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Foodie Book Discussion (Not Cookbooks)

MsAlyp Aug 7, 2008 01:34 PM

My two greatest past times: eating and reading.

I have read some excellent food related non fiction books thus far this summer and was wondering if anyone else had. My favoritive this summer has been The Zen of Sushi which examines sushi from all standpints (economy, culture, etc). Currently I'm reading The Soul of a Chef by Ruhlman. I have to say I have thourghly enjoyed all Ruth Reichels books.

Anyone have some favoritives to share or a favoritive food writing author?

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  1. Phaedrus RE: MsAlyp Aug 7, 2008 01:56 PM

    I have Zen of Sushi in my TBD file.

    I have been skimming through A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America by Rowan Jacobsen. Its been excellent. I have been wondering about all the different kinds of oysters that could be had, where they came from, how they taste and why they taste that way. This book answers all of that.

    I really enjoyed "The Last Chinese Chef", its a novel which tries to present the culinary culture and philosophy of China.

    I also have a few others sitting on my shelfs TBD.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Phaedrus
      Icantread RE: Phaedrus Aug 11, 2008 02:39 PM

      Zen of Fish made for a very interesting read, especially if you are unfamiliar with the origins of sushi and its historical development.

      1. re: Phaedrus
        JasmineG RE: Phaedrus Aug 22, 2008 09:52 PM

        I just finished "The Last Chinese Chef" a few days ago, and was coming to this thread to recommend it -- really great book, and the food descriptions and history is excellent.

        1. re: JasmineG
          Joan Kureczka RE: JasmineG Sep 10, 2008 09:33 AM

          Yes -- this was my airplane reading coming back from the UK last month. Fascinating -- good story, super food descriptions and very educational on Chinese cuisine and culture. I learned a lot and was entertained well -- could not recommend this one enough.

      2. Boudleaux RE: MsAlyp Aug 7, 2008 03:12 PM

        I enjoyed Heat by Bill Buford and I've loved everything I've read by Ruhlman (The Making of a Chef, The Soul of a Chef and The Reach of a Chef).

        I just received Cornbread Nation 4:The Best of Southern Food Writing and I'm anxious to dig into that (pun intended). I've never read any of these collections.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Boudleaux
          jmckee RE: Boudleaux Aug 11, 2008 12:36 PM

          I have the first collection and loved it. Never got around to the others, but you just nudged me to add them to my Amazon wish list.

        2. s
          solidgold RE: MsAlyp Aug 7, 2008 03:40 PM

          Here are some books that I've read recently: Around the World in 80 Dinners : The Ultimate Culinary Adventure by Cheryl Jamison and Bill Jamison; Bottomfeeder : How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood by Taras Grescoe; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle : A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver; The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan; The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8. Lee. The Zen of Sushi sounds interesting. I'll add it to my list.

          9 Replies
          1. re: solidgold
            Phaedrus RE: solidgold Aug 7, 2008 05:04 PM

            solidgold, how do you feel about Jennifer 8 Lee's book?

            I have most of the book read by skimming around from chapter to chapter. I nearly lost my mind trying to read it as a book, but when I read it as a series of essays it worked well.

            1. re: Phaedrus
              solidgold RE: Phaedrus Aug 7, 2008 09:46 PM

              I'm an ABC (american-born chinese), so I found it quite interesting. Also, the author is my friend's sister, so that probably helped too. Some of the chapters were quite fun, like the chapter on the best chinese restaurant in the world. Others were not as interesting, like the chapter on that poor family that moved down to GA (at least that's what I remember). I like the concept of twelve publishing. I've also read The Geography of Bliss (which was also a fun read, but unrelated to food).
              I have a few other food related books that are on my list if you're interested.

              1. re: solidgold
                Phaedrus RE: solidgold Aug 8, 2008 05:22 AM

                I am an MIT (Made In Taiwan) so I found it very interesting too, especially about General Tso's chicken. I guess what I found discombobulating is how wide ranging the topics are and the point of view it. It all makes sense once I realized that she had written these at different times.

                1. re: Phaedrus
                  Withnail42 RE: Phaedrus Aug 14, 2008 05:03 AM

                  I guess I'm a NAG(No Asian Genealogy). It sounds like such a broad subject can it even be covered as a whole in one book?

              2. re: Phaedrus
                MsAlyp RE: Phaedrus Aug 13, 2008 07:06 AM

                I think Jennifer 8 Lee's Book was good. It jumped around a lot but overall was very interesting. For anyone in NYC I see she's been doing some readings at the Tenement Museum in LES.

                1. re: MsAlyp
                  TampaAurora RE: MsAlyp Dec 23, 2008 04:54 PM

                  She's doing a reading here in Tampa as part of a Kosher Jewish Cooking event. I can't go, but I am halfway through reading it now.

              3. re: solidgold
                mmuch RE: solidgold Aug 15, 2008 03:44 PM

                How was that omnivores dilemma? I almost bought the other day, but was afraid it would make me crazy about what and what not to eat..

