingredient, the Lao name written in the Lao alphabet, and the English pronunciation for the Lao item.  Some of the descriptions also include the Latin scientific name.

There is also another very informative section that describes the various Lao food preparation and cooking methods.  Again there are many photographs to compliment the clear and concise written descriptions of the methods.

Dorothy and Kees have included an informative section which describes traditional Lao cooking equipment - not your or your Mother's kitchen for sure!

I have eaten some of the foods for which there are recipes in the book.  The food was very tasty and unique.  I particularly enjoyed the fried rock algae chips (the algae was fried and not the rock that it grows on ;-)), fried pork (jeun sin moo), Gadawm Gourd Soup (gaeng gadawm).

I found the book to be very well organized and easy to read.  The recipes are clear and simple to follow - the left hand side lists the ingredients and their associated quantities, the right hand side provides the "Method" for preparing and cooking.  For some recipes the right hand side of the page also gives "Variations".

I recommend the book for people looking for a unique recipe/photography/guide book.  "Food from Northern Laos, The Boat Landing Cookbook", a seven year project just published, reflects Dorothy and Kees's love and admiration for the peoples of Northern Laos as well as their joy of life.

I am fairly certain that your copy of the book will not be hand delivered by the authors like ours was , but you can have your copy delivered to your home or place of business by Amazon.  I have included a link below for the book on Amazon.

Dorothy and Kees also have a website associated with their book at the link below.

Well this book report is completed.  I look forward to writing my next book report in another 47 years - I will be 108 years old then!

In the mean time we eagerly await our next trip to Northern Laos, and next visit with our Internet friends, Dorothy and Kees.

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