Book Bag: ‘The Immigrant Cookbook’

Friday, December 29, 2017


Collected and edited by Leyla Moushabeck

Interlink Books/Interlink Publishing Group


At the close of a year during which a certain occupant of the White House has bad-mouthed many immigrants in our country, Interlink Books of Northampton offers a unique rebuttal to that rhetoric: a cookbook featuring recipes from immigrants.

“The Immigrant Cookbook” (which comes with a crisp rejoinder of a subtitle, “Recipes That Make America Great”) includes 70 dishes from first- and second-generation American chefs and food writers from six continents; the contributors add introductions about the origins of their recipes and what those dishes mean to them.

The book’s editor, Leyla Moushabeck, is part British and part Palestinian, and her husband is Colombian; she writes in the book’s introduction that native food, for many immigrants, provides a vital link to their old countries and cultures.

But immigrants also “bring ingredients and cooking techniques from their home countries [and] continue to influence how Americans cook and eat,” she says. And, Moushabeck notes, “Internationally sourced ingredients … and the interaction of cultures can inspire new kinds of foods.”

The recipes in “The Immigrant Cookbook” cover a full range of dishes, including salads, soups, fish, poultry, vegetables and desserts. Full-color photos of the meals provide plenty of accompanying eye candy.

Some of the contributors are also involved in food relief. Restaurant owner José Andrés, a native of Spain who provides his recipe for gazpacho, was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People”; he has been honored for his humanitarian work, including helping to feed thousands of people in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria this past fall.

Looking for a great vegetarian dish? Consider kurus: fried patties of bulgur wheat, grated potatoes and various spices. Add to that a Turkish “Spoon Salad” of tomato, cucumbers, onion, mint and other ingredients. These are the work of Didhem Hosgel, a native of Turkey who now is lead chef at Sofra Bakery & Cafe in Cambridge.

If you prefer to eat meat as part of a mixed dish rather than a main course, check out Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken) by Ingrid Hoffman, a native of Colombia whose tasty-looking dish includes shredded chicken with rice, peas, carrots, onions, red peppers and green olives with pimento.

Interlink Books notes that a minimum of $5 from the sale of each copy of “The Immigrant Cookbook” will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union to support the group’s efforts to protect immigrant rights. 


By Anthony J. Thomas, Jr.

Off the Common Books

For more than 35 years, from 1968 to 2003, The Lunch Box was a fixture along Route 9 in Williamsburg. The family-style restaurant, known by many simply as “The Box,” was a place to meet friends, catch up on local news and maybe discuss a little business.

Now the restaurant’s former owner, Anthony J. “Tommy” Thomas Jr., tells the story of the eatery and its times in his memoir “The Lunch Box … Crossroads of Williamsburg.”

Thomas, of Goshen, describes a bit of his background: how, after graduating from Northampton High School in 1954, he served in the U.S. Coast Guard and later worked a number of jobs before deciding, in his early 30s, that he needed to make a change.

That involved buying the vacant Lunch Box in 1968; the eatery had started as a hot dog stand in 1949 and been expanded a bit, but by 1968 it had become rundown. Fixing it up, and learning all that was involved in running a business, was rather daunting at first, Thomas writes: “I had never cooked an egg outside our home.”

But his memoir reveals how family members, including his mother, his children and his wife, as well as friends, all pitched in to make “The Box” a popular place over the years. The book includes photos of many of those people as well as those of a few high-profile customers, such as John Hannah, the star offensive lineman for the New England Patriots from 1973 to 1985.

Thomas also weaves in stories of his service in town government in Goshen, where he served on the Select Board, the Board of Health, the Fire Department and in other offices.

And lastly, he notes that his life has been guided by his religious faith, helping him through difficult moments like the death of his first wife, Celia. When he was with Celia during her last moments, he writes, “I knew God was there in that room.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.