It was the aroma. The exotic scent of spices: rich, alluring, and almost magical. A scent that would sometimes overpower the freshness in the air and sometimes subtly mingle with it to create a tantalizing bouquet. A scent that would always bring me back to my childhood.”

Author: Christina Arokiasamy

Such is the introduction to The Spice Merchant’s Daughter: Recipes and Simple Spice Blends for the American Kitchen. This book is first and foremost a cookbook but the recipes and their star ingredients, the spices, are introduced through a foundation of anecdotes and traditional knowledge from Arokiasamy’s spice-infused childhood.  The book has a beautiful composure and instantly feels like an old friend that is happy to be in your kitchen and share your company.

There are recipes for the table, recipes for health, and the overall effect is a book that is a recipe for sharing and enjoying.

Why I like it: True to the title, the recipes are geared for the American kitchen or the non-Indian kitchen. They are easy to follow, fun to modify, and the results are awesome. We made the Saffron Pilaf and it was like eating your way through a saffron, Indian-spice flavored cloud.  And believe me, I’m not proud to admit this but rice is not my strong point in the kitchen. If I can emerge with spiced fluff for rice you know it’s a quality recipe!

In addition to breaking the book down into the expected food categories, the most fun and interesting chapter (besides the intriguing introduction) is The Spice Pantry. Not only does it provide a thorough list of essential Indian spices along with their explanations but there are great call-outs such as The Healing Power of Herbs and Spices. This sidebar offers fun and useful information.

Here’s one healing spice example which is just in time for Thanksgiving: ” Add a pinch of anise seed to yogurt to aid digestion.”

Don’t confuse this book with the novel, The Spice Merchant’s Daughter. I haven’t read it but after a little reviewing it appears to teeter on the edge of one of those Harlequin romance novels. Doubt I’ll be adding to the Spice Sherpa Bookshelf.

Speaking of bookshelves, I’m curious if you agree with me on this one. Yeah, yeah…you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. True. But an artsy cover sure sparks up your library! This book gives a cool patina to the cookbook shelf.

When it comes to food books, what are your favorites?