Charleston to Phnom Penh
A Cook's Journal
Foodies, travel enthusiasts, culinary historians, fans of fine writing, and cookbook collectors will feast on John Martin Taylor's Charleston to Phnom Penh. A unique vision of a joyous and peripatetic life, these essays take readers on a journey across three continents, from the South Carolina Lowcountry of Taylor's upbringing to the Caribbean, Italy, France, Eastern Europe, and Asia.
Taylor recalls his mother's before-her-time culinary experiments; probes historical archives to research the origins of classic dishes; and remembers adventures sailing, dancing, and fishing, as well as cooking. His gaze is social, etymological, personal, comic, and historical, and all foods are considered fair game for scrutiny. Taylor tells us how to bake with olive oil, why he doesn't make wedding cakes, what to do in Transylvania, and how he came to be a voice of the Lowcountry. Make a margarita and delve into his deconstruction of hoppin' john, his erstwhile namesake; the history of cheese straws; and how to make callaloo and fish amok.
About the Authors
"John Martin Taylor embodies himself in landscapes and absorbs water, air, earth and spirit. This project, bridging his journeys southeast of America and Asia, with stops in Italy, Romania, China, and the Caribbean in between exposes a culinary dialogue of an artist with his art we are privileged to be a part of. This collection is magical."—Michael W. Twitty, author of The Cooking Gene and Koshersoul
"How lucky we are to have John Martin Taylor's collected works! These essays are filled with exuberance, wit, and erudition, at turns poignant and funny. Charleston to Phnom Penh captures a life rich in food, friendship, and art. Equal parts scholarship, memoir, travelogue, culinary companion, and language lesson, this is truly a book to savor."—Darra Goldstein, food historian and founding editor of Gastronomica
"I have known John Taylor since we met in Paris 40 years ago. His friendship was the key to an amazingly rich new world. Not only is he a wonderful cook, someone who cooks with his soul, with all his life history, but he's a passionate scholar of everything we ingest. This truly marvelous book encapsulates all this and more. It's a declaration of love to life."—Jean-Sébastien Stehli, associate managing editor of Madame Figaro
"I had the good fortune to meet the inimitable John Martin Taylor at his Charleston bookshop years ago while I was a young newspaper food writer full of questions and his grand epicurean journey had already begun. This Lowcountry man who was born in Louisiana has been on the move all his life, and now, finally, we can find out where he's been. And meet his grandmother who showed him how to dry green summer apples on a window screen and learn the secret to his mother-in-law's chocolate chip cookies. And see how to make pesto like they do in Genoa and understand why he doesn't want to make wedding cake anymore, no matter how good of friends you are. (It has something to do with summer heat, a broken air conditioner, and vodka.) This bright, witty, globe-trotting epicure has just shared it all, and we better pull up a chair and listen."—Anne Byrn, author of American Cake, The Cake Mix Doctor, and Between the Layers newsletter on Substack
"A legendary writer and cook, John M. Taylor is one of the finest culinary and historical treasures of his generation. Two of my first cookbooks, The New Southern Cook and Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking, are still some of my favorites and quite worn with use. Anyone can cook Southern if they follow along with this master of the craft!"—Tank Jackson, hog farmer and owner of Holy City Hogs
"What a pleasure, what a treasure—John Taylor's culinary musings all pulled together in one fascinating volume. I especially loved the beginning chapters with such hauntingly delicious memories of his early years, in the South and many other parts of the world. In a word: Delightful!"—Nancy Jenkins, food historian and journalist, author of Virgin Territory
"You are about to make a friend. Meet John Martin Taylor, also known as Hoppin' John, also known as Bubba to a very select few among whom I number myself. In these pages he invites you to sit with him for a while. If you do, I can guarantee that he will dazzle you with his erudition, astonish you with knowledge garnered in his travels, and delight you with his sense of humor that will have you at times laughing out loud. . . . The tales that are told are an exuberant love letter to a life well lived: a life that is savored daily—one seasoned with thought, simmered with humor, and served up with JOY."—From the foreword by Jessica B. Harris, PhD, culinary historian, and author of High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America
Other Titles by John Martin Taylor
Other Titles in BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Culinary