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We've done movies; what is your fave food read?

I have a nice list of movies to watch; thanks for all the suggestions. That was a great thread; hopefully, it will be updated. Now I'd like a list of books to read related to food; culinary travels, etc. I have just purchased for myself, my mom, and godmother (all foodies who love to hear about food experiences during travel too) the following books which may not all be true foodie books, but are laced with food experiences. These descriptions were taken from reviews or online book descriptions. What can you add to the list?

1. Julie and Julia - Nearing 30 and trapped in a dead-end secretarial job, Julie Powell resolved to reclaim her life by cooking, in the span of a single year, every one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child's legendary Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her unexpected reward: not just a newfound respect for calves' livers and aspic, but a new life--lived with gusto.

2. Heat by Bill Buford - An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany .Buford's funny and engaging book offers readers a rare glimpse behind the scenes in Mario Batali's kitchen.

3. A Year in the World by Frances Mayes (We all enjoyed her Tuscany books) - In this luminous volume, she and her husband visit southern Spain, Portugal, Sicily, southern Italy, Morocco, Greece, Crete, Scotland, Turkey and places in between. Usually they rent an apartment or villa, so they can cook, sprawl and feel like "locals."

4. Garlic and Sapphires - Ruth Reichl In her third memoir, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, Reichl focuses on her life as a food critic, dishing up a feast of fabulous meals enjoyed during her tenure at The New York Times. As a critic, Reichl was determined to review the "true" nature of each restaurant she visited, so she often dined incognito--each chapter of her book highlights a new disguise, a different restaurant (including the original reviews from the Times), and a fresh culinary adventure.

5. My Life in France - Jullia Child With Julia Child's death in 2004 at age 91, her grandnephew Prud'homme (The Cell Game) completed this playful memoir of the famous chef's first, formative sojourn in France with her new husband, Paul Child, in 1949.

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  1. "The Art of Eating" by M.F.K. Fisher.
    "The five books cover an eclectic array of thoughts, memories and recipes, from WWI vignettes of frugality at the table to a consideration of the social status of vegetables. Her recipes range from those for all manner of oysters, dressed and undressed, to Cold Buttermilk Soup, and are accompanied by the remarks and observations that provoked W.H. Auden to say, "I do not know of anyone in the United States today who writes better prose.""
    Having taken this off the shelf to copy the above, I now plan to re-read each delicious page. Thanks for inspiring me!

    3 Replies
    1. re: KTBearW

      I'm going to have to pick that one up, thanks for the tip!
      I love Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl...good for a giggle.

      1. re: KTBearW

        That is my favorite book too!
        I would also suggest her book "With Bold Knife and Fork".

        Jeffrey Steingarten's books "The Man Who Ate Everything" and "It Must Have Been Something I Ate" are wonderful. I laugh every time I think about the time he went to Kyoto and has the soup fiasco.

        Calvin Trillin's "The Tummy Trilogy" is 3 books in one, "American Fried", "Alice, Let's Eat" and "Third Helpings" and is also very funny. It makes me totally jealous I don't live in an area where we have such diversity - no Little Italy, no Chinatown for me.

        I also liked Michael Sanders "From Here You Can't See Paris" about life in a small French town and the restaurant there, Les Arques.

        I too am inspired to re-read "The Art of Eating"
        Have fun!

        1. re: Cookiefiend

          I recently read Calvin Trillin's "The Tummy Trilogy." It is laugh-out-loud funny. A collection of essays that focus on his tastes, gluttony, devotion to his wife and daughters, and viewpoint. A couple of decades dated but a really fun read.

      2. Hard to pick one favorite (though you've already mentioned a couple I've enjoyed).

        Let me suggest one food-themed short story by a favorite author of mine, T.C. Boyle. His "Sorry Fugu" is about restaurateur who sets out to seduce a notoriously hard-to-please restaurant critic (kind of a female Anton Ego type). Like much of Boyle, it's hilarious, and I love his chewy prose style. It's available online to subscribers to Harper's (where it first appeared), and in at least two collections, including the excellent "If the River Was Whiskey", a good starting place for Boyle neophytes.

        Another favorite author of mine, Haruki Murakami, spends a lot of time focusing on the quotidian details of the lives of his characters, including what they eat and drink. His food writing is wonderfully simple and evocative, making me recall Brillat-Savarin's line, "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." A good place for food lovers to start reading Murakami is "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World", in which one character is a beautiful, slight woman with a prodigious appetite.

        In the non-fiction category, I immediately thought of the title piece of "Consider the Lobster: and Other Essays", by David Foster Wallace. Entertaining, incredibly erudite, and very thought-provoking, especially for Chowhounds.

        Other recent threads on this topic (it's a popular recurring one):

        2 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Two of my favorite writers, Murakami & TC Boyle!!

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Murakami's writing creates a reality all its' own. You look up from the page and are jolted back into your own realm. A lot of his food references, as do his musical ones, lean towards Western influences. The beginning of "Wind Up Bird Chronicle" comes to mind, where the narrator is cooking pasta. One of my favorite Murakami food moments occurs in the first story/chapter of "After The Quake", where the narrator travels up to Sapporo and sits down for a bowl of ramen. It's the only ramen reference I can recall from his works.

