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have you read any good food books lately?

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any comments, reccos?

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  1. garlic and sapphires by ruth reichl chronicles her stint as ny times book reviewer--she'd get totally dressed up in different outfits (and take on corresponding personas) to maintain her anonymity. it was an engaging fun fluffy read.

    9 Replies
    1. re: freddie

      I loved this book. Couldn't put it down until I finished it.

        1. re: coll

          Yes! I have enjoyed her other books, also.Some very good recipes too! Cooking For Mr Latte was fun (and a bit fluffy) too.

        2. re: freddie

          I'm a bit behind the times, but I'm reading "It must have been something I ate" since I found it in hardcover for $4.49 at B&N. I loved The Man Who Ate Everything, and I think this is even more cleverly written

          1. re: CulinaryKate

            Read it a year or so ago. Didn't eat spinach for a long time again.

          2. re: freddie

            Just finished it last week. I was fortunate enough to hear her, at a snappy event at the Brattle Cinema in Cambridge MA, talk about her experiences this past year. I'd already read her Tender At The Bone & Comfort Me With Apples. Some other books I've read are 1000 Days in Venice & 1000 Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi that I thought were wonderful adventures in learning, living, loving & eating.

            1. re: Taralli

              I did just finish reading "Comfort me with Apples" by Ruth Reichl. It's about food . . . and a whole lot more!


            2. re: freddie

              a thoroughly amusing book to read and probably fascinating for anyone who is a chowhound.

              1. re: freddie

                I am reading Stuffed (Adventures of a Restaurant Family) by Patricia Volk. I love it! One reviewer called it funny, heartbreaking and good enough to eat. I agree.

              2. The Accidental Connoisseur. Very funny.

                Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0865...

                1. Arthur Schwartz's New York Food is a great compendium of NYC food lore, great vintage photos of long gone places like Luchow's, and some good recipes.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: JPanda

                    I read Arthur Schwartz's book and am giving it away. Anyone in the NYC area want it?

                    1. re: eastvillagegirl

                      eastvillagegirl....i'll take that book off of your hands if you are still giving it away!-
                      you can contact me at bvmay1@aol.com

                  2. The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky. A history of NY City and the role of the oyster.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: JMF

                      Also check out Salt, by the same author. Really interesting.

                      1. re: BabyLitigator

                        Good also, by Kurlansky, is Cod, The Fish That Changed the World (not sure if I got the exact subtitle).

                        1. re: MollyGee

                          There's also his Basque History of the World. I have all his food books, they are a must for a good food reference library.

                    2. I've been reading Mark Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" off and on for a couple of weeks. I'll read a section and get so upset by what I'm learning that I have to stop for a bit and read something fun as a distraction. This book is absolutely fascinating and it's making me wish I could raise all my own food.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jillp

                        I just finished it a few nights ago. It took me longer than usual to read for the same reasons that you mention. It's a very thought-provoking book. It could have been a very dry book too, but Pollan manages to make his topic very readable and even witty, from time to time. And he's just so darned likeable!

                        1. re: jillp

                          By the way, it's Michael Pollan, not Mark.

                          I just finished this book, and found it fascinating and thought-provoking, especially his critique of post-industrial agricultural monoculture and the dominance of corn.

                          Not only is it bad for economic and environmental reasons, but it's also bad for the taste of the food. An example the book made me think of was tomatoes: I never liked tomatoes until relatively late in life, because the only tomatoes I ever had the chance to try were the flavorlessones you see that are grown for their propensity to last a long time in transport, not their taste. When I tasted a really good, fresh tomato I was sad at how much I've been missing all my life.

                          I'd also recommend "Botany of Desire", a previous book of Pollan's.

                          1. re: jillp

                            I started this book a couple of weeks ago. I haven't finished the first section on corn production yet, but I gave up beef after reading about the feedlot conditions. Yuch, I can't imagine such conditions and abuse can actually create "good" or "good for you" food. The human race is so arrogant in our willingness to pervert nature in so many ways, just for profits.

                            Interestingly enough, I spent some time in the Greek islands in May, and I was amazed at how close they are to their food. Every island has a specialty, their own cheese, wine etc. and they are so proud of their local food. It was amazing how good everything tasted and how we were easily satisfied with smaller portions and generally less food. It was about passion more than profit.

                            I honestly don't know what it will take for North American culture to wake up and smell the organic, fair trade coffee. But I will be finishing the book and looking for better food wherever I can get it.

