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Marina Chang


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#1 eGullet Staff

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Posted 15 April 2003 - 10:01 AM

Marina Chang is the author of Tastes of the Pyrenees, Classic and Modern. In writing her first book, Marina drew upon her background as a world traveler and passionate cook, as well as her experience in biology and natural resources.

The dishes in Marina's book include ancestral and contemporary ones from what today is Catalonia in both Spain and France (Roussillon), Languedoc, Andorra, the Midi Pyrenees, Aquitaine, the Basque country (Euskal Herria) in both France and Spain, Asturias, Navarra, and Aragón. Through her narratives, she demonstrates that the political border between Spain and France, divided the Catalan and Basque peoples, but could not change the fact that the foods and culinary traditions of this region acknowledge no such boundaries, and are derived from a cross-fertilization of many cultures whose men and women crisscrossed the region over dozens of centuries.

Each of the recipes opens with a short narrative introduction that discusses its origins or highlights the differences and similarities in the various cooking styles of this complex culinary region. Additional chapters summarize the natural and human history of the region to provide a background for today's Pyrenean cuisines, and a separate chapter on regional wines summarizes traditions that date back to the time of the Greeks and Romans and were kept alive in monasteries during the Middle Ages. With an interest in wildlife and natural history, Marina also highlights the hunting and gathering traditions of the region, with a section and recipes on wild game and narratives on mushroom gathering. She also attempts to illustrate how the native cuisine is ultimately a product of the natural foods that can be grown, gathered, or hunted in their immediate environs, and the collective experience and wisdom of their ancestors as to how to prepare these products.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of creativity in the kitchens of this region, which makes an exciting culinary journey for the traveler to this area. Chefs such as Ferran Adrià, Santi Santamaria, and Joan Roca, in Catalonia, Juan Mari Arzak, Martin Berasategui, Pedro Subijana, and Hilario Arbelaitz in the Basque country are among the most creative and wonderful chefs in the world today. Marina Chang visited these restaurants and adapted some of the chefs' recipes in this cookbook.

Marina Chang majored in fisheries and natural resources management at Cornell University, where classes in wine, food, and their origins served as a springboard for her lifelong interest in the world's cuisines. The many years spent in multi-cultural areas, growing up in New York City, and living and working in Hawaii for eight years, sparked Marina's curiosity about the amalgamation of cultures and evolution of regional cuisines. Marina has traveled extensively with her husband, Craig S. Harrison, in Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and North America, focusing on the native wildlife, investigating local markets, and learning about the foods characteristic to each region.

During her years on Capitol Hill working on legislative matters for a member of Congress, she dined at some of the finest food establishments in Washington, D.C. and attended numerous receptions and special events, catered by the area's top kitchens. The creative artistry of top chefs motivated her to pursue the world of gastronomic possibilities, and Marina began taking an active role in seeking out fine food, expanding her culinary knowledge, and to cook. After she assisted a college friend cook a celebratory Russian Easter feast, the parents of her friend were impressed enough to ask her to write a cookbook.

During the creation of this book, Marina simultaneously managed the building of their new house in California. After having lived and worked in Washington, D.C. for 13 years, the author and her husband recently moved to Sonoma County, California, where they currently reside.

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This Q&A will not be MQed. Copies of of Tastes of the Pyrenees, Classic and Modern will be given sent to five participants in the Q&A. Winners will selected by a random drawing.
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