“Street Food: Authentic Snacks from around the World” is probably not the best book to read when you’re hungry. There are 186 pages crammed with Fabrizio Esposito’s gorgeous photography of people cooking, eating and selling food on streets all over the world.

“Street Food: Authentic Snacks from around the World” by Carla Diamanti and Fabrizio Esposito. h.f.ullman; imprint of Tandem Verlag GmbH. 2011.


“Street Food: Authentic Snacks from around the World” is probably not the best book to read when you’re hungry. There are 186 pages crammed with Fabrizio Esposito’s gorgeous photography of people cooking, eating and selling food on streets all over the world. And there’s something about plein air presentation that is like icing on a cake. The author, Carla Diamanti, says that outdoor food stalls hearken back to how it was in the beginning when we cooked and ate outdoors. Street food calls to us.


The streets are social places; they draw connections between what is known and what is yet to be discovered and they provide space for commerce and interaction. Food cooked on streets is close to irresistible. The aromas wafting in our direction, the artful displays, the sounds of meats sizzling, the close proximity and the personalities of the cooks make up a sensory ensemble that quickens the heart.


Diamanti and Esposito have captured the essence of street food. As for the authenticity mentioned in the title, perusing the book confirms that, yes, there are samosas and pakoras in India, but they’re also in Kenya and the Muslims make a variety in South Africa. And you’ll find satay throughout much of Asia. It’s a specialty in Indonesia, however, where it may have originated. It’s nice to know a little more about what we eat.


You may choose to dwell on the photography because the portraits of food and people are both heartfelt and beautifully composed. The Japanese bento box is a work of art in itself. The pan pizza in southern France shimmers. There are steamed buns, waffles, loaves of bread. You’ll see gyros you only dreamed about and paella displaying all the primary colors. A date stand dwarfs its proprietor with varieties from across the Middle East.


Food has power over people, beyond its necessary nourishment. We watch a vendor slice tuna at a fish market in Tokyo. We stroll past an outdoor café and see people snacking on garlicky snails being served by the ladleful. A child is devouring an ice cream cone topped tantalizingly with whipped cream. We understand the pleasures and the anticipation we see on people’s faces in this, the most common of all markets.


And though you’ll be ravenous as you explore the photography, you’ll probably make the mistake of reading the text, which provides short evocative descriptions of the foods’ tastes and smells, their history, the way they’re eaten and what’s most popular where.


You’ll put this book down hungry but perhaps you’ll find consolation in the recipes.


Rae Francoeur can be reached at rae.francoeur@verizon.net. Read her blog at http://www.freefallrae.blogspot.com/ or her book, “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair,” available online or in bookstores.