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Jul 17, 2007 04:55 AM

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, P├ępin'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.