Reading this remarkable cookbook-cum-scrapbook by Jake Tilson is like encountering a wonderful friend you haven't seen in years, and setting off together on a culinary journey through four countries to cook and have myriad happy experiences, and meet scores of fascinating people along the way.
It might be a monk singing an awe-inspiring rendition of "Ave Maria" in a family-run restaurant in Cortona, Italy, or a master pancake flipper at a breakfast haven in New York City. Or a recipe for the divine gnocchi-like spinach dumplings served in Tuscany.
With eighty recipes that are far-ranging and delicious, you'll learn to make black beans the Dominican way, couscous in the Tunisian fashion, and burritos flavored with Mexican beer and a chipotle chile.
And as you cook your way through his book, you'll fall in love with Jake's artistic family and their obsession with cooking and eating. Great characters all and, like many of us, as likely to spend their vacations wandering food markets as museums, then returning home with overweight luggage crammed full of local foods.
Anyone who thinks twice about tossing out a food can with a great label, who treasures stubs and receipts from travel for the experiences they evoke, or who feels nostalgic for kitchens of the past, will find a kindred soul in these pages.
And if you're someone without an urge to collect, or who'd just as soon stay and cook closer to home, you will be every bit as delighted with this dazzling collection of recipes.
Tilson presents his recipes in a remarkably original way. Subtly embedded in his wonderful descriptions, in tales told in his very engaging prose, is the reminder that cooking, sharing and eating meals with family and friends is of utmost importance in our lives.