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Cooking the Books: International eats from Italy and Japan and a little something for the kids

Cooking the Books: International eats from Italy and Japan and a little something for the kids

Pick up your copy of The Sunday Star paper today (July 8) for a 25% discount on these cookbooks. Look for the coupon in Star2.

Basics To Brilliance – Kids

Author: Donna Hay
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Price: RM112.90

In Australia, Donna Hay is a household name whose cookbooks line bookshelves across the country. Hay’s mastery lies in the fine art of creating simple, effective recipes that are also beautifully photographed. She also has the added allure of being on television and having her own exceedingly popular homeware range, selling everything from aprons to spatulas.

With her latest cookbook, Hay has set her sights on a much younger demographic: kids! Released in tandem with a cooking show, the book is a magical, happy foray into cooking, designed to incite joy in both children and adults alike. Hay (who is a mum herself) says that one of the key things she discovered about getting kids to be involved in the kitchen is to create fun events out of every meal, building dishes out of slumber parties, movie nights and the like.

International foodAs a result, you’ll discover a wonderful array of peppy, child-friendly recipes such as fluffy pancakes, maple butter popcorn, spinach and pumpkin risotto, cheat’s pizza, and chocolate pudding cups. Although the recipes are designed for children to recreate, adults will find themselves salivating over the dishes too.

What’s even more impressive is Hay’s safety tips for kids, including advocating the use of oven gloves and getting parents to help out with certain appliances, certainly useful information for tiny tots with little kitchen experience.

The font is also satisfyingly huge, which makes it easy for children to read and digest.

Ultimately, there’s plenty to love in this wonderful cookbook, which will help get kids interested in exploring their inner kitchen gods/goddesses and will no doubt make them lifelong fans of Hay in the process. – Abirami Durai

Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art Of Nourishing Mind, Body And Spirit

Author: Candice Kumai
Publisher: Harper Wave
Price: RM119.90

international foodAt first I couldn’t remember where I’d come across Candice Kumai before. And then recognition took root and I realised that she was one of my favourite contestants from the very first season of Top Chef, where her bubbly personality shone. Kumai has since gone on to greater heights, publishing multiple bestselling cookbooks and becoming a regular judge on Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

With Kintsugi Wellness, Kumai returns to her Japanese roots, espousing the virtues of kintsugi or repairing broken vessels by sealing them back in place so that they are stronger and better than before. Kumai see this practice as a metaphor for self-healing.

Much of the book is autobiographical, and Kumai writes with so much honesty, it’s as though the book served as a cathartic exercise. And it is these narratives – her trips to Japan, and her formative years with her family – that buoy the book and engender both likability and an endearing quality.

The flip side of this is that because so much of the book is taken up with stories, there aren’t quite as many recipes as you might like – although you will find delicious-looking recipes for yakisoba noodles, Japanese rice porridge and miso chocolate chip cookies.

But perhaps the biggest downside of the book (for me, at least) is the sheer number of pages Kumai dedicates to tips on cultivating sincerity, practising gratitude for the past, meditation, being one with nature, and other nuggets of wisdom that would seem far more suited to a self-help book. Although it is fair to assume that Kumai intended the book to take a holistic approach to kintsugi, incorporating both food and a guide to better living, the latter element offers little appeal to those after a pure cookbook without all the floofy bits and bobs. – AD

Pasta, Pane, Vino

Author: Matt Goulding
Publisher: Harper Wave/Anthony Bourdain
Price: RM136.90

international foodBefore he wrote this book, food and nutrition writer Matt Goulding asked the late Anthony Bourdain, “Does the world need another book about Italian food?”

Bourdain said no, but their correspondence led to the publication of Goulding’s third book under the award-winning food and travel portal he cofounded, Roads & Kingdoms.

Their correspondence introduces this book, and is a tribute to Bourdain’s contribution to food journalism.

Published by Bourdain, Pasta, Pane, Vino is a food travelogue, an exploration of Italy’s cuisine that celebrates the ordinary people who cook with their hearts using skills honed over many generations.

It’s soulful food writing from someone deeply curious about food and eating, how people make food, and how it’s linked to people’s lives and passions.

Goulding takes his readers along to the different provinces in Italy and delves into the local cuisine, culture and influences.

He features people he met, such as the three brothers who became the mozzarella kings of Puglia, the Barolo Boys who turned the hilly Piedmont into one of the world’s great wine regions, and Nonna Anna who has travelled twice to Japan to teach the Japanese how to make ragu.