          2. The Making of a Chef - Michael Ruhlman
            Journalist Michael Ruhlman talked his way into the CIA: the Culinary Institute of America, the Harvard of cooking schools. It had something to do with potatoes a grand-uncle had eaten deacades earlier, how the man could remember them so well for so long, buried as they had been in the middle of an elegant meal. Ruhlman wanted to learn how to cook potatoes like that--like an art--and the CIA seemed the place to go. The fun part of this book is that we all get to go along for the ride without having to endure the trauma of cooking school.

            The Soul of a Chef - Michael Ruhlman
            In this follow-up to his cooking school odyssey, The Making of a Chef, Ruhlman examines what causes chefs to seek absolute perfection. The book is divided into three parts: in the first, Ruhlman observes the arduous Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, which was the setting for his first book. The second segment focuses on Michael Symon, a rising star at Lola (in Cleveland) who was recently dubbed one of the 10 best chefs in America by Food & Wine. The third is dedicated to Thomas Keller, chef of California's esteemed French Laundry. While Ruhlman's play-by-play descriptions of chefs struggling to cook exactly as Escoffier dictated 90 years earlier can be exciting (and the stories of those who failed heartbreaking), they strongly echo his previous book's account of culinary education. The author fares better in his portrait of Keller's development into an exacting perfectionist. But even here Ruhlman often slips into simply writing about the process of working on The French Laundry Cookbook, to which he contributed the text, or repeating stories that appear in it. Overall this book makes a fine introduction to Ruhlman's writing, but readers of his previous books will be disappointed to find the chef reheating leftovers.

            The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen - Jacques Pepin
            A clever, mischievous, and very likable boy, Pépin's earliest food memories are hungry ones from his childhood in war-torn France. After World War II, his first restaurant job was peeling potatoes for his mother at her restaurant, and he became an apprentice in a hotel kitchen at age 13. In this delightful tale he works hard, plays fair, is kind to others and good to his family, and his efforts take him to Paris, and then New York. Except for the terrible car accident that required him to reinvent himself as a teacher and television personality, he seems to have always been in the right place at the right time. He cooked for Prime Minister Gaillard and then General Charles de Gaulle, met Pierre Franey, Craig Claiborne, and Julia Child, and turned down a job cooking for JFK to accept one with Howard Johnson. But just as entertaining and enjoyable to read about are his tender memories and thoughts about his relationships with his parents and brothers, and with his wife and daughter.

            And of course, "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle.

            3 Replies
            1. re: HungryLetsEat

              I love the Ruhlman CIA/restaurant books -- Making Of... Soul Of... and now there is Reach of a Chef as well. I like the stories he has to tell and also his style -- I read one of the books on an airplane and my seatmates wondered why I kept laughing. He has a very informative website, too, though at the risk of having this post removed he is an egullet.com proponent.

              1. re: HungryLetsEat

                The Apprentice, My Life in the Kitchen is my all time favorite food book.

                1. re: HungryLetsEat

                  The Making of a Chef was quite an eye-opener for me. There was a time I considered taking the CIA courses, and after reading that book, I'm glad I chose otherwise ;>)

                  I'm enjoying Jacques Pepin's newest book, Chez Jacques: Traditions and rituals of a cook. It's a very personal book consisting of his all-time favorite recipes that have special meaning to him, along with stories of how and where each dish came into his life. There are also essays on food, his cooking and life philosophies, gorgeous photos of his dishes and of himself enjoying life with family and friends, as well as some family history and a lot of his artwork. I almost felt like I was sitting down with Jacques, sharing a scrapbook of his charming life.

                2. I couldn't get through Julie and Julia; too much estrogen for me. However, here are a few of the favs:

                  The Man Who Ate Everything
                  Tender at the Bone
                  The Goodness of Garlic

                  Doing My Life in France right now...

                  1. "Salt" and "Cod" by Mark Kurlansky are very interesting books that show the background of these staple foods.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: AlyKen

                      in that vein "six thousand years of bread" is one of the most fascinating books i've ever read.

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        Wow - this one is one I have never heard of and sounds like a good read.

                        1. re: itryalot

                          it is awesome! equally interesting to foodies and history buffs.


                      2. re: AlyKen

                        Also in that vein, one of the earlier "single food" books -- Peppers, by Amal Naj. Should be required reading for hounds who love hot stuff.


                      3. "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan. What an eyeopener this was for me. He focuses on the relationship between humans and four plants: apples, tulips, marijuana and potatoes.
                        I find anything he writes to be uniquely original and challenging.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Gio

                          I really liked "The Omnivore's Dilemma"--I'll have to look for the Botany of Desire. "Omnivore" has really changed the way I buy food.

                          1. re: coney with everything

                            botany of desire is equally good and a beautiful read. pollan also has 2 earlier books that were published by academic presses-- small runs, out of print. hope that the enormous success of the omnivore's dilemma will cause them to reprint!

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              One of Pollan's earlier books that I am presently re-reading is "Second Nature, A Gardener's Education." It's not so much a how-to but a treatise in which he weighs the difference between a physical garden with all the earthly delights and the relationship gardening has in the environment. Once again a very challenging read.