                1. re: mmuch
                  Elizabeth Rothman RE: mmuch Aug 19, 2008 09:49 PM

                  It will... but that is exactly why you should read it. :)

                  1. re: mmuch
                    Emmmily RE: mmuch Sep 13, 2008 07:07 AM

                    That's what I love about Pollan - he never tells you not to eat anything, just gives you the story behind it and lets you make your own decision.

                    That said, an article he wrote on the cattle industry is the reason I haven't eaten beef in 8 years.

                2. pikawicca RE: MsAlyp Aug 7, 2008 05:13 PM

                  "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry"
                  "The Sushi Economy"
                  "Gumbo Tales"

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: pikawicca
                    TampaAurora RE: pikawicca Dec 23, 2008 04:56 PM

                    How did you like "Sushi Economy." It opened my eyes to the impact of tuna!

                  2. l
                    luvarugula RE: MsAlyp Aug 8, 2008 03:54 AM

                    Backstage with Julia by Nancy Verde Barr.
                    Alice Waters and Chez Panisse (not the cookbook)
                    Just starting The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee (I believe there's an explanation for the middle "8.")

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: luvarugula
                      TampaAurora RE: luvarugula Dec 23, 2008 04:56 PM

                      8 is a lucky number.

                    2. l
                      lscanlon RE: MsAlyp Aug 8, 2008 06:18 AM

                      I thoroughly enjoyed "The Man Who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten. His enthusiasm for food is contagious and he's a very funny guy as well. I also liked Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential." His later books, not so much. It seems like he's trying too hard to shock and gross-out the reader.

                      Michael Ruhlman's "The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute" is also enjoyable and entertaining.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: lscanlon
                        yankeefan RE: lscanlon Aug 11, 2008 06:22 AM

                        Ruhlman has put out tons of good stuff but Steingarten is my all time favorite. He is the best.

                        I also recommend anything by MK Fisher and you should pick up the Tummy Trilogy by Trillin (?). Read well even though older.

                        1. re: yankeefan
                          oakjoan RE: yankeefan Aug 16, 2008 12:24 AM

                          I totally agree about Steingarten. Fun to read and very informative as well.

                          Regarding Omnivore's Dilemma....it DOES have some stuff that is pretty awful, but mostly it's really interesting, especially the parts about the raising of cattle and the monocrops that have now taken over vast sections of this country - soy and corn in particular. Also stuff about corn syrup is fascinating.

                          I think it's a really good book.

                          Two other favorites are old guard...M.F.K. Fisher and Elizabeth David. Both are great writers and David's books on Mediterranean and French Country food are interesting with lots of comments along with the recipes.

                          A.J. Liebling also has written lots of great essays on food. He was a newspaper man in Paris and wrote about it. He's just a great writer and describes lots of characters along with the food.

                          1. re: oakjoan
                            emmaroseeats RE: oakjoan Aug 22, 2008 12:59 PM

                            I forth Steingarten and third MFK Fisher. I also really liked Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Kingsolver.

                            I can't stand reading Michael Pollan...I think it's because he's theoretically on my team (the local sustainable team) but we disagree on some points and he writes like there is no alternative to his way. Just my opinion.

                            1. re: emmaroseeats
                              pikawicca RE: emmaroseeats Aug 23, 2008 03:31 PM

                              Pollan's a man on a mission. If you're trying to persuade people to adopt a certain course of action, presenting all points of view is totally ineffective. Do I agree with everything he writes? No. But I'm really glad he's written what he has.

                              1. re: emmaroseeats
                                honkman RE: emmaroseeats Sep 11, 2008 12:19 AM

                                Just curious: On which points do you disagree with him.

                        2. thew RE: MsAlyp Aug 8, 2008 06:28 AM

                          i'm reading "salt: a world history" right now

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: thew
                            Passadumkeg RE: thew Aug 9, 2008 05:48 AM

                            All of Mark Kurlansky's food topics are very interesting. I assigned Cod in a high school English class and despite an initial revolt over the title, the kids loved it.

                            1. re: Passadumkeg
                              yamalam RE: Passadumkeg Oct 8, 2008 03:47 PM

                              I loved Cod, and Kurlansky's The Big Oyster was pretty good too. Have Salt on my list.

                            2. re: thew
                              lgss RE: thew Dec 12, 2008 02:39 PM

                              Got it as a gift and read it last year.

                              1. re: thew
                                MaryishSally RE: thew Jan 10, 2009 11:24 AM

                                Salt is a wonderful book.

                              2. c
                                chef_max RE: MsAlyp Aug 8, 2008 10:04 AM

                                I just finished 'Mediterranean Summer' by David Shelleck about a chef who spends four years working as an intern around Italy and the lands a job aboard a 120+ foot sailboat as the superrich owners navigate from the south of France to the tip of Italy. Great summer read, and surprisingly suspenseful.

                                It's similar to 'An Embarassment of Mangoes,' a food memoir that came out a few years ago. It's about a couple who sail around the Caribbean. Also a good summer escape read. Can't remember the author's name.

