Falling Cloudberries is a breathtaking book, one that you will want to press close to you as well as one that will make your kitchen sing. A cookbook wrapped in poetry, Falling Cloudberries offers many pleasures on top of the wonderful family recipes gleaned from far corners of the world. Author Tessa Kiros is a poet of food, and this book springs from her sensitivity to the small details of life, from an understanding that what we cherish most in the foods we eat is not only taste, but the memories forged by the aromas of the kitchen, by the sight of tools lying on a counter, of herbs growing under a kitchen window. In lyrical prose, Kiros relates her own memories, but the reader's memories are evoked with hers, for she touches the very core of memory. With her we remember how secure we felt as children, present to the aromas of cooking and the sounds of our protective parents preparing a meal. Every recipe is an ode to family and to memory.
Kiros' background was geographically far-flung and affords her the chance to explore and share world-wide recipes. Cooking was a tradition with both Kiros grandparents and parents. From her Finnish mother Kiros learned the heart of Scandinavian cooking, from her Greek-Cypriot father and his family she learned the robust cooking of the Mediterranean. As a child the family lived in South Africa, bringing another cuisine into Kiros traditions. These are the recipes that Kiros grew up with, recipes that "have woven their way through the neighborhoods of my mind, past indifference and into love." As an adult she now lives in Italy, and Italian recipes are packed into the book alongside the ones of her youth and her heritage. Stating that she has always recorded recipes in a journal while she travels, she has included "a suitcase of recipes" gleaned from her travels.
With her awareness of detail, Kiros recipes are meticulous. They are carefully written and easy to follow. Kiros has organized chapters by country which simplifies meal-planning. The book title and chapter 'falling cloudberries' refers to Finland and you will find recipes from a classic Gravlax with Dill Cucumbers, to a special Finnish Mustard, or elegant Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns.
In the two chapters that cover Greece and Cyprus there are such recipes as Avgolemono (Chicken Soup with Egg and Lemon), Chickpea, Feta and Cilantro Salad, Fried Potatoes and Artichoke Bottoms, Salt-Baked (whole) Fish with lemon and Parsley Salad, Leg of Lamb with Oregano and Lemon. For sweets there are recipes such as Baklava with Nuts and Dried Apricots, Deep-Fried Honey and Cinnamon Syrup Puffs (Loukoumades). From South Africa there are recipes for Fried Chicken, Barbecued Spare Ribs, Beef with Raisin Sauce, Pineapple, Cinnamon and Allspice Cake, and many lemony desserts, such as a Lemon Ice Cream.
From Italy, Kiros' home today, she offers recipes such as Spinach and Truffle Pies, Arugula, Parmesan, and Pomegranate Salad with Balsamic Vinegar, Risotto with Artichokes and Italian Sausage, Pizza (three ways), Veal Loin with Mustard, Pancetta and Cabbage, Coffee Granita with Whipped Cream, or Zabaglione. From her 'suitcase' of recipes, she has recipes for Tom Ka Gai (Thai Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk, Lime, and Cilantro) Couscous Salad from the Middle East, Lentils, Rice and Red Onion Salad from Peru, Carrot Salad with Cardamom, Ginger and Lemon from India, and some Classic Ice Cream recipes, including a Caramel Ice Cream, and Passion Fruit Ice Cream.
Though the recipes reach around the globe, they are all approachable and use ingredients that are not hard to find. Kiros has focused on everyday recipes, and while there are some that are demanding of time, they are primarily the foods that so beloved that they have become classics.
Falling Cloudberries is a visual feast, and both the photographer Manos Chatzikonstantis and art director Lisa Greenberg share the author's fine sensibility. They give us, not only photos of food, but of landscapes such as a whitewashed wall in Greece that speaks of "the smell and sound of the long straw broom," of an uneven stone road in Italy, its gaps covered with moss. The food is there as well and the photographs are among the best we've seen.
There are many family cookbooks available. None carry as much heart and as much of the true sentiment that the word family evokes. This is a book to cherish.