                        2. Wife of the Chef by Courtney Febbroriello . Like the title suggested, she married a chef, and they opened a restaurant together. It was their journey of the process. Oh, and it comes with a delicious dip kind of receipe. To me, this is the softer version of the Anthony Bourdain.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: meimei

                            The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation by David Kamp. It tells the tale of how we went from a TV dinner nation to a country where you can get mixed green salads, even at McDonald's. It tells this history by giving histories of the specific chefs who affected the change, and how each chef shaped the culture. It's really interesting. I liked the chapter on Dean and Deluca the best - I was surprised to find out exactly how much that one store changed so many items I eat on a regular basis.

                            I really want to read "Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany" by Bill Buford. There is a review of the book by Anthony Bourdain on Amazon. He loves the book.

                            I just bought a copy of Kitchen Confidential. Never read it, and will rectify that error as soon as I've read The Deathly Hallows. :)

                            1. re: pgokey

                              I recently read Heat, Kitchen Confidential, and The Apprentice on my honeymoon.

                              Loved Kitchen (it went too fast, I wanted more!), liked Heat. Heat slowed down considerably for me in the last few chapters, and I even turned to my H and said, "why can't I get through to the end of this book?" It started out great, like a good New Yorker article, and then once he goes to Italy, it grinds to a crawl.

                            2. re: meimei

                              This sounds like a perfect book to give one of my girlfriends. Does it feature several recipes; related to a cuisine, country or other, or a variety?

                            3. I have a vast library of just these kinds of books...I love them. My fav's are...

                              American Pie: Slices of Life, Pascale Le Draoulec. Wonderful journey and interesting people along the way. Recipes included for some delicious pies.

                              I have to agree with HungryLetsEat on The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen - Jacques Pepin...that was a fun read.

                              And, another hard-to-find, out of print book, but worth every bite...The French At Table, Rudolph Chelminski (author of The Perfectionist). TFAT was an earlier book, and I laughed the whole way through it. Worked many years in a French restaurant, and this book defines the French way of eating perfectly.

                              For a quick read, and always entertaining...anything by John T. Edge.

                              PS. it would be fun to find a foodie book club...anyone know of any (Tristate area)?

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: sonofoodie

                                I would TOTALLY join a foodie book club! (Anyone in Columbus, OH?) It's my preferred genre.

                                Also, pqokey reminded me about "Kitchen Confidential". A must-read for any CH.

                                1. re: sonofoodie

                                  It would be fun to find a foodie book club; it wouldn't be half-bad to found a foodie book club, either.

                                  1. re: DaveCook

                                    A group of us for about 5 years, all read Under the Tuscan Sun together t hen had a potluck featuring recipes. We did A Year in Provence too. We did it with movies too; my Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Sopranos, etc.
                                    I much preferred the book club and then have a related pot luck feast at the end.

                                    1. re: itryalot

                                      My book club read Garlic and Sapphires and was thinking about cooking all the recipes in the book. But instead our friend Tommy who was heading off to culinary school in Florence decided to practice on us instead and cooked a wonderful dinner.

                                      Still I think the original idea would be a lot of fun for a book club.

                                      I can't remember the name of the book but I came across a Book Club "idea book" on amazon, where they listed various books and then appropriate recipes to go along side the story. Not necassarily a food-related genre book but some how the food tied in.

                                      1. re: itryalot

                                        Try "Too Much Tuscan Sun... Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide" by Dario Castagno. Funny, insightful and fun.

                                      2. re: DaveCook

                                        "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant"...I just picked up this book yesterday and started reading it last night. It is, so far, really enjoyable. Being a sometimes-solo-diner & cook...it validates what I have been known and enjoyed all these years.


                                        Worth some discussion? Maybe...

                                    2. Janet Evonovitch's first few books. I read on while on a train cross country in france and did it ever make me yen for American home Cooking.

                                      1. "Kitchen" by Banana Yashimoto. The first 3 pages alone should be required reading in college - absolutely great.

                                        1. Como Agua Para Chocolate. I haven't quite worked up the courage to try any of the recipes (or read it in Spanish) but I'd like to!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: polyhymnia

                                            Comfort Me With Apples
                                            Kitchen Confidential
                                            Fast Food Nation

                                            1. Heat was really terrific. Garlic & Sapphires was a light, pleasant read, but not something I'd likely re-read.

                                              I'd also recommend the Best Food Writing anthologies. I believe it's a yearly collection of food-related writing edited by Holly Hughes.

                                              I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. I've heard nothing but raves about it and am itching to get a hold of it to read (I'm #59 out of 214 holds that have been placed on this title at my library). Synopsis plus Publisher's Weekly's short review below..