                                If you liked Zen of Sushi (and I did), try 'Cod' and 'Salt' by Mark Kurlansky are both excellent reads, too. He's one of my favorite food writing authors.

                                This past year, I read a couple of books that I particularly liked, including 'The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry' by Kathleen Flinn about going to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. (I recently made the tuna ceviche recipe from the book for a party and it was excellent.) I learned a lot from 'The United States of Arugula' by David Camp and recommend it to anyone who wants to know about the history of food writing. And, of course, there was 'My Life in France' by Julia Child.

                                I liked both The Last Chinese Chef and The Fortune Cookie Chronicles even though they are very different books. I'm just starting Shark's Fin & Sichuan Pepper, a memoir about a woman eating her way through China. So far, it's quite entertaining. I had planned to read it before the Olympics started.

                                'Alone in a Kitchen with an Eggplant' is a compilation of food writing that's very entertaining, too. 'The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken' was also interesting, tracing Italian immigration to the U.S. via recipes.

                                I'm still a big fan of MFK Fisher and Elizabeth David. Of the latter, I reread "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine" recently. It made me long for a glass of strong Chablis in the French countryside...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chef_max
                                  Boudleaux RE: chef_max Aug 8, 2008 01:01 PM

                                  I feel like the book "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine" is stalking me...in a good way. I keep running across references to it even on boards that aren't food related. Obviously I need to track down this book.

                                  I just ordered Elizabeth David's "French Country Cooking" and am anxiously awaiting its arrival!

                                2. flourgirl RE: MsAlyp Aug 8, 2008 12:36 PM

                                  Right now I'm reading "Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China" by Fuschia Dunlop. I'm only about a 1/4 of the way through, but it's fascinating.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: flourgirl
                                    Aromatherapy RE: flourgirl Sep 15, 2008 02:32 PM

                                    You gotta read Serve the People, too. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/540076

                                    1. re: Aromatherapy
                                      flourgirl RE: Aromatherapy Sep 16, 2008 09:47 AM

                                      Thanks for the tip! :) I REALLY enjoyed reading "Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper." I found it engrossing and thought provoking. From what people have said, "Serve the People" sounds just as good or better. Can't wait to read it!

                                  2. Passadumkeg RE: MsAlyp Aug 9, 2008 05:54 AM

                                    Marc Kurlansky's books Salt, Cod, and Oyster. John Thorne's Simple Cooking series. Paul Thoreau's travel books have a goodly food element. 1000 Tables, about food migration and Waverley Root's tomb Food for food minutae.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Passadumkeg
                                      Harp00n RE: Passadumkeg Aug 9, 2008 08:55 PM

                                      Paul Theroux, Marc Kurlansky & Bill Buford's books are in permanent residence on our bookcase headboard.


                                      1. re: Passadumkeg
                                        E Eto RE: Passadumkeg Aug 10, 2008 10:57 PM

                                        I guess people don't think of Kurlansky's book _Basque History of the World_ a real food book, but I enjoyed the food history therein the most out of his books. I would include it on any food book list.

                                        1. re: E Eto
                                          ziggylu RE: E Eto Aug 11, 2008 01:02 PM

                                          I've read this one, salt and cod. I found the Basque History of the World particularly fascinating for some reason...probably because you don't think about the Basque as having a big influence on world history.

                                          1. re: ziggylu
                                            Passadumkeg RE: ziggylu Aug 12, 2008 11:03 AM

                                            Sorry for omitting Basque History. I've been a fan of Basque history and culture for a long time, especially the ancient history and The Spanish Civil War. I own a couple of Basque cookbooks as well.
                                            Funny, I was offered a job in Bilbao (Turino as well) in the 80's, but had small children and chosr safe Helsinki instead. I often wonder...........

                                      2. a
                                        amazinc RE: MsAlyp Aug 10, 2008 06:19 AM

                                        Marlena De Blasi's 1000 Days in Venice; 1000 Days in Tuscany; The Lady in the Palazzo; That Summer in Sicily all wonderful books on Italian Food, Italian Love and Italian Real Estate. Are you intrigued yet? Thoroughly enjoyed Julia and Julie (or was it Julie and Julia?) I'm also trying to get to Kansas University to go through the papers of Clementine Paddleford...1950's food writer for various newspapers and magazines and possessor of the greatest name in food-dom

                                        1. a
                                          annabana RE: MsAlyp Aug 10, 2008 10:22 PM

                                          Anything by Elizabeth David (I've read "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine" three times!) and the magnificent .).) MFK Fisher. The Tuscan Year by Elizabeth Romer (someone told me it was fake but I don't care if it is, its a great read.) Alice Let's Eat and Calvin Trilling's whole list.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: annabana
                                            Passadumkeg RE: annabana Aug 12, 2008 11:10 AM

                                            I agree w/ Trillan's books. The Zen one is especially dear to me. I've bounced around the world for a long time and there foods I dearly miss that one can't replicate. I to, like Harp00n, will copy this list. Think I'll head over to the library this afternoon to see what they have. Tis a good rainy day for reading (or maybe I should be remodleing the bathrooms? Nah, sloth has its place.).

