A Year of Food Books (not cookbooks)
I hope I'm putting this post in the right place. This year I'd like to read almost exclusively food-related books. I don't mean cookbooks, though I love to read those too. So I'm looking for some suggestions. Here's what I have on my list so far:
Cornbread Nation Vol. 1-4: The Best of Southern Food Writing
An Omelette and a Glass of Wine - Elizabeth David
Fried Chicken: An American Story - John T. Edge
Apple Pie: An American Story - John T. Edge
The Tummy Trilogy - Calvin Trillin
The Art of Eating - M.F.K. Fisher
My Life in France - Julia Child
Any suggestions for additions to this list? I've read most Bourdain and Ruhlman books. I've also read Heat by Bill Buford. I've just added Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin to my wish list. I seem to keep eyeing The Kitchen Diaries: A year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater but it hasn't made it to my wish list for some reason.
Any thoughts and/or suggestions for me? Many thanks in advance.
Lots of good recs here....on MFK Fisher, if you can find a copy of "A Soup or a Story" it is an incredible book with lots of obscure articles she wrote for the numerous publications over the years. I think it contains some of her best writing. And everyone talks about "Omnivore's Dilemma", but I think Pollan's "In Defense of Food" is more engaging.
I also recommend "A Slice of Life" Contemporary Writers on Food, and also Laura Shapiro's biography of Julia Child. There is also Judith Benn Hurley's "Savoring The Day" which is all about utilizing the power of food to keep your body functioning in top form.
And although not about food, Natalie MacLean's "Red, White and Drunk All Over" is a hilarious and highly informative read about wine.
I just finished a couple of books which I found informative but hilariously entertaining as well:
The Food of a Younger Land - Mark Kurlansky. Basically a look at the eating habits of Americans of a bygone era. Chapters range from Maine clambakes to NY Automats to Montana Fried Beaver Tail & Nebraska Buffalo barbecue. I