                                              Novelist Kingsolver recounts a year spent eating home-grown food and, if not that, local. Accomplished gardeners, the Kingsolver clan grow a large garden in southern Appalachia and spend summers "putting food by," as the classic kitchen title goes. They make pickles, chutney and mozzarella; they jar tomatoes, braid garlic and stuff turkey sausage. Nine-year-old Lily runs a heritage poultry business, selling eggs and meat. What they don't raise (lamb, beef, apples) comes from local farms. Come winter, they feast on root crops and canned goods, menus slouching toward asparagus. Along the way, the Kingsolver family, having given up industrial meat years before, abandons its vegetarian ways and discovers the pleasures of conscientious carnivory.This field—local food and sustainable agriculture—is crowded with books in increasingly predictable flavors: the earnest manual, diary of an epicure, the environmental battle cry, the accidental gardener. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is all of these, and much smarter. Kingsolver takes the genre to a new literary level; a well-paced narrative and the apparent ease of the beautiful prose makes the pages fly. Her tale is both classy and disarming, substantive and entertaining, earnest and funny. Kingsolver is a moralist ("the conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spiritual error, or even bad manners"), but more often wry than pious. Another hazard of the genre is snobbery. You won't find it here. Seldom do paeans to heirloom tomatoes (which I grew up selling at farmers' markets) include equal respect for outstanding modern hybrids like Early Girl.Kingsolver has the ear of a journalist and the accuracy of a naturalist. She makes short, neat work of complex topics: what's risky about the vegan diet, why animals belong on ecologically sound farms, why bitterness in lettuce is good. Kingsolver's clue to help greenhorns remember what's in season is the best I've seen. You trace the harvest by botanical development, from buds to fruits to roots. Kingsolver is not the first to note our national "eating disorder" and the injuries industrial agriculture wreaks, yet this practical vision of how we might eat instead is as fresh as just-picked sweet corn. The narrative is peppered with useful sidebars on industrial agriculture and ecology (by husband Steven Hopp) and recipes (by daughter Camille), as if to show that local food—in the growing, buying, cooking, eating and the telling—demands teamwork.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Rafie

                                                I was quite disappointed with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.. way to much preaching and not enough story. The best part of the book was recipes by Carmille!

                                                1. re: Rafie

                                                  I just finished this book.

                                                  In response to firecooked: the environmental food movement (based on the premise that 'eating is an agricultural (and political) act', and that eating enjoyment does not exist in a vacuum, and is inseparable from environmental responsibility)exists to change things, so it's pretty impossible to find any of its proponents NOT preaching. I'd categorize AVM with Omnivore's Dilemma and Fast Food Nation; the authors want you to put down the book and make changes to your lifestyle based on what you have just read. So ja, it's not just a fun story! But I'd say that as far as this new genre goes, AVM makes the information quite digestible, with useful inserts explaining the national and international stats, policies, etc. and by documenting her own experiences, Kingsolver gives quite a good idea of what implementing these 'changes' entails. Am I about to stop buying bananas? No. But the book has certainly made me look twice at the contents of my shopping basket, and resolve to recycle more.

                                                  1. re: Rafie

                                                    I loved, loved Animal, Vegetable Miracle. I listened to it on CD in the car -- read by the authors -- Kingsolver, her husband and her older daughter. Lyrical and informative. And the chapter on turkey sex was a hoot!

                                                    I "read" Omnivore's Dilemma also on CD, and found it fascinating.

                                                    Now I'm listening to Pat Conroy's Recipes from My Life, in which the author describes his love of cooking since starting w/ Escoffier unaware of his august place in the cooking world.

                                                    Cooking for Mr Latte by Amanda Hesser (NY Times food writer) was a hoot.

                                                    I believe Heartburn by Nora Ephron was one of the first story books I read that featured recipes within the book that were actually related to the story line.

                                                  2. This past Sunday's NY Times had a very good review of an anthology- American Food Writing, An Anthology With Classic Recipes, Edited by Molly O'Neill. It sounds great. Nice review.

                                                    In addition to the ones mentioned already, I will add Molly O'Neill's Mostly True: A Memoir of Family, Food and Baseball and Insatiable: Tales From a Life of Delicious Excess by Gael Greene. Also- Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey.

                                                    Have fun reading.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. This topic has come up several times in the past -- you might want to do a search (the older threads would be on the "not about food" board). Lots and lots of good ideas over the years.

                                                      Here's one:


                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. At the moment, I'm reading Serious Pig: An American Cook in Search of His Roots, by John Thorne with his wife, Matt Lewis Thorne. I was pointed Thorne's way, I think, by The Raw and the Cooked, another book about "roots" cuisine by Jim Harrison (better known for Legends of the Fall). Think it was one of Steingarten's books that pointed me Harrison's way.

                                                        Another book that comes to mind immediately (but is not among the many other fine books mentioned above) is Euell Gibbons' Beachcomber's Handbook. I remember Gibbons as the craggy fellow who was a spokesman for Grape-Nuts in the last years of his life, but his Beachcomber's Handbook describes an idyllic time long past when he was in his 20's, living off the land and sea in Hawaii.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: DaveCook

                                                          How are you enjoying Serious Pig?
                                                          I have it at home but haven't started it yet. I'm finishing "Everybody Eats There".

