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Dec 12, 2008 01:10 PM

If you were to choose *one and only one* nonfiction food read, what would it be?

I know there are lots of threads on this subject, but they all make my head spin. There is simply an embarrassment of food writing these days, all with the exact same title: "Food Item A & Food Item B: A Search for Family/Meaning/Love in Exotic or Exotically Mundane Location X." Currywurst & Kugels: A German Jew's Search for Identity in Postwar Berlin. Chicken, Waffles, & Chicken & Waffles: Sunday Suppers at Granny Goo-Goo's Sugar Shack. Whatever. I'm sick of it before I've read it.

In short as an admitted snob I'll be blunt: I don't care how interesting the topic, I only want to read it if it's well-written.

What *one book* would you truly be willing to put up against the likes of Fisher, David, and to a lesser extent Ruhlman, Reichl and Pollan, be it memoiristic or academic?

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  1. "The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth" by Roy Andries deGroot, 1973, is a recounting of Mr. deGroot's visits to a small inn located in La Grande Chartreuse, a high Alpine valley.
    Many lovely and delicious meals and stories, well described settings and characters.
    I have read parts of it several times, and love to revisit.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Mrs M

      I'm with you, Mrs. M! "Auberge" is thoroughly captivating, and the recipes are also superb. Every one of today's writers pale in comparison, imho.

      It certainly made me want to go there, even though I know it doesn't exist any more.

      1. re: ChefJune

        I love that book as well. I mde the tomato soup once - took forever but was fantastic.

    2. I was very entertained (and sometimes really irritated - good lord, it's just pasta) by Bill Buford's Heat. Also Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything. These are not new books, but they're well-written, and I learned interesting things from both.

      3 Replies
      1. re: small h

        If I were to pick just one I'd go with Bill Buford's "Heat" as well. This was interesting, well written, and stands out in my mind among a sea of others that I've read as one of the best non-fiction non-cookbook books about food and being a chef. That being said "The Man Who Ate Everything", "Garlic and Sapphires" and "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral" were all enjoyable reads too.

        1. re: Phoo_d

          I really enjoyed the portions of "Heat" that described Buford's experiences in the prep and stations at Babbo quite a lot. The trips back to small-town Italy less so, and his ruminations and historical investigation about the genesis of certain pastas were to me superfluous filler.

          Anyone bought and read Ripert's book about Le Bernadin yet?

        2. re: small h

          One vote against Heat, couldn't finish it.

          I am completely, completely sick of the personal culinary memoir - the idea that someone deserves your attention because they have so many years of experience eating (or cooking). Enough, enough! Either do it better than anyone else or save the stories for your family or people who really know you.

          That said, my literary appetite varies with the weather and other factors. My vote goes to How to Cook a Wolf at the moment, the revised version.

        3. I'll go with one of my more recent reads: "The Perfectionist" by Rudolph Chelminski. I was totally engrossed by that one. If you don't know it, it's the story of Bernard Loiseau who worked manically to achieve three Michelin stars and killed himself upon hearing rumors that he was going to lose one of them. (Not a spoiler, it is revealed in the first chapter, the book is about how he got to that point and what drove him as a chef)

          1 Reply
          1. re: ktb615

            That was a good read. Spoiler? what happened has been documented in many places. Loiseau was bipolar and took himself off his meds. A tragedy. He was a lovely man and a fabulous chef.

          2. I just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle : A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. I thought it was very well written and thought-provoking.

            2 Replies
            1. re: CeeBee

              If you remove Ruhlman and Pollan, I would also go with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

            2. You had to ask, tatamagouche....LOL

              I just finished reading "Bottomfeeder: How To Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood" by Taras Grescoe. It's astonishing, eye opening and not only thought provoking but action inciting.

              "The good news is that there is a way to eat that balances conservation and health—even when it comes to the complex, multispecies cuisine that is seafood. And it can be done without leaving the oceans, or our plates, empty." TG

              3 Replies
              1. re: Gio

                Bottomfeeder reminded me a lot of a seafood version of The Jungle - I am much more aware of what I am choosing to eat and more appreciative of what I do consume.

                1. re: TampaAurora

                  End of the Line is actually a much better, more thoroughly researched version of what went into Bottomfeeder, if extinct fish are your thing.

                  1. re: condiment

                    Fish which will become extinct is a very real issue. That's why I was so interested in what Taras Grescoe had to say about what is happening in our oceans today. His book is throughly referenced chapter by chapter, fact by fact. What he speaks about impacts our lives every day and will for generations to come.