                                          2. jmckee RE: MsAlyp Aug 11, 2008 12:49 PM

                                            "The United States of Arugula: How American Became a Gourmet Nation" (I'm writing from memory, so I hope this is right). Outstanding history of the "gourmet" period from the '50s to the present. Jane and Michael Stern's "American Gourmet" is in many ways a more tongue-in-cheek counterpoint to this one.

                                            Steingarten's "The Man Who Ate Everything" and "It Must Have Been Something I Ate" are wonderful. I laughed and learned on just about every page.

                                            I'll second (third? twelfth?) the Kurlansky books. Cod in particular was almost addictive.

                                            The late Laurie Colwin's "Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen" and "More Home Cooking" are books to which I return again and again. What a warm, funny, sensible person she must have been. And the first page of "Feeding the Fussy" in the first volume is worth the price of admission.

                                            Robert Farrar Capon's "The Supper of the Lamb" is simply the most distinctive book about food I've ever read. This Episcopalian minister proposes to give us his magnum recipe "Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times," a series of four meals to be made from the same leg of lamb. He makes various side trips to topics culinary and spiritual and it is just wonderful.

                                            I'll echo the recommendations for Calvin Trillin's "American Fried," "Alice Let's Eat", and "Third Helpings" (collected together as "The Tummy Trilogy"). Trillin is one of our finest prose stylists, and his way with writing about food and eating will make you a devotee. I'll add two more by him: "Travels with Alice", about trips with his wife, which includes a lot of talk about food; and "Feeding a Yen", his latest book about eating, which includes pieces on ceviche and Shopsin's, a New York restaurant he frequented.

                                            John Egerton's "Southern Food" is simply the best book on the topic.

                                            "Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the Old South" may be the finest little work of specialized history I've ever read.

                                            John T. Edge's quartet of little volumes on archetypal American foods -- "Hamburgers", "Fried Chicken", "Donuts", and "Apple Pie" -- are a lot of fun and contain recipes to boot.

                                            I'm sure I'll think of more.

                                            14 Replies
                                            1. re: jmckee
                                              Harp00n RE: jmckee Aug 11, 2008 12:59 PM

                                              Thanks jmckee.
                                              'tis a terrific list which I will be printing as a reference for future nocturnal reading material.


                                              1. re: jmckee
                                                Boudleaux RE: jmckee Aug 11, 2008 02:45 PM

                                                Oh, I love the John T. Edge books as well. Very fun!

                                                I've added John Egerton's "Southern Food" to my wish list. Thanks for the rec!

                                                1. re: Boudleaux
                                                  jmckee RE: Boudleaux Aug 12, 2008 07:11 AM

                                                  Y'all are welcome :-)

                                                  Heard Edge on my NPR Kitchen Window podcast this morning; I think it's funny he goes by "John T." rather than just "John".

                                                  I would also recommend "A Gracious Plenty", edited by Edge and published on behalf of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. It's one of my best Southern cookbooks, taken from community cookbooks throughout the region and its history. It includes essays and literary excerpts.

                                                  Egerton also has a book of essays called, "Side Orders", which is terrific. He includes an essay on iced tea, lamenting that history departments are to be chastised for not discovering the inventor of this most refreshing of summer drinks.

                                                  1. re: jmckee
                                                    Boudleaux RE: jmckee Aug 12, 2008 08:21 AM

                                                    Fantastic! Amazon.com is going to love me.

                                                    What do you think about John Martin Taylor aka Hoppin' John?

                                                    1. re: Boudleaux
                                                      jmckee RE: Boudleaux Aug 12, 2008 10:01 AM

                                                      I've poked around his books and site, and for some reason, he leaves me a little cold. Maybe it's the "commerce" aspect of his site. . . It could also be his "mainstream" aspirations; he seems to be some kind of Yankee's "Southerner of Choice" when the mainstream media want to talk Southern food. He doesn't seem as warmly Southern as Edge or Egerton.

                                                    2. re: jmckee
                                                      Will Owen RE: jmckee Sep 12, 2008 06:24 PM

                                                      At the Southern Festival of Books one year, John Egerton, Nathalie Dupree, and the woman who'd been cook for the Arkansas governors, can't remember her name, had a three-way symposium/discussion on Southern food in general. Too bad we had only an hour - everyone was having such a good time it could've lasted all day.

                                                      Just about everything everyone's mentioned is either on my shelf (okay, shelves) or headed there. I'd like to add the first non-food foodie's book I ever read, "Van Loon's Lives", based on the idea of inviting historical personages to a series of dinner parties. The guests are picked for either shared interests or enmities - Peter the Great and King Charles of Sweden, for one - and then we get into the minutiae of party planning, including of course much discussion of the menu. The bonus chapter is when the entire Bach clan and all the Breughels are invited to a massive open-air Christmas party, along with the Lost Children of history (Children's Crusade, the princes in the Tower, the last dauphin etc.), and aside from a delightful read that's where I got my pea soup recipe! Highly recommended, and not without some good historical lessons.