                                                          1. re: Cookiefiend

                                                            I'd taken it out of the public library once, and didn't have time to tackle it before a vacation, but the 10-12 pages I read very quickly gave the sense that I was in good hands. On my second pass, that's been confirmed by the first 200 or so pages, on Maine food, farming, and cooking. Since the book is a collection of essays, most (or all) of which first appeared in the Thornes' print-only newsletter, certain themes continue to cycle through, but in a conversational way -- more like leaning on the pickle barrel than being cornered by a bore in a coffeeshop.

                                                            The book also has a very dense feel to it (something like a clam chowder that's been bolstered by potatoes sliced "thick-thin" so the narrow edge dissolves during cooking, or so I've read).

                                                            I admire Serious Pig very much, but I'm letting this book stand for a couple of days till I dip into its second major section, on the food of New Orleans.

                                                            1. re: DaveCook


                                                              I better hurry up and finish my current book so I can get started on Serious Pig.

                                                              What fun!


                                                            2. re: Cookiefiend

                                                              My godmother recently received "Everybody Eats There"; what is it about?

                                                              1. re: itryalot

                                                                It's about the "Top List" restaurants around the world.

                                                                It's pretty interesting and goes into the history of those places, how they started, who started them, some of the "stories" of things that have happened there and some serious name dropping of who has been there.

                                                                I'm reading about Tokoyo right now and some of these restaurants sound absolutely incredible. I wouldn't want to spend that kind of money on a meal but I sure don't mind reading about it!

                                                                I hope your godmother enjoys it!


                                                            3. re: DaveCook

                                                              Thorne's "Serious Pig" is the first book that inspired me to write to the author. He replied, too. (Snail mail, it was that long ago!) Euell Gibbons was (and is) a favorite. His Stalking the Blue Eyed Scallop is wonderful reading, and could be used as a "field guide" for foraging at the seashore. The two other "Stalking" books are Wild Asparagus and Healthful Herbs.

                                                              1. re: Pat Hammond

                                                                I agree; Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop is wonderful. Recently, at a library used-book sale, I picked up a second copy, just in case I needed a loaner.

                                                              2. re: DaveCook

                                                                Glad that somebody finally mentioned John Thorne...I go back to "Outlaw Cook, "Serious Pig", and "Pot on the Fire" over and over again...probably the only books I re-read other than "The Art of Eating" which my aunt gave to me in 1975...

                                                              3. Michael Symons, The Pudding That Took a Thousand Cooks: The Story of Cooking in Civilisation and Daily Life.

                                                                Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses, Isabel Allende

                                                                1. I loved how Salman Rushdie described the cuisine and its deep cultural ties to the ethnic/religious groups of Kashmir in Shalimar the Clown.

                                                                  Going through the Michelin red guide for France and reading the lists of best dishes of a whole slew of restaurants was quite an education.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: limster

                                                                    Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

                                                                  2. I enjoyed everything about "Heat." I thought Buford told everything in such wonderful detail and for a foody and cook I learned a lot.

                                                                    Garlic and Sapphires really changed how I taste food. Reichl is a brillant writer....and takes you right inside the dish, making you taste it along with her. Plus she's witty!!

                                                                    And I really loved Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain. It is a collection of his essays and articles and spans so many wonderful topics. It's classic Bourdain.

                                                                    And while its not about the industry or cooking...one of my all time favorite books is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That book just sent my mind spinning as a child! :)

                                                                    1. The Devil's Larder by Jim Crace
                                                                      The Book of Salt by Monique Truong

                                                                      both fiction

                                                                      1. For pure fluff, read the series of mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson. The heroine is a Colorado caterer named Goldy Schultz...lots of whodunnits and recipes, to boot.

                                                                        1. Katish: Our Russian Cook (Wanda Frolov)
                                                                          Clementine in the Kitchen (Samuel Chamberlain)

                                                                          I also recently enjoyed Madhur Jaffrey's "Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India".

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: emily

                                                                            clementine in the kitchen-- it is worth buying just for that "recipe" for escargot!
                                                                            although the outdated upper class riche narrative pov was something to get over for me as a reader. the way the narrator continually referred to their french cook as a "possession" of the family--ugh.

                                                                          2. Laurie Colwin! Her novels, not so much, but Home Cooking and More Home Cooking are favorites of mine. Earthy, funny, clearly obsessed with food.

                                                                            Also, for wit and irreverence if not deliciousness, Peg Bracken. The I Hate to Cook Book, written in the mid-sixties (?), is full of chipped beef and canned mushrooms and aspic, and is a hilarious look at how dreary daily cooking for the family is/was when you'd rather be doing other things. She's a gem.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Tartinet

                                                                              Yes, I'll second Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She was not a great novelist, IMO, but her writing about food and the recipes are very good.

                                                                              She's clever, impassioned, and very casual in her methods and descriptions.
                                                                              I often return to them. She wrote for Gourmet before her untimely death several years ago.

                                                                            2. Much of what is posted above. MFK Fisher is required reading. On a flight from Edinburgh to Toronto, I was glad that I was alone in my 3-seat when I started (and finished) Kitchen Confidential. I couldn't control my laughter. When I read Soul of a Chef, I wept. When I was a chowpup (17?), the first serious food book I read was Elizabeth David, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. Gina Mallett's Last Chance to Eat is worthwhile. I don't agree with everything she says, but she's well informed and engaging. In fiction, Graham Greene's Dr Fischer of Geneva, or, The Bomb Party, for the oatmeal dinner scene.