Be mesmerised as Goulding describes his food adventures, from sitting down to a delicious seafood dinner in a local restaurant in Sardinia to learning how to make pizza in Naples and, of course, pasta. He also gives in-depth information about the history and evolution of Italian cuisine, which add to the fascinating book.

This is not a cookbook but it whets your appetite for authentic Italian food – and it’s definitely the best guide to pore over before your next trip to Italy (you’ll want to book your tickets after you’ve read the book). – Ivy Soon

Anthony Bourdain, a man of many words

Anthony Bourdain, a man of many words

Anthony Bourdain died on June 8. The chef-traveller-storyteller had a way with words and was not afraid to speak his mind. Here are a few of his quotes – some humorous, many that we may learn from, and others that may even offend.

On food

Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.

I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurised Stilton, raw oysters or working for organised crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure.

Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumour of a cold.

Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain’s final Instagram post.

To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.

“We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn. If Little Timmy had just had more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.”

On travel

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble tacqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”

Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.

If you’re 22, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.

Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain on one of his travels in his show Parts Unknown.

“Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”

On self

Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.

I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.

Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.

“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom… is realising how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

Malaysians remember world-travelling storyteller Anthony Bourdain

Malaysians remember world-travelling storyteller Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain, who killed himself on June 8 in France at age 61, will always be remembered as an amazing world-travelling food storyteller. He also made an impression on people who have interviewed him and worked with him, as well as those who have only known him from his TV shows and books.

Below, Malaysians pay tribute to Bourdain.

He was known as the “bad boy chef” for the no-holds-barred way he expressed himself. Sugar coating? Not him.

He also, apparently, didn’t suffer fools.

It was for this reason my stomach was in knots for days prior to my phone interview in 2015 with Anthony Bourdain who was doing promotional interviews for a new travel food show.

But I needn’t have worried. Bourdain was charming, friendly and took time to answer all questions with much thought and even more enthusiasm. The guy loved food and it was obvious. He shared stories, anecdotes and more and the call went on for an hour.

When asked about his celebrity status and about a group of fans who allegedly waited at his hotel lobby for hours for a glimpse of him, he said: “You know, I never saw it coming. I don’t know how younger chefs feel … they probably grew up expecting to be famous but for (chefs of) my generation, it came as a huge surprise.

“I mean, I like chefs. I respect their work. I feel very strongly that, at the very least, chefs do something useful. Chefs feed and nurture people. They work very hard at becoming good at a craft that is useful to people. So, I think it’s far more appropriate that a chef is a celebrity than a … Kardashian.”

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain with a film crew on June 4, 2018, at Wistub de la Petite Venise, a restaurant in Colmar, France. Photo: AP

But there was one question he wouldn’t address: Did he enjoy Malaysian or Singaporean food more?

“I’m not touching that question with a 10-foot pole. You’re not getting me to side with one or the other. I mean, they’re both … I would like to contemplate and compare (the two) for the rest of my life because it’s really just … I love both. Nice try, though.”

What a guy. What a loss. – S. Indramalar, Star2 assistant editor

Anthony Bourdain

Chef Wan posted a photo together with Bourdain on Instagram in 2017.

Notable celebrity chef Redzuawan Ismail or better known as Chef Wan appeared in an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations travel show back in 2005. Bourdain was in Kuala Lumpur to sample some local food and Chef Wan was his guide. When contacted, he expressed sadness over Bourdain’s death.

“I remember we had fun filming that episode in Kampung Baru. At the end of the shoot, we exchanged a lot of ideas about food. His director at that time even said that I outshone him during our segment,” he recalled the memory fondly.

He added: “Later in another interview, I found out that Anthony said he was impressed with my contribution to his show. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with him.” – Interviewed by Angelin Yeoh

Anthony Bourdain

This might be the most popular photo of Sarawak Laksa ever. Bourdain shared this on social networks, attracting more than 100,000 Likes in total.

Celebrity chef Anis Nabilah, host of shows like AFC’s Icip Icip and TV3’s 1, 2 Bakar is a huge fan of Bourdain and was very upset by his death.

“It’s devastating, I really can’t believe it. He had such a great impact on the culinary world and on me. He was a brilliant man and storyteller, there is no one else like him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family,” she said.

Anis added that Bourdain’s amazing storytelling skills in his cookbooks are part of the reason she feels she just isn’t ready yet to write her own cookbook.

