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May 20, 2007 12:21 PM

good reads about eating? [moved from Not About Food]

i just read a really terrific collection of essays by james beard on cooking and eating. though i love to cook (and eat!) and also love to read, i rarely combine the two, other than reading cookbooks. but i have no idea how to go about finding other books like this one.

so my question is, has anyone read a book about cooking or food (not an actual cook book, though, i have enough of those, make that too many of those) that they would recommend?



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  1. you should definitely try "The Man Who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten. It changed my life. I think he is coming out with a sequel soon. Also, Ruth Reichl's books are fun to read: she is the editor of Gourmet magazine and a food critic who wrote about her many disguises and experiences.

    2 Replies
    1. re: FoodieMcGee

      I second Jeffrey Steingartens "The Man Who Ate Everything" as well as his "It Must've Been Something I Ate". Both of these books are hugely enjoyable as well as informative. Marion Nestle's "What To Eat" absolutely changed my life, as cliche as that sounds. It is so full of information that is invaluable to consumers. I couldn't put it down.

      1. re: FoodieMcGee

        I agree one zillion percent about Steinarten's books. Few people write about food--or anything--with such wit. I made the mistake of reading his recipe for "Microwaving Your Sneakers" while on an airplane; I feel bad for the other passengers, because I was laughing like a mental patient. Also, I have a short attention span, so I appreciated that the books consist of many unrelated essays on wide variety of culinary topics.

        1. re: foodcheck

          Especially "With Bold Knife and Fork"

          1. re: foodcheck

            I have to agree that all MFK Fisher books are classics for anyone into food.
            I don't remember the specific titles because I read them all but the series on oyster stews, eating on an airplane, red bird/blue bird, honest meat in mediterranean are all scenes that I imagine when I think about what to cook.

            1. re: foodcheck

              You can get "The Art of Eating" which collects much of her work for around 20-25$, although I scored mine for 12$ used. It's a big book and collects her real essentials. She's an absolute must

            2. If you are a bit ambitious try Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham. It's shows the development of Indian cuisine through the different waves of empire and political domination and throws into a tizzy the question of what "authentic" could possibly mean to Indian food. Did you know that most Indian restaurants in N. America are owned by people from a small region of what is now Bangladesh? Did you know the habit of drinking tea was pushed into Indian culture by marketing by British tea importers? Lots of fascinating stuff you never knew. You can read more here if you like:

              1 Reply
              1. re: inuksuk

                >Did you know that most Indian restaurants in N. America are owned
                >by people from a small region of what is now Bangladesh?
                i think you are confusing the prominent role of the Sylheti community
                in UK indian restaurant scene for North America.

                See e.g.
                in particular the link to this article in the Guardian:

              2. Roy Andres de Groot wrote "L'Auberge of the Flowering Hearth" which is such a wonderful read that you'll savor every delicious, descriptive word.

                Waverly Root's two contributions "The Food of Italy" and "The Food of France" should not be missed either.

                Calvin Trillin is wry & witty -- "Tummy Trilogy" is a great read and much lighter than de Groot & Root, more along the lines of Steingarten's writings.

                Enjoy! This will give you a full summer of delicious books.

                1. I second Ruth Reichl's books, I've found them very enjoyable. "A Year in Provence" is very good. It may not be particularly enjoyable but "Fast Food Nation" is a good book to read if you care about the moral aspects of food. Julia Child's biography is also good.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: izzizzi

                    I forgot to mention Anthony Bourdain's books. My favorite of his is the one about his traveling (forget the name).

                    1. re: izzizzi

                      A Cooks Tour is the name of Bourdain's travel book.

                      Julie and Julia by by Julie Powell chronicles Powell's attempts to cook everything in Mastering The Art of French Cooking in one year. It's funny, engaging and sweet.

                      There is also a collection of food writing that comes out every year called Best Food Writing. They're great collections and reading one or two of them will give you an idea of what's out there. I would second the Trillin recommenation as well.

                    2. re: izzizzi

                      I dislike much of Reichl's book writings. While her food writing is just fine so much of her book is padded with AND THEN I TRIED ON A NEW COSTUME AND NO ONE KNEW WHO I WAS AINT THAT CRAZY. It was okay the first time, but I ended up skimming after the third time she plunked down a thousand words on her new wig