                                                                              1. For me, there is no better food-related read than The Brooklyn Cookbook by Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy Jr.

                                                                                For someone who is in love with both Brooklyn and food in general, The Brooklyn Cookbook is a book that I keep going back to again and again. The book is broken up mostly by cuisine/neighborhoods (for instance, there's a section on Italian food and Bensonhurst, another on Kosher food and Midwood/Crown Heights, etc.). Each section has stories of old Brooklyn along with recipes from the neighborhoods, and there are heartwarming pictures scattered throughout the book.

                                                                                A family member of mine introduced me to this book not too long ago, and I am totally crazy over it. I just wish I had known about it sooner...

                                                                                1. Did anyone mention Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries? Every book in the looooong series includes at least a few memorable meals prepared by Fritz the chef


                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: berkleygary

                                                                                    I just ordered the Nero Wolfe cookbook, Amazon has it on back order and I won't get it until December, grrrrrr. But the TV show was awesome, they left all the food details in the series too. They had Wolfe arguing with Fritz about recipes and seasoning. Tremendous set of mysteries.

                                                                                    I also highly recommend The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones. Part of it has to do with the description of food and part of it has to do with the exploration of Chinese attitude and philosophy of food and how it is all integrated into everyday thought.

                                                                                    1. re: berkleygary

                                                                                      Funny - I love that series and did not think of it for this thread. Has anyone actually tried any of the recipes from his cookbook? A co-worker of mine and I have planned a Nero Wolfe dinner party, but not yet gotten around to it. Any feedback would be welcome.

                                                                                    2. I recently enjoyed these two books. Warning: do not read these if you are hungry!

                                                                                      "A Thousand Nights in Venice" by Marlena de Blasi. Some wonderful recipes are shared by the author. She has written several other books I've yet to read.

                                                                                      "When Fernando spots her in a Venice café and knows immediately that she is the One, Marlena de Blasi is caught off guard. A divorced American woman traveling through Italy, she thought she was satisfied with her life. Yet within a few months, she quits her job as a chef, sells her house, kisses her two grown kids good-bye, and moves to Venice. Once there, she finds herself sitting in sugar-scented pasticcerie, strolling through sixteenth-century palazzi, renovating an apartment overlooking the seductive Adriatic Sea, and preparing to wed a virtual stranger in an ancient stone church.

                                                                                      As this transplanted American learns the hard way about the peculiarities of Venetian culture, we are treated to an honest, often comic view of how two middle-aged people, both set in their ways but also set on being together, build a life. A Thousand Days in Venice is filled with the foods and flavors of Italy and peppered with recipes and culinary observations. But the main course here is about a woman who falls in love with both a man and a city, and finally finds the home she didn't know she was missing. It's a deliciously satisfying meal."
                                                                                      -Publisher's Review

                                                                                      "The Last Chinese Chef" by Nicole Mones (also the author of "Lost in Translation").

                                                                                      "Using Chinese culinary history, language and tantalizing descriptions of fine cuisine, Mones shows how food can both nourish the body and the soul. Her extensive research takes readers into the philosophy and artistic ambitions of Chinese cuisine - and leaves them hungry for recipes."

                                                                                      You can hear an interview:

                                                                                      You can read more and find recipes from the book at: http://www.nicolemones.com.

                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: AntarcticWidow

                                                                                        Marco Pierre White: The Devil in the Kitchen -- a fast read, well reviewed by the NYTimes - self-disclosing, revealing autobiography of an offbeat cook and restraurant owner in England. Not up to the classics (Reichl, Prudhomme on Julia, MFK F. or Pepin, but its new and I enjoyed it.

                                                                                        1. re: elizabeth2929

                                                                                          Does he go after Gordon Ramsey? or does he stay above the fray?

                                                                                        2. re: AntarcticWidow

                                                                                          The book by Marlena de Blasi sounded interesting, so I had to go hunting for it. Turns out it's called "A Thousand Days in Venice". She also has written "A Thousand Days in Tuscany" and "The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria" Thanks, AWidow!

                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                            Oops, you're right Linda! Don't know How I could have made that mistake. Must be because I was reading the book at night before going to sleep - hungry!

                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                              Anyone read any of these from above? My godmother who did a tuscan tour might like them.
                                                                                              Are these non fiction, fiction or a mixture?

                                                                                              1. re: itryalot

                                                                                                ital - I haven't yet read them, but I've just purchased them online so I will definitely be reading them this summer. According to the Amazon write-ups, they seem to be non-fiction - the author's middle-aged life story <g> with recipes thrown in.

                                                                                          2. I know this will sound crazy, but when I was growing up, I read all of the "Little House on the Prairie" books and the way Wilder describes her farm fresh food -- well, I would always get hungry reading them. Of course this doesn't seem appropriate for adults, but fun foodie lit for kids!

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                                                                                            1. re: rgfoodie

                                                                                              I loved the LH series -- I wanted to be Laura Ingalls when I was little! There's also a cookbook with recipes covering all the foods from the series. Great for kids who are interested in that sort of thing. It was a happy day when my mom gave it to me.