                            A most fascinating and necessary read for a foodie. It also provides an interesting take on modern economics, war, politics etc.

                            1. re: dinin and dishin

                              Don't "give up beef" just yet--read the Grass section. You don't HAVE to eat industrial meat. More work, more $, but there are alternatives.

                          2. g

                            This isn't a "recent" book but it's one I revisit regularly: Every Grain of Rice by Ellen Blonder and Annabel Low. The authors come from the same cultural background as I and I find both the recipes, illustrations, and stories about the authors' childhood (and, by extension, the stories of their parents) genuine and heartfelt. Having lost my mother, I truly understand when the authors wrote (about their parents): "How I miss them! What I would give now for just one more meal with my parents. How I long to go back in time to savor those moments I didn't fully appreciate as a child, to look into my parents' kind faces one more time, to hear their voices and to taste their food once again."

                            It's a book that nourishes my stomach and my soul.

                            1. Fuchsia Dunlop's "Land of Plenty" is arguably the most useful guide to DIY Sichuan I've ever read.I'm in Toronto where even hard-to-find ingredients are abundant but I still find her book a revelation when it comes to technique and reproduction of this great cuisine's unique flavours. Adored Julia Child's "My Life in France," which will likely stand as one of the best culinary memoirs ever written.

                              1. "Two for the Road," the new book by Michael and Jane Stern, from Houghton Mifflin. Great fun.

                                Here's also an article from the Globe:

                                Link: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/c...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Fida

                                  I just read Two for the Road and although I love Jane and Michael Stern, I was a tad disappointed. For one thing, if you subtract the recipes, which are all for old-fashioned diner type food, the book is really not that long for a $25 hardcover. I finished it in a day. And some of the chapters I had definitely read before in Gourmet or elsewhere. I think they're true pioneers and have a great life, but I was a bit nauseated reading about how they eat 12 meals a day and have to guzzle Alka-Seltzer after dinner. No one forced them to overstuff themselves...

                                2. p

                                  I'm really enjoying Nigel Slater's latest, "The Kitchen Diaries". Couldn't resist when I saw it at Kitchen Arts and Letters in NYC, as I adored several of his previous books (esp. "Appetite"). This one is a diary of one year's eating/cooking. The recipes I've tried so far (Lemon Chicken Wings, Orange Ricotta Pancakes) have been sensational but what I think is really fabulous about it is the encouragement-by-example he gives to mindfully enjoy whatever produce is in season and to make each meal, no matter how simple, a celebration. The way he'll write about succulent Haitian mangoes or a simple basket of perfectly ripe berries makes my mouth water. Zucchini Cakes with Dill and Feta, here I come!

                                  1. "The Reach of a chef" by Michael Ruhlman. This is a sequel to his previous one "The Soul of a Chef." Both were fascinating accounts of what it means to be a chef in this country's increasingly demanding and celebrity-oriented food culture.

                                    But I think my all-time favorite food book is "Chinese Gastronomy" by Hsiang Ju and Tsuifeng Lin (wife and daughter of Lin Yutang). Wonderful recipes accompanied by nostaligic musings on cooking and eating in the "old country," along with lots of information about the meaning of food in Chinese culture. A beautiful book, now out of print, but available used on the internet.

                                    1. I cna't believe no one's mentioned it yet (although it did just come out last week)...HEAT by Bill Buford. Beautifully written and incredibly interesting.

                                      1. Kingsley Amis wrote a funny book on wine and cocktails titled KINGSLEY AMIS ON DRINK. Well worth looking for.

                                        My favorite food book is Digby Anderson's THE SPECTATOR BOOK OF IMPERATIVE COOKING. Whenever I return from a bad dinner party, it's the book I turn to for solace, resolve and laughs. For an idea of the contents, go to findarticles.com and look up the food writing he did for the National Review and the Daily Telegraph. Anthony Bourdain is rather mild compared to him.

                                        I bought Nigel Slater's KITCHEN DIARIES and enjoy it very much. Very inspirational, and great photographs. I hope this is the book that finally makes his name in the US.

                                        1. I just read a great food book called 'Cooking for Mr Latte' by Amanda Hesser. She is a food writer for the Times and it chronicles her relationship with her husband from the time they met, through their courtship and their marriage, and it is all about the food they consumed and made for each other. It has over 100 recipes, all that sound wonderful. It's one of those books that I want to own for the food!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: cooknKate

                                            Make sure you cook her almond cake, her "white" bolognese, and the "dump it" cake. They will all become staples.