                                                      1. re: Will Owen
                                                        Phaedrus RE: Will Owen Sep 13, 2008 06:56 AM

                                                        I do have a book titled: An Evening with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson: Dinner, Wine, and Conversation by James M. Gabler. It follows along the same line. There are some discussions on the food but mostly about the wines that Jefferson had collected and about American history. The author is an oenophile and goes into a lot of details about the wines but not so much into the foods. I never finished it because I got bored with the wine history. Perhaps I will return to it when I get into wines.

                                                        There was also an interesting TV series on PBS years ago hosted by Steve Allen titled: Meeting of the Minds, where he had actors portray historical figures and them all meet together. I always thought that the show would have bene a lot more fuin if they had a food element to it.

                                                        1. re: Phaedrus
                                                          Will Owen RE: Phaedrus Sep 15, 2008 03:23 PM

                                                          It'd never do to see Ben Franklin talking with his mouth full, or poor George Washington struggling with his wooden teeth. That's it: they coulda had GW meet a good dentist!

                                                  2. re: jmckee
                                                    ferret RE: jmckee Aug 12, 2008 09:17 AM

                                                    Recently read "United States of Arugula" -- very good. Also just finished Steven Jenkins' "The Food Life", it's a similarly foodie book but focused on the Fairway Market stores and their offerings.

                                                    Also really enjoyed Robert Wolke's "What Einstein Told His Cook" books - explains a lot about the physics and chemistry of cooking.

                                                    1. re: jmckee
                                                      BerkshireTsarina RE: jmckee Aug 12, 2008 06:52 PM

                                                      Adding my voice to praise Laurie Colwin's books, too little known. They are wonderful! Extraordinary! The best! Reading her books is finding a friend. AND the recipes even work.

                                                      1. re: BerkshireTsarina
                                                        jmckee RE: BerkshireTsarina Aug 13, 2008 08:36 AM

                                                        I'm glad to see this comment. I felt exactly the same way the first time I read them; this is not an author, this is a friend.

                                                      2. re: jmckee
                                                        oakjoan RE: jmckee Aug 16, 2008 12:34 AM

                                                        Jmckee - How could I forget Calvin Trillin!?? What a great writer....his quests for the perfect boudin and the soup in, I think, Ecuador that is only served during one week in the year are classic.

                                                        1. re: oakjoan
                                                          jmckee RE: oakjoan Aug 18, 2008 01:43 PM

                                                          Fanesca. Made only during Holy Week. A soup so difficult to make Trillin suggests it be put on the menu as "Potage Labor Intensive."

                                                          I love in the boudin piece where he discovers that the secret ingredient in his friend's etouffee is Campbell's Cream of Mushroom. His friend pauses, says "I think it would be a good time for certain sensitive persons to leave the room," and from outside the kitchen they hear the can opener and the familiar sound of canned soup being plopped into the pan.

                                                          "Feeding a Yen" is dedicated to his late wife Alice.

                                                        2. re: jmckee
                                                          waver RE: jmckee Nov 4, 2008 08:55 PM

                                                          I'm so glad someone mentioned Laurie Colwin, her books are a huge reason I love to eat and cook.

                                                        3. l
                                                          luvarugula RE: MsAlyp Aug 12, 2008 10:03 AM

                                                          I would like to add Life a la Henri: Being the Memories of Henri Charpentier. It's the story of the man who, I think, invented Crepe Suzettes. Since there was no Food Network during his time (hee, hee), he never reached the level of fame like some of the other French chefs. But, it's an interesting story, just the same.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: luvarugula
                                                            Harp00n RE: luvarugula Aug 12, 2008 10:49 AM

                                                            Wait......before Yum-O Gal there was food?

                                                            1. re: Harp00n
                                                              ferret RE: Harp00n Aug 13, 2008 09:23 AM

                                                              There's a market for Rachel Ray. Believe it or not there's a whole segment of the population that could give a hoot about goat cheese, arugula or wagyu beef. She is the food Oprah for the masses. I once caught an Oprah show where she was discussing one of her book club offerings and more than one person in the audience (and I'm talking adults in their 30's & 40's) said that until Oprah started her book club the last book they read was in high school. As scary a thought as that may be, I suspect it applies to the majority of the population (when a book selling a few million copies is a mega-bestseller, even if 10 people read each copy, there are tens of millions ore who never bother).

                                                              So feel free to dis Rachel Ray, but she has a target audience that benefits from her presence.

