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PAPERBACKS

September 05, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

PEPPERS by Amal Naj (Vintage: $11; 254 pp., illustrated). Although it's impossible to imagine Indian, Thai or Sichuan cuisine without the fiery peppers of the Capsicum family, the plants are native to the New World and were probably first cultivated in Bolivia. In this engaging study, Naj examines the difficulties of classifying pepper plants, documents the involved lawsuits in America over the name "Tabasco," and traces the use of peppers in Asia and other parts of the world (chefs in Europe and the United States have approached hot peppers less eagerly). Naj is a pepper enthusiast, savoring the pods that leave him gasping and sweaty; readers with less adventurous palates may shudder at his ardent descriptions.

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