                                                                                            2. Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. They got me interested in food.

                                                                                              1. Pig Perfect by Peter Kaminsky
                                                                                                Heat By Bill Buford
                                                                                                Kitchen Confidential by Bourdain
                                                                                                How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons

                                                                                                1. My delicious reads, alphabetically:

                                                                                                  "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza" - Peter Reinhart
                                                                                                  "Bento Box In The Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America"
                                                                                                  - Linda Furiya
                                                                                                  "A Bowl of Red" - Frank X. Tolbert
                                                                                                  "Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles" - Jonathan Gold
                                                                                                  "Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India" - Madhur Jaffrey
                                                                                                  "4000 Champagnes" - Richard Juhlin
                                                                                                  "Kitchen Confidential" - Anthony Bourdain
                                                                                                  "Memories of Philippine Kitchens" - Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan
                                                                                                  "Roadfood/Goodfood" - Jane and Michael Stern
                                                                                                  "White Trash Cooking" - Ernest Mickler

                                                                                                  1. In the Richard Brautigan classic, Sombrero Fallout (long out of print now, I fear), there are two parralel stories. The first is of a frustrated writer who crumples up a story he has begun and chucks it in the garbage; The parallel narrative is of the discarded story in the garbage, which continues writing itself. As his story spins out of control -detailing the snowball effect on a town that centers around a discarded sombrero - the writer obsesses over two things: his Asian girlfriend (who is asleep for the entire novel) and a tuna fish sandwich. His growing obsession over the sandwich is hilarious and right-on, capturing food as vice, excuse and a goal in and of itself.

                                                                                                    1. The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must Have Been Something I Ate (Taro! Taro! Taro! is my favorite Steingarten essay ever)
                                                                                                      Kitchen Confidential
                                                                                                      Garlic and Sapphires
                                                                                                      Fast Food Nation
                                                                                                      The Omnivore's Dilemma (I read the original NYT magazine piece that inspired the book. Together, they were life-changing)

                                                                                                      1. 2 books by Nora Ephron - 'Heartburn' of course and even 'I Feel Bad About My Neck' has an essay about food that made me want to get out of bed and make bread.

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                                                                                                        1. re: goodmom8

                                                                                                          I am reading Eat, Pray, Love-it's a good poolside, summer read.

                                                                                                          1. re: kai27

                                                                                                            I am also reading Eat Pray Love and about 2/3 of the way through. The Italy section is all about food (I want to go to Naples for pizza), but it is not a focus in the India section at all. I am not sure how much food will be an issue in the Indonesia section.

                                                                                                            1. re: Megiac

                                                                                                              You know the title? Eat, Pray, Love? Let that be your guide. Italy, India, and Indonesia. get it?

                                                                                                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                Yeah, I get it. I wasn't expecting the book to be all about food or anything, but I was just explaining to the previous poster that it isn't really a food-focused book.

                                                                                                        2. I can't believe that I forgot to mention two books by Margaret Visser! Much Depends on Dinner, and The Rituals of Dinner. Both are excellent. She has a wonderfully engaging style and is incredibly well informed.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                                            I've only read parts of the latter - but I agree - wonderful. Can't beat a book about the rituals of dinner that starts off with a chapter on cannabalism!

                                                                                                          2. Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. Definitely a good one.

                                                                                                            1. California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution
                                                                                                              by Jeremiah Tower is a major hoot. the best book of its kind.

                                                                                                              1. Kind of embarrasing because it is cheesy - but i totally love Like Water for Chocolate!

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: cor

                                                                                                                  Finally! I thought I was the only one...I replied to this post ages ago, and I was starting to get a complex about my choice of Like Water for Chocolate!

                                                                                                                    1. re: ernie0716

                                                                                                                      Seconded. I could relate to a lot of the food he describes.

                                                                                                                    2. I love Julie and Julia. I thought it was a fantastic read. I also enjoyed Heat by Bill Buford. I don't care for Ruth Reichl. Her sarcasm and self love get on my nerves, quickly. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain is also great.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: linz_e_moore

                                                                                                                        I just finished Garlic and Sapphires and was amazed at how many times she referred to how beautiful she is. Is she pretty? Anything by Anthony. Anything.

                                                                                                                      2. I just finished LOVE BY THE GLASS. This is a wonderful memoir by the husband and wife authors of the WALL STREET JOURNAL's wine column. Fascinating book mixing journalism, a successful marriage, race and, above all, learning about and loving wine. A great read!

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                          Thanks for mentioning that - had not heard of that book, though I've read their WSJ wine guide, which has a lot of insights into their life together - especially enjoyed the Miami parts since I was living there at the time I read it.

                                                                                                                        2. I spent quite a bit of time acquiring every book and spiral-bound cookbook in the Time/Life Foods of the World series. Supervised by the likes of Mark Field, James Beard, and M.K. Fisher, these books are broken down by international regions. They read more like history/travelogue accounts than straight cookbooks. This series has enabled me to get much more specific with my regional food knowledge. They are always accompanied by maps and excellent photography. With whole texts dedicated to African or Caribbean cuisine, one can follow the role of specific ingredients and find the subtle distinctions between similar regions. I made the Veal Orloff from the Classic French Cuisine collection. I knew I was going on an historic adventure without leaving my humble kitchen. Those Time/Life Editors really knew how to put a series together.

                                                                                                                          Other favorites include:

                                                                                                                          Pig Perfect by Peter Kaminsky which really makes wonder why pigs don't eat more acorns. Smithfield Ham anyone?


                                                                                                                          Bouchon Cookbook by Thomas Keller. It took me a whole day to make the French Onion Soup
                                                                                                                          but it was one of the most heavenly things I've ever tasted. He is a stickler for details and your standards rise with every page.

                                                                                                                          1. Waverly Root, The Food of Italy.

                                                                                                                            A region by region tour of the classic foods of Italy. Complete immersion in the specialties of each area, compellingly written in a travelogue style.

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: FuzzyT

                                                                                                                              Ah, yes...Food of Italy was great.

                                                                                                                              Also, "Honey from a Weed" by Patience Grey.

                                                                                                                            2. Anything by Elizabeth David, Marion Burros and Paula Wolfert. There is an iconic Black southern chef--a woman who cooked in NYC for years, was a great friend of Beard's, (she died a couple of years ago,) whose name I cannot conjure right now, but her stories about growing up on her family's farm and the food they grew, cooked and ate make her the first Alice Waters. I also have a book by Elizabeth Romer called "Tuscan Year: life and food in an Italian valley" published in 1985. Someone later told me it was a fake but its still a great read.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol.

                                                                                                                                Seriously, have you ever read the descriptions of the food in this story, paid attention to it? It is enough to make you want to gnaw your toes off, and the historical perspective on what was around then is just great.

                                                                                                                                1. Love anything by Bourdain, and who can forget the descriptions of food and drink in Proust? Gets to the essence of why we love food, in my opinion.

                                                                                                                                  1. Like Ruhlman's Making of a Chef......Anything Ruth Reichl. Just read Adam Roberts, Amateur Gourmet, it was a fun book.

                                                                                                                                    1. The first time I was ever influenced to pick up a second (and third, fourth, fifth, etc) book in a series by the same author was when I read "The First Deadly Sin" by Lawrence Sanders decades ago. It was his main character's love of sandwiches that captured me. Upon returning home after a hard day's detective work, he would make the most fantastic sandwiches by combining deli meats or roasts leftover from the night before with whatever variety breads his fictional DW would have on hand - and she kept a lovingly stocked kitchen! I liked reading about his appreciation for her thoughtfulness. I remember how pleased I was to learn about the difference between "dry sandwiches", savory fare he would create that could be cut in half for one-handed plate-reaching and gnawing while absentmindedly reading a newspaper) and "wet sandwiches", which were best eaten standing over a kitchen sink to catch the juicy bits of coleslaw that inevitably fall out of the sandwich with each bite. Such detailed decadence... *sigh...

                                                                                                                                      1. Two novels:

                                                                                                                                        The Debt to Pleasure, John Lanchester
                                                                                                                                        The Eipcure's Lament, Kate Christensen

                                                                                                                                        Both very unconventional, if a bit warped, with some great food descriptions (and a few surprises).

                                                                                                                                        1. This book has been discussed over in the General Chowhounding topic.


                                                                                                                                          And By a thread started by ChinoWayne


                                                                                                                                          And another thread on it


                                                                                                                                          I haven't read it yet but my friend the business professor doing research on food and culture just told me about it. Looks fascinating.

                                                                                                                                          1. I just listened to the unabridged audio of "French Lessons: Adventures with a fork, knife, and corkscrew" by Peter Mayle, author of "A Year in Provence." I enjoyed it enormously (though books on CD always seem a bit different than actually reading them for some reason). Each chapter chrinicaled his good times at a different food-focused French festival- snails, stinky cheese, etc, and wrapped up with a rejuveniting visit to a health-food spa... which, being French, really had nothing to do with deprivation, which he had feared.

                                                                                                                                            I'm also throwing my hands up high for Julie and Julia! Loved it!

                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: happybellynh

                                                                                                                                              I enjoyed the Julie and Julia book, but her web blog was better, IMO

                                                                                                                                              1. re: happybellynh

                                                                                                                                                Loved "A Year in Province" and just finished another novel of his called, "A Good Year". It was made into a movie a few years back but I never saw it.

                                                                                                                                              2. the chef's name i could not recall in my earlier post on this thread was Ms. Edna Lewis, one of the greats.

                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: annabana

                                                                                                                                                  I am also a big fan of the two Laurie Colwin food essay collections, "Home Cooking" & "More Home Cooking". All of her novels have good food moments in them, too - especially "Happy All the Time" & "Family Happiness".

                                                                                                                                                  Barbara Pym was another novelist who always worked food into her stories in funny as well as poignant ways. Colwin was a big admirer (& a fan of British food).

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sherpa50

                                                                                                                                                    If you are interested in Chinese food, in particular Sichuanese cuisine you must, must read Sharks Fin & Sichuan Pepper by Fuschia Dunlop...brilliant!