                                                              1. re: ferret
                                                                Harp00n RE: ferret Aug 13, 2008 11:17 AM

                                                                How Yum-O Gal, on simply to pimp her book, equates with Oprah's book clubs stated mission of enriching and expanding her viewers reading experiences is a stretch at best. Oprah still has a show to sell and driven by the ratings. Given RR's cult of personality her appearances are symbiotic to Oprah's show. That, again, doesn't equate to RR being responsible for the edumacation of America it just means she sell lots of books to her, admittedly, adoring fans. Now do you have a recipe that includes Wagyu, arugula & goat's cheese? As I, most assuredly, do not.


                                                                1. re: Harp00n
                                                                  ferret RE: Harp00n Aug 13, 2008 11:31 AM

                                                                  I mean Rachel Ray'd dumbed-down cooking appeals to people who don't otherwise have a desire to cook anything. She has a target market and she provides a service to that market. Just like Oprah "invented" reading for a large segment of the population, Ray appeals to a midsection of America that isn't interested in high cuisine or "foodie" ingredients. I have in-laws in small town America who thought sushi was exotic five years ago. Most people don't make the jump from Kraft Mac & Cheese to three-star restaurants in one fell swoop.

                                                                  1. re: ferret
                                                                    Harp00n RE: ferret Aug 13, 2008 11:30 PM

                                                                    Point well taken and agreed to.
                                                                    BTW, make mine Lobstah Mac 'N Cheese.


                                                          2. Mild Bill RE: MsAlyp Aug 13, 2008 02:04 PM

                                                            Just finished My Life In France, by Julia Child...

                                                            It was great, and nice---- I think it's a must read...

                                                            Her and Paul's life together...

                                                            Without him she would have been someone else completely...

                                                            1. Withnail42 RE: MsAlyp Aug 14, 2008 05:08 AM

                                                              I think Mark Kurlansky is a phenomenal writer and researcher. 'Choice Cuts' should be required reading as far as food books go.

                                                              I have also really enjoyed Julia Child's 'My life in France'

                                                              1. erica RE: MsAlyp Aug 15, 2008 03:39 PM

                                                                "Man who Ate the World," by Jay Rayner is excellent and very funny.

                                                                Fuchsia Dunlop's new book, "Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper....." wonderful.

                                                                "Mediterranean Summer"..fun read with a few good-sounding recipes

                                                                "Devil's Picnic, " Taras Grescoe (not a new book but very good; well researched)

                                                                "Year of Eating Dangerously"..Tim Parker-Bowles

                                                                1. m
                                                                  mmuch RE: MsAlyp Aug 15, 2008 03:45 PM

                                                                  I'm sure this is really really old news but Julia Childs My life in France was wonderful. I can't wait to read it again.

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                                                                    annabana RE: MsAlyp Aug 17, 2008 01:47 AM

                                                                    ok its a cult thing these days, but back in the day Noel Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Evlen Waugh and Nancy Mitford were huge fans and here is a quote from "Mapp and Lucia": "As Mrs. Wyse's excellent super progressed, with its cold turkey and its fried slices of plum pudding, its toasted cheese and its figs stuffed with almonds...sent from Capri." This was preceeded by copious amounts of caviar (a gift from the now at sea Lucia) and I so recommend the Lucia books to all chow hounds, not just for the food but for the fun..

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                                                                      yankeefan RE: MsAlyp Aug 19, 2008 09:02 AM

                                                                      One that Im in the middle of reading now is more on food science questions but quite interesting. More along the lines for those of us that like to watch Alton Brown and the dopey non super scientific stuff about food science - What Einstein told his Cook I believe is the name. Its a good read.

                                                                      1. equal_Mark RE: MsAlyp Aug 21, 2008 04:57 PM

                                                                        Waiter Rant - by The Waiter

                                                                        Does for the front of the house what Bourdain did for the back.

                                                                        1. mrsleny RE: MsAlyp Aug 21, 2008 07:22 PM

                                                                          I greatly enjoyed:

                                                                          Alone in the kitchen with an eggplant - Jenni Ferrari-Adler
                                                                          Bento box in the heartland - Linda Furiya
                                                                          The fruit hunters - Adam Gollner (just started this one)

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                                                                          1. re: mrsleny
                                                                            lgss RE: mrsleny Dec 12, 2008 02:43 PM

                                                                            I'm listening to The Fruit Hunters on CD in the car on my way to and from appts. for work. Very interesting.

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                                                                            AnneBird RE: MsAlyp Aug 23, 2008 12:42 PM

                                                                            I love this thread!

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                                                                            1. re: AnneBird
                                                                              chicken kabob RE: AnneBird Sep 8, 2008 04:55 PM

                                                                              I just finished a great book of short stories called ALONE IN THE KITCHEN WITH AN EGGPLANT edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler. It is a collection of stories of people cooking for one and dining alone. "26 writers and foodies invite readers into their kitchens to reflect on the secret meals they relish when no one else if looking."

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                                                                              lhb78 RE: MsAlyp Sep 9, 2008 01:23 PM

                                                                              I really enjoyed Secret Ingredients- the new Yorker collection of food essays. I love the magazine and was really thrilled to have a book containing a lot of the older articles. The variety of topics was good, too.

