The genius of the Somerville Arts Council lies in bringing people together around food. Over the years it had led walking tours of Union Square’s international markets and produced the Hungry Tiger Street Food Festival, an Iron Chef competition, and the What the Fluff? festival. Now it’s moved into book publishing with “Nibble: Exploring Food, Art and Culture in Union Square — and Beyond.” The lavishly illustrated volume succeeds as a cookbook, guidebook, and love letter to the square’s ethnic diversity.
For the reader who wants to get down to business, there are more than 25 recipes from local restaurants and cooks as well as an insider’s guide to about 40 markets and restaurants. This is where you’ll find out that Reliable Market devotes an entire aisle to kimchi and Café Tango, owned by dance instructor Vicky Magaletta, a native of Argentina, serves coffee and dessert until midnight.
Sprinkled throughout “Nibble” are reminiscences of favorite foods from far away. Ana Flores, who grew up in El Salvador, recalls bringing fresh blossoms home for her mother to cook with. Judith Laguerre, a native of Haiti, talks about shopping for essential ingredients such as banana flour and djon djon mushrooms. Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone’s mother teaches him how to crimp the dough for tiella di gaeta, a dish from her hometown of Gaeta, Italy, a sister city of Somerville.
“Nibble” celebrates Somerville food producers, such as cheese maker Fiore di Nonno and Taza Chocolate, and Somerville artists who use food as a medium. Judith Klausner sculpts cameos using the fillings of Oreos and other sandwich cookies. Francisco de la Barra incorporated his subjects’ favorite spices into his portraits of Union Square chefs and restaurant workers. The artists add a quirky twist to a book that brings together a world of flavors.
More from Diaz, at long last
Junot Diaz’s first novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” published in 2007, was a literary sensation that won a Pulitzer and a host of other honors. Diaz, who teaches writing at MIT, is a sought-after speaker and a slow writer, as he himself admits. On Sept. 11, Riverhead Books will publish his collection of stories, “This Is How You Lose Her.” Diaz, no doubt, will be one of the hottest literary tickets of the fall. He’ll be at the Coolidge Corner Theatre on Sept. 19 (tickets at Brookline Booksmith) and at the Brattle Theatre on Sept. 26 (tickets at Harvard Book Store). He’ll also be at Porter Square Books on Oct. 24.
Bookstores often host major authors off-site so check the website of the sponsoring bookstore for details. Other hot tickets: Zadie Smith on Sept. 19 and Louise Erdrich on Oct. 8 (Porter Square Books); Salman Rushdie on Oct. 9 (Harvard Book Store); Sherman Alexie on Oct. 16 (Brookline Booksmith); and Barbara Kingsolver on Nov. 13 (Harvard Book Store).
■ “Stella Adler on America’s Master Playwrights”edited by Barry Paris (Knopf)
■ “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel”by Jonathan Evison (Algonquin)
■ “The Beautiful Mystery”by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Pick of the week
Elizabeth Merritt of Titcomb’s Bookshop in East Sandwich recommends “A Hundred Flowers” by Gail Tsukiyama (St. Martin’s): “Chairman Mao’s directive to let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend proves to be a trap for Sheng, a high school teacher who speaks out against the Communist Party. He is imprisoned, leaving his wife and young son to make their home with his father, a retired university professor. Tsukiyama is a masterful storyteller, and the reader is quickly caught up in the turmoil of China’s Cultural Revolution.”
Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.