Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $24.95, 240 pages
You will not place this book on your cookbook shelf but on your pile of “must-read books.” The author presents sixteen food and beverage artisans who gave a significant contribution to preserving our food heritage. They are mostly from the domestic scene but a number came from Western Europe and one from Africa. Each one is described in a beautifully written, very readable short chapter of about a dozen pages depicting their role in preserving a tradition. The subjects vary widely such as heirloom potatoes, wild mushrooms, persimmons, salami, olive oil and smoking hog, but also whiskey distilling and beer brewing. Each chapter is introduced by a half-page monochrome photograph of the artisan in action, a thumbnail map of their location and ends with two or three recipes. It would be a challenge just to find ingredients for some of the recipes. Your local market will not carry them (purslane, raw cow’s milk, Schlenkerla Rauchbier, ramp, stinging nettle, to mention a few). One chapter even includes a poem. At the end of the book you’ll find both recipe and subject index. The author also includes e-mail addresses and websites for 31 notable artisans. This book is a great reading.