                                                                              I just finished reading Emile Zola's "The Belly of Paris" which is a story of several characters living and working around the Les Halles market. This is part of a larger collection of work by Zola (I've not read any others so I can't comment on the collective works) and this one uses the market and the people (broadly categorized as the fats and thins) as vehicle for policital commentary.

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                                                                                HillJ RE: MsAlyp Sep 9, 2008 01:31 PM


                                                                                Life, Death & Bialys...complete with YouTube promo

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                                                                                  The Old Gal RE: MsAlyp Sep 9, 2008 09:19 PM

                                                                                  Loved Reichel's first book, the suceeding ones were steps down from that.
                                                                                  My favorite book lately (for me) was Trail of Crumbs about an Asian orphan.
                                                                                  Also liked Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant.

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                                                                                    fullbelly RE: MsAlyp Sep 10, 2008 04:59 AM

                                                                                    I highly recommend Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe. Wow. It was facinating and provocative, and has certainly nudged my thinking on fish. Plus Grescoe is such a talented writer, just beautiful.

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                                                                                    1. re: fullbelly
                                                                                      Gio RE: fullbelly Dec 24, 2008 08:41 AM

                                                                                      I just finished Bottomfeeder and have mentioned that in several other threads....ad nauseum I'm sure. Provocative is a perfect word to describe it. It certainly makes one rethink how to eat ethically without giving up the seafood one loves. I put Taras Grescoe in a class with Michael Polan, another author I love to read.

                                                                                    2. limster RE: MsAlyp Sep 13, 2008 02:11 PM

                                                                                      While I haven't read it from front to end, I love browsing through the Michelin Guide to France, reading the list of the signature dishes at some of the more august restaurants. The descriptions are straightforward and leaves everything to the imagination. Pure food.

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                                                                                        joyjoy RE: MsAlyp Sep 15, 2008 02:20 PM

                                                                                        I like Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall's book, 'Hugh Fearlessly Eat's it all'. I always enjoy Ruth Reichl, Jeffrey Steingarten and MK Fisher. When I was in college my reading list in my gastronomy class (my bachelors was in Culinary Arts) included Harold Magee, Food and Culture By Carole Counihan, Penny Van Esterik, Claude Levi Strass. They are well worth reading if you are looking for something different.

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                                                                                          Metalee RE: MsAlyp Sep 16, 2008 12:15 PM

                                                                                          I liked Marco Pierre White's Devil in the Kitchen.

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                                                                                          1. re: Metalee
                                                                                            jackieparis RE: Metalee Sep 16, 2008 12:34 PM

                                                                                            I loved the Last Chinese Chef and I'm looking for some books similar to it. I have The Fortune Cookie Chronicles and Shark's Fin & Sichuan Pepper on my to read list. I hope I will like them as much as the Last Chinese Chef. I'd love to hear other suggestions.

                                                                                          2. Withnail42 RE: MsAlyp Oct 7, 2008 07:01 PM

                                                                                            I'm interested in older books.

                                                                                            Does anyone have any suggestions for anything that is pre 1980?

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                                                                                            1. re: Withnail42
                                                                                              kleine mocha RE: Withnail42 Nov 10, 2008 07:23 AM

                                                                                              Sorry to come in late to this discussion, but for pre-1980 I can recommend Charles H. Baker's Gentleman's Companion. I believe it's a bit tongue in cheek but very enjoyable. Unfortunately, it seems a bit pricey right now at, e.g. Alibris, but perhaps you can find one hidden away in a used book store or even at the library.

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                                                                                              yankeefan RE: MsAlyp Oct 8, 2008 07:20 AM

                                                                                              While it surely is not a Foodie book, but incredibly entertaining:

                                                                                              "Eat This Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit"

                                                                                              Fun read, interesting information, and a lot learned about the 'sport'. Fun light read.

                                                                                              1. satoorisme RE: MsAlyp Oct 29, 2008 07:16 AM

                                                                                                my current obsession is the river cottage cookbook! that is exactly my kind of bible...!!!

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                                                                                                  hungrystudent257 RE: MsAlyp Oct 29, 2008 08:02 AM

                                                                                                  Anything by Elizabeth David, Ruth Reichl, or Julia Child

                                                                                                  I loved Insatiable by Gaele Green and Salt: A World History

                                                                                                  About to read Red, White and Drunk all over

                                                                                                  Did anybody else violently hate Julie and Julia? That woman was so irritating I stopped reading it three times, and now they are making a MOVIE of it, comparing it to the terrific My Life in France. Ugh

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                                                                                                    Withnail42 RE: hungrystudent257 Oct 31, 2008 05:55 AM

                                                                                                    It was a little self indulgent. There did seem to be at times an on going underling theme of 'poor me'. Certainly do not see the need to make a film of it.

                                                                                                    There is no logical way to compare it to 'My life in France' which is a truly wonderful and charming read.

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                                                                                                      jmckee RE: Withnail42 Nov 6, 2008 09:55 AM

                                                                                                      I'm reading it now, and am enjoying it more than I expected.

