Reading: Mina Holland's The Edible Atlasf

Food escorts us back in time and shapes our memory. The distinct flavours, ingredients and cooking techniques that we experience in other spaces and times are also a gateway to the culture in question
— Mina Holland, The Edible Atlas

Some might say I have a thing for cookbooks. Upon inspecting my bookcase, you might even go further and call it a full-blown obsession. There's just something really special about rows and rows of colourful books guiding you through various cooking processes. In any case, I admit to idolising Mina Holland, the author of my latest bookshelf addition, The Edible Atlas. Having picked up the book on a quick trip to the UK this June, I haven't been able to leave the house without it. It's accompanied me on trips to the swimming pool and Berlin's surrounding lakes, as well as tedious work commutes. Anyone quoting Proust and referring to Calabria region as "Italy's culinary wallflower, reminiscent of the protagonist in a 90s teen drama" has my deepest respect - pair that with impeccable culinary research and on-point writing and said respect turns to adoration. 

"When we eat, we travel." Those are Mina Holland's first words, and they stuck. A culinary travel guide, taking you to 39 countries and their regional cuisines, The Edible Atlas manages to grab you from the get-go. One minute you're dreaming of sunny vineyards in Burgundy, the next you are fantasising about the taste of Spanish pimentón and spicy Calabrian sausages.

What could easily have turned into a heavy duty history book, comes in a handy paperback format. Instead of long, wordy chapters, Holland sums up each country's best dishes in short paragraphs and history anecdotes, quotes local writers and asks chefs and friends for their traditional recipes. Although it's a book I haven't been able to put down, it's not advisable to read in one go - there are simply too many flavours and colours of each chapter/country to develop in your mind, before you can move on to the next. This works to its advantage, however - you can easily dip in and out, almost like a mini holiday in itself.

If you, like me, call yourself a foodie, enjoy trying out new flavour combinations and are interested in the stories behind famous dishes, then I beseech you to give this book a read.

Lilly Wolf