                                          2. I have been reading Marion Nestle's "What We Eat" and I am fascinated by it. It covers prety much every single item in the food category that is stocked in an average supermarket and gives you any nutritional and (sometimes) political background of it. Not exactly a easy flowing book, but very educational, and well written.

                                            1. Anthony Bourdain's new book "The Nasty Bits" is a terrific read. Documented food adventures that only Bourdain can convey.

                                              1. Hmm, I'm not sure this counts as a food book, per se. More like a food chapter? I was in the bookstore earlier today and picked up a book on clearance, on a whim.

                                                It's called "Educating Alice, Adventures of a Curious Woman" by Alice Steinbach. The first chapter is entitled Cookin' at the Ritz, and it's an account of the author's experience taking a cooking and pastry class at the Ritz's culinary school in Paris (Ritz Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise, Paris - pardon all the missing accent marks!).

                                                Anyhow, I'm enjoying it so far, though the rest of the chapters (based on their titles) are not centered on food so much.

                                                Kathy/Kuisine (formerly KathySK)

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Kuisine

                                                  I read her previous book about being a woman, travelling alone. She's a wonderful writer... I recco her to all my like minded solitary female friends.

                                                2. I just finished "Insatiable" by Gael Greene. It was a fun read. All about her (pretty wild) life, loves and adventures being the restaurant critic for NY magazine since it's inception. It's racey and fun.

                                                  1. Great thread, and great posts!

                                                    I recently read "Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light" by Mort Rosenblum. It's an entertaining, quick read that shows how competitive the European chocolate industry is. I'm currently reading another of his books, "Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit".

                                                    And I just finished (2 years after publication) Calvin Trillin's "Feeding a Yen." This small volume of CT's food columns is a must for fans of his Tummy Trilogy - it's not quite as good, but it's still required reading.


                                                    1. I read "Insatiable" too and I agree that it was a fun read, yet I don't think it's a great food book. She whips her way through so many high-end, old-fashioned French restaurants that it's all a bit of a blur. I'm sure she is a great foodie, and yet I don't get that sense from the book. But she did have a good time bedding Elvis, etc.!

                                                      I can't wait to read the Jane and Michael Stern book.

                                                      1. The most interesting book I've read this year on food is What To Eat by Marion Nestle. Enlightening reporting of industrial food production and distribution in the US. Takes you down the supermarket aisles and discusses the laws involved in the marketing and labelling of food. Particularly enlightening to me was the labeling on fish and on "organic" foods. I think it is a must read, whether a food freak or not. She is a scientist and a journalist. LMF

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: LilMsFoodie

                                                          I second the recommendation for What to Eat. Unlike many books I read, I find that this book speaks to a lot of different audiences (not just those with a natural predilection toward reading about industrial agriculture). Her nutrition background adds an authoritative tone to the book that I found trustworthy and interesting. I have recommended it to several people who are enjoying reading it as well.

                                                        2. I recently read The Fat and the Thin by Zola (aka The Belly of Paris). While not exclusively about food, the story is set in and around Les Halles and there are wonderful descriptions of the markets and surrounding stores.

                                                          I've heard that the translation was questionable, but I think there's only one translation available in English.

                                                          1. As a chef, I really enjoyed Jacques Pepin's autobiography, The Apprentice.

                                                            1. Food, A Culinary History english edition by Albert Sonnenfeld, edited by Jean-Lousi Flandrin and Massimo Montanari. I picked this up in Green Apple books in San Francisco, and am finding it fascinating. At 500+ pages, I'd call it a slow read, but it is broken into fairly short articles on topics from "The Diet of the Etruscans" to "From Hearth to Table: Late Medieval Cooking Equipment" to "The Taste for Canned and Preserved Food".

                                                              1. Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, Artful Eater by Edward Behr, books by M.F. K. Fisher, Jim Crace's The Devil's Larder, Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

                                                                1. I have kind of been on a food book kick. On my nightstand:

                                                                  -The Omnivore's Dilemma
                                                                  -What to Eat
                                                                  -When French Women Cook

                                                                  Loving all of them.

                                                                  1. I liked "Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs," Witherspoon, Friedman eds. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1596...

                                                                    1. I love Ruth Reichl's "Garlic and Sapphires" (and her other two books as well).

                                                                      I just finished "Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, One Tiny Apartment Kitchen." A great read. I love her writing style.

                                                                      I also read two memoiors recently that were good: "Eating My Words" by Mimi Sheraton (she can be a bit pretentious at times) and "Fork it Over" by Alan Richman.