“I always say I’m not ready yet to write my own cookbook, because I cannot tell stories like Anthony Bourdain.

Anyone can pick up his cookbooks and it’s like reading a beautiful story book,” she said. – Interviewed by Abirami Durai

Asia’s guru of grub, Singaporean KF Seetoh, founder of Makansutra and the World Street Food Congress of which Bourdain was a collaborator, was almost speechless.

“I am beyond shocked,” he said. “I lost a very sincere and hardcore partner in this journey to celebrate life and real food culture. I was just in New York last month speaking to some partners on how we can revive his nixed Bourdain Market … and now this.”

Above all else, he will remember his buddy for his “brutal honesty”. – Interviewed by Julie Wong

He’s the chef and superstar of real food, known for his no bullsh*t approach. I interviewed him about his quest to save street food during the World Street Food Congress in Manila last year. He had this amazing clarity about the heart and soul of food, and street food in particular, for him embodied the culture, history, heart and soul of a region.

“I was at that time miffed that Malaysia never got into the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list and he told me, ‘now you don’t have anything to worry about, that list is just bullsh*t’. I didn’t quote him on that then, but I think he should have his say. – Julie Wong, former food editor at Star2

Anthony Bourdain

Malaysian food writer Helen Ong appeared in an episode of Bourdain’s No Reservations back in 2012.

In 2012, Anthony Bourdain filmed an episode of No Reservations in Penang and met with food writer Helen Ong. Some of the things he ate in Penang included a mouth-watering Peranakan food spread prepared by Ong’s mother.

“Unlike other chefs I’ve interviewed, Anthony was flexible. He said I could ask him anything. He was charming and nice. It’s sad really to hear about his death. I got the impression that he enjoyed Penang very much. He loved the food. I’m sure my mother, who is 85 now, would be upset too to hear that he is gone,” she said. – Interviewed by Angelin Yeoh

Celebrity chef Sherson Lian, owner of restaurant Hello by Kitchen Mafia and star of shows like AFC’s Family Kitchen With Sherson has been watching Bourdain on television since he was 17 and is deeply saddened by his death. “It just doesn’t seem to make any sense. To me, he was someone very special. We’re all still cooking food, but he’s sharing places that people would never think of going with the the world,” he said.

Lian is also a fan of Bourdain’s no-holds-barred, true-to-himself approach to being on television. “He was the only one who smoked and drank on television. That’s the beauty of his personality, it’s him we want to watch – it goes beyond food. He wasn’t trying to please anybody, just true to his core, which is why those of us in the industry always looked up to him.”– Interviewed by Abirami Durai

Twitter reacts: Tributes pour in for Anthony Bourdain

Twitter reacts: Tributes pour in for Anthony Bourdain

Friends and fans around the world have reacted to the death of Anthony Bourdain with stunned sorrow. Here are just a few tweets from fellow chefs and former US president Barrack Obama, with whom Bourdain had noodles and a cold beer in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2016.

Why we need to rethink what we think we know about suicide

Why we need to rethink what we think we know about suicide

The list of warning factors for suicide reads, in part, like a catalogue of everyday modern ills: lagging self-esteem, depression, loss of relationships or economic security, insomnia.

“When you look at those lists,” says Eric Beeson, core faculty member at Northwestern University’s Counseling@Northwestern, “it almost seems like who’s not a candidate for suicide?”

And yet, in the wake of a highly publicised death by suicide like that of fashion designer Kate Spade or celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain, our scrutiny of the act centres around a need to quickly settle on a cause and, on some level, to distance ourselves from it.

Spade’s longtime friend Elyce Arons told The New York Times that when the subject of celebrity suicides came up in their discussions about Spade’s depression, her friend assured her, “‘I would never do that. I would never do that. I would never do that.’ And I believed her.”

“At some point in everyone’s life,” says Beeson, “they have said they would never do that. But I believe we are all just a few life events away from considering it. So for me, we’re all on that continuum.”

National Institute of Mental Health data show that in 2016, one million US adults made plans for death and attempted suicide. Yet most of us lack even the most basic understanding of what leads to these deaths, beyond those well-known risk factor lists.

The picture is much more complicated, says Beeson, and it might be time to take a more nuanced view. Suicide risk is not as simple as a list of risk factors.

“We talk about suicide as this one thing,” says Beeson, “but suicide is really this spectrum of behaviours. You always ask, ‘Are they suicidal?’ and for me that’s really a limiting question.”

In assessing whether someone might kill themselves, Beeson looks at “key variables that seem to be more related to death”. Those are:

Perceived burdensomeness, “this idea that my death is more valuable than my life”;
Thwarted belongingness, “meaning I try to make meaningful connections and they just don’t work out”;
Hopelessness, “OK, I have this and it’s never going to get better”;
Acquired capability, the ability to set aside normal psychological and physical constraints and perform an act that may be painful or horrifying.

With the first two factors, Beeson says, people begin to have ideas about suicide. Adding hopelessness can bring on planning of a suicide. But the final factor is the hardest to discern. Clinicians like Beeson look for clues that the person might have become more inured to pain, shame or guilt.

Past histories of abuse, substance abuse disorders, assaults or even professions such as medicine that make contact with death part of the everyday can constitute a slow wearing away of the mental and physical barriers to self-harm.

“People work along that continuum until they start to overcome the pain, the shame and the guilt,” he says, “and then the value of suicide starts to outweigh the pain shame and guilt.”


Suicide is not typically an impulsive act.

“People talk about it being selfish, people talk about it being irrational,” says Beeson, “but actually I think a lot of suicides are very well thought out, very well contemplated. And generally not impulsive.

“Generally, this is a long process for an individual that started with a faint idea that gradually took hold as those risk factors mounted and as the capability came into their purview.”

Leaving behind a note, as Kate Spade reportedly did, can be interpreted as evidence of the contemplation suicide often entails – it may be an attempt to remove the last psychological barriers to death.

“Some people might say that it’s a last way to cope with some of the guilt,” says Beeson. “The guilt can be a protective factor in a certain way, so some people might say that’s a way to reduce that. There’s something about this that the person is still not okay with, so they are trying to address that.”

The philosophical debate on suicide is more present than ever.

In ancient societies, suicide was sometimes interpreted as an available and even noble choice. Today, in countries like Switzerland, where there are euthanasia clinics, assisted suicide is accepted. Five US states and the District of Columbia have “Death with Dignity” laws that allow assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness.

“That gets us into the discussion of whether it is ever okay and under what circumstances,” Beeson says. “Some people would argue that if I have a chronic mental health condition that interferes with my quality of life, is that any different than a fatal medical condition? And that’s a really really hard discussion to have.”

To shift your perspective on suicide, think back to the events of 9-11, and how you felt about the people who chose to jump from the Twin Towers before the burning buildings collapsed. “That analogy is not too different from someone who has a depressive disorder,” says Beeson.

“It’s not true flames, but it’s the flames of something. It’s easier for us to look at the 9-11 example and say, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to judge that person,’ but what if it’s flipped around and these are not real flames, but it’s something that’s very real to that person?”

Given any of these circumstances – the burning building, the terminal cancer or the extreme, persistent mood disorder – Beeson points out, none of us really know what we would choose to do.

Condemning suicide might hinder prevention. “I think we run the risk of looking at it as a black and white thing,” says Beeson, “and that’s just not the way it is. I really do view suicide as a continuum and frankly we are all on it in some way. Some of us are just much farther from it than others.”

There is a movement aimed at destigmatising suicide, including changing the ways in which we talk about it – “committed suicide” conjures an image of committing a crime, while more straightforward language – “died by suicide” or “killed themselves” avoid those punishing overtones.

Willingness to view suicide as a part of human behaviour, without judgement, may be difficult. But, Beeson says, it can be the key to helping someone who is considering killing themselves. “If we view ourselves as too separate from people and we think that we’ll never be there, then it’s really hard to connect with people in a meaningful way.”

Before talking to someone about whether they are contemplating suicide, he suggests, think about where you’re coming from.

“Have the hard dialogue with yourself: ‘Am I so far removed from this?’ and if I am, I’m probably going to be perceived as coming from a judgemental place. That’s going to make it harder to connect with someone and catch it sooner, if you will. You want people to be able to be open enough to share with you before it gets to the point where they’ve made the plan, they’re set on this and it’s going to happen.”

The goal? To get past the suicidal thoughts, and offer an alternative. “We try to find out what they are trying to achieve with this choice,” says Beeson, “and then show them another way to get there.” – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service/Cindy Dampier


Befrienders Malaysia, Selangor at (03) 7956-8144 or (03) 7956-8145

Life Line Association Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur at (03) 4265-7995

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