                                                                                                      I want to see the movie; Meryl Streep is playing Julia.

                                                                                                  2. gatorfoodie RE: MsAlyp Oct 30, 2008 07:55 AM

                                                                                                    My first Foodie Book was "The Soul of a Chef" and was a gift from my grandmother. This really sparked my interest in this genre of writing. Since then, my bookshelves have grown to include many by Bourdain, Buford, Pollan, etc., but in my mind (and for some sentimental reasons), "The Soul of a Chef" is my number 1.

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                                                                                                    1. re: gatorfoodie
                                                                                                      Athena RE: gatorfoodie Nov 2, 2008 01:58 AM

                                                                                                      Withnail - pre-1980 - Honey from a Weed, Patience Grey; Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris, A.J. Leibling; An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, Elizabeth David; Simple Cooking, John Thorne (post-1980 I think, but still good); Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet - some really good stuff by James Beard in it. Not sure if Laurie Colwin and Calvin Trillin are pre-1980 but they are both wonderful to read.

                                                                                                    2. waver RE: MsAlyp Nov 4, 2008 09:15 PM

                                                                                                      Steingarten, Trillin, Colwin. Also highly recommend Maddur Jaffrey's Climbing the Mangoe Trees. My Life in France was inspiring re the amount of hard work that went into becoming "Julia Child." Rue Tatin was kind of a fun quicky read. Buford's Heat was awesome. Jane and Michael Stern are good in small doses. I love the anecdotes and photography (and recipes) in any of the Alford/Duguid books. Maybe I'd most like to be them when I grow up.
                                                                                                      Reichl and MFK Fisher didn't do much for me (sacrilege I know) and even though Barbara Kingsolver wrote one of my favourite novels ever (Bean Trees), I just can't get through Animal Vegetable Miracle. Tarras Grescoe just grosses me out (which may well be the point, but still).
                                                                                                      Next up, The Last Chinese Chef sounds promising and I suppose I really must commit to Michael Pollan. That Mediterranean Summer book sounds entertaining.
                                                                                                      Great thread: love reading, love food.

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                                                                                                        yankeefan RE: waver Nov 5, 2008 09:47 AM

                                                                                                        Steingarten is by far my favorite, Trillin also tremendous.

                                                                                                        Ive read many of those mentioned on this thread but always looking for more: what authors to other fans of Steingarten highly recommend?

                                                                                                        Thanks.. great forum here and topic.

                                                                                                      2. clamscasino RE: MsAlyp Nov 5, 2008 10:23 AM

                                                                                                        Reading Pollan's books has made me delve into all sorts of reading on food agriculture. My latest was a fascinating, brand new book on the honey bee and the problems with colony collapse disorder. It's called Fruitless Fall and by Rowan Jacobsen. I think it probably just came out in September.

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                                                                                                          Harters RE: MsAlyp Dec 24, 2008 08:25 AM

                                                                                                          Three fave reads:

                                                                                                          "Much Depends on Dinner" - Margaret Visser

                                                                                                          "Bread & Oil" (or "Pa amb Oli" in Catalan) - Tomas Graves

                                                                                                          "Eating for England" - Nigel Slater (although I doubt if many non-Brits would "get" much of it)

                                                                                                          1. jmckee RE: MsAlyp Jan 8, 2009 08:55 AM

                                                                                                            Got a GREAT one from my son for Christmas: "Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink." It's a very nice compendium of some of the best food pieces from that august magazine over its history, from Joseph Mitchell on "throwing a beefsteak" to Calvin Trillin's history of Buffalo Chicken wings, to John McPhee's fascinating profile of the late Euell Gibbons, who was much more interesting than the butt of jokes he was made out to be during his Grape Nuts pitchman years. Cartoons are included as well!

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                                                                                                              bnemes3343 RE: MsAlyp Jan 8, 2009 09:14 AM

                                                                                                              Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl is one of the best books (of any type) that I have ever read. If you are in to food in any way, you will love this book.

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                                                                                                                stay_classy RE: MsAlyp Jan 10, 2009 07:09 AM

                                                                                                                My personal favorites:

                                                                                                                All of Michael Pollan's books, esp.: The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, The Botany of Desire
                                                                                                                Bill Buford's Heat
                                                                                                                David Kamp's The United States of Arugula
                                                                                                                Kathleen Flynn's The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry
                                                                                                                Julia Child's My Life In France
                                                                                                                Jacques Pepin's The Apprentice
                                                                                                                All of the "Best Food Writing of 200?" books, edited by Holly Hughes
                                                                                                                Michael Sanders' From Here, You Can't See Paris
                                                                                                                Marc Kurlansky's books: Salt, Cod, and Oyster

                                                                                                                I'm sure I'm forgetting many, but there are still so more I'm dying to read-- I love this thread! Going on Amazon now to make sure I wish list all of your suggestions...

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                                                                                                                  learning2wander RE: MsAlyp Nov 7, 2010 01:15 PM


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