                                                                      1. Returning from vacation I caught up on some serious food reading:

                                                                        Heat- fascinating insider's look but certainly started to wonder a.) why Buford's wife tolerated this and b.) if he has a trust fund c.) is Mario really this obnoxious and gluttonous

                                                                        My Life in France - read, this now. inspiratioinal, moving love letter to a spouse, a passion and a country; honestly I wept when it was over

                                                                        Insatiable - a mistake to read in contrast to Julia. this is a beach read...although she has strong food metahpors her ego and sexual escapades made me think of a Joan Collins novel.

                                                                        Omnivore's Dilema - a well articulated presetation of our industrial foodchain, the evironment...good food for thought.

                                                                        1. Yikes, nobody has mentioned Michael Ableman's "Fields of Plenty". The author is one of those farmers who is so organic that "organic" is a middle-of-the-road label that he can take or leave. The book is about a trip he took all around the United States to visit with heroic farmers who are growing interesting and diverse varieties of food using organic, experimental methods, mostly for sale at farmers' markets. It's quite a good book and makes you think for just a moment that food could actually be good.

                                                                          1. I just finished reading Heat by Bill Buford. It was very interesting and sometimes funny.
                                                                            I thought the The Seasoning of a Chef: My Journey from Diner to Ducasse and beyond by Doug and Michael Psaltis was an even better read.

                                                                            1. I'm pushing to finish HEAT, which is due back at the library on Monday, and also browsing through Elizabeth David's IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE? as bedtime reading. I got about 2/3 of the way through OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA back in May but had to return it to the library - I put myself back on the queue to reserve a copy immediately, and found myself at something like #72 on the list! Over 2.5 months later, I'm down to #17. I also have a copy of Jane Grigson's ENGLISH FOOD arriving shortly from Amazon. Clearly this summer I'm in a mood to read about food!

                                                                              I'm really enjoying the collections of short pieces that makes up NUTMEG, and it's making me want to read that biography of Elizabeth David, WRITING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE. Sadly, that will have to wait - I have little time to read except during my bus commute to and from work, and I'm clearly juggling too many books right now as it is.

                                                                              1. Love Ruth Reichl's books and enjoyed "Nasty Bits." Bourdain is a pretty good writer. I've even read his little book on Typhoid Mary.

                                                                                Has anyone read "The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine" about Bernard Loiseau, the chef who committed suicide after his restaurant lost a Michelin star?

                                                                                1. Great subject!

                                                                                  Some favorites that I don't think anyone's mentioned (I'm at work, must scan the screen quickly) are:

                                                                                  Nigel Slater's "Toast"
                                                                                  anything by MFK Fisher
                                                                                  Betty Fussell's "I Hear America Cooking" and her memoir "My Kitchen Wars"

                                                                                  1. I love the Best Food Writing Series, published yearly since 2001 (I think). The books are compilations of essays and articles from food magazines, newspapers, the Internet, etc., divided into chapters.

                                                                                    Here's info on the Best Food Writing 2005 book:


                                                                                    1. I'm in the middle of Julia Child's "My Life in France". I am a fast reader and only allowing myself one section each night, as to extend the pleasure. I live near Cambridge, MA and remember seeing JC shopping at the local stores. I fell like I'm snooping on a neighbor.
                                                                                      The book was a b-day present this summer from my daughter, along with "Julie and Julia", which is next on my list. If it's a much fun to read as "MLiF", I'll be in heaven.

                                                                                      1. Laurie Colwin is my "comfort" read of choice. Home Cooking and More Home Cooking are collections of essays, most from her Gourmet Magazine columns.

                                                                                        I've read both those books at least a dozen times.

                                                                                        1. The History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

                                                                                          1. The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market Cookbook by Peggy Knickerbocker was a tasty and excellent read. Some of the recipes that interested me most: Fig Galette with Gorgonzola custard, Crostini of Figs and Proscuitto, Pasta with crumbled Bacon and melting Onions, Peach Bruschetta with Blue Cheese, Acme Chophouse Short Ribs, Lamb Shanks with Olives and a wonderful, old-fashioned Gateau aux Pommes.

                                                                                            I also enjoyed Francis Mayes' "A year in the World", which covers some of her world travels and the foods she discovered at each new place. The book will appeal to the traveler, food lover and gardener. Her recipe for Layered Peppers Napoli-Style is so good and I hope to try Violet's Hot Toffee Sauce for Gingerbread, from Scotland when the weather cools down in Fall.