The Best Of Surinamese Cooking, by Muriel Sam-Sin Hewitt
This book is surprisingly poignant, mostly because its introductory page includes a note from the editor that says that the author (who had written this book originally in Dutch) did not live to see this book translated into English and published for the foreign audience that the author was aiming for. Although I am a frequent reader and reviewer of cookbooks, I think it can be universally agreed upon that I am far more proficient at eating than I am at cooking, although probably about as equally proficient reading as eating. This particular book aims at bringing Surinamese cooking to a larger audience of foreigners than would be the case with a Dutch language-only book. I cannot say that this effort was or will be successful, but I can say that this book is a good one and that the cuisine it is about is a good one, and that the book is a practical one that seeks to convey how Surinamese food is eaten. Given this, it is the sort of effort I appreciated and also one that I would enjoy seeing better known and better appreciated around the world.
This book is a short one at about 120 pages, but it manages to have a lot of dishes in it, largely because the book is focused on providing a lot of pretty simple and straightforward recipes in various categories, along with a few photos, but nothing too complicated. The dishes are organized into a few thematic categories that are pretty easy to understand: soup, salad, main dishes, side dishes, vegetables, meat, fish, savoury snacks, cakes, cookies, and treats, and miscellaneous dishes that do not fit in. The foods themselves are a mixture of local dishes that came about out of Suriname’s complex mixture of societies, or dishes adapted from the Dutch (like the tasty pom, the local chicken pot pie), or dishes that spring from the black, Indian, Indonesian, or East Asian experience. Some dishes include the cassava, and many of them involve chicken and rice and other ingredients. Some are spicy, but most of them are thankfully mild. The dishes involve a lot of fruits and vegetables, most of which were brought from other places but then adapted to the local climate (where many things grow well) and to the local blend of foods. Some of the foods even appear to be uniquely Surinamese, although most are not.
As someone who has tried many of these dishes, I can say that I warmly recommend many of them, as long as some changes are made. For example, many of the dishes include shrimp and some of them include mango, and for different reasons I would want both of those removed from any dishes. For the most part, though, the dishes are not very complicated and include a few ingredients and ways to fix them (which have to be converted between metric and standard units). The dishes range over the full cuisine of Suriname and this book is definitely a suitable best-of compilation of various dishes from one of the more obscure cuisines of the world. If you like tropical food with a blend of European, African, and Asian elements, this book will have a lot of foods that you will enjoy, even if I have never seen a Surinamese restaurant anywhere I have ever traveled outside of Suriname itself. Whether or not this book (or others like it) encourages such a development is impossible at this point to say, but it is a fair guess to say that those who eat this cuisine will likely have a lot of good things to say about it.