This is one of those cookbooks that gives a warm glow. You don’t have to be from LA. You don’t even have to be American to be able to appreciate a book about a spot that just oozes food-related delight. LA’s Original Farmers Market Cookbook is a picture-book with recipes. A cookbook and travelogue. An invitation to temptation.
JoAnn Cianciulli is a successful food writer and producer of food-related television programmes. She is a New Yorker now living in Los Angeles who has been enjoying the charms of the Farmers Market for over 10 years. It has inspired her to capture the best of dishes on offer and to tell something of the warm and colourful history of a popular LA institution. It’s been around since 1934 so it’s doing something right.
When we in Britain think of farmers markets we conjure visions of a few stalls selling mud-garnished carrots, small punnets of soft fruits, and over-priced designer lettuce, with perhaps a hot-dog stall and a tea urn for refreshments (although the number and quality of UK farmers markets is fast improving). The farmers market at 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles is more generously proportioned than most of its UK cousins and also sports a wealth of casual eateries which have supplied the recipes for this book.
The food is an ethnically diverse mix that reflects the makeup of the visitors to the market, be they locals or tourists. There is something for every taste and I find the collection of recipes quite appealing. If you are a lover of pizza then you will want to try Patsy’s Special. The crust is a soft New York style with a bunch of my favourite toppings which includes anchovies, an addition that I know is not always popular but which does introduce a saltiness to cut the fat of lots of cheese. This pie was a regular snack for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Jo DiMaggio so you’ll be munching a slice of history.
Another slice, or should I say ladleful, of Americana comes in the guise of Seafood Gumbo with Cornbread Muffins. This is provided by The Gumbo Pot which specialises in Cajun cuisine from New Orleans. This is, in my humble opinion, some of the best original American food around. A fusion of African and New World flavours – a combination of shrimps and okra. This is a surprisingly easy dish to make at home. It’s delicious and looks amazing.
LA’s Original Farmers Market Cookbook presents the best of real American food. That’s not to be found in the swanky yet anonymous restaurants mushrooming in every large city. This is food that reminds us of Hollywood movies, of mom-and-pop diners and the multitude of ethnic origins of twenty-first century Americans. I’ll be spending my next US vacation at 3rd and Fairfax.
LA’s Original Farmers Market Cookbook
Author: JoAnn Cianciulli
Published by: Chronicle Books
Price: $22.95US, £15.99
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018