In the past twenty years, since he won the Pulitzer for The Prize, his encyclopedic history of the discovery of oil and the ensuing battles for control over the world’s supply, Daniel Yergin, our neighbor, has become the global media’s go-to expert on all matters about oil, energy, and geopolitics. The media loves him not only because he is so smart, but because he has the rare ability to communicate his knowledge clearly. The exploding growth in energy demand and the growing awareness of the ominous effects of energy use on Earth’s climate are the two major global issues that require national leaders to come to consensus, and Yergin clearly lays out what and where the options are. The New York Times book critic Dwight Garner says Yergin’s new The Quest (Penguin Press, $37.95) should be required reading for “C.E.O.s, conservationists, lawmakers, generals, spies, tech geeks, and thriller writers,” and that means a lot of people in Washington.
How is it possible that every year Adam Gopnik writes a book even better than his last one? And how is it possible, on the evidence in The Table Comes First (Knopf, $25.95), that he has so much time after his day job at The New Yorker that he makes three different rice puddings, each with its own meaning and savor? Who before Gopnik has rhapsodized about the English essayist Elizabeth Pannell, a stout Victorian food writer who reveled in gluttony as a “cardinal virtue”? A hedonist unabashedly addicted to discovering an infinite number of ways to combine saturated fat, sugar, starch, and salt to produce ecstatic pleasure, Gopnik is as pragmatic as he is humorous, a sophisticate with a favorite meal of salmon, broccoli, and brown rice. Anyone who enjoys eating will completely relish Gopnik’s report from the kitchen, a Manhattan workspace enhanced by the presence of the family dog, Butterscotch.
Paula Wolfert has been visiting Moroccan markets and kitchens for fifty years. By now she knows what she likes, and she presents her favorite dishes—most of them easily manageable by a novice cook—in The Food of Morocco (Ecco, $45). Several years ago I spent ten days eating my way from Fes to Rabat to Marrakech, and many of Wolfert’s recipes evoke pleasurable memories of this delicious and low-cholesterol Mediterranean cuisine. (I always substitute olive oil for butter in the tangine.) No tangine? No problem. Wolfert says it’s desirable, but not necessary. I’ve consistently achieved success with tangine maghdor (seared lamb kabobs) with a clay pot in the oven. You’ll find myriad ways to combine chicken, lemons, olives, and olive oil here to make a month’s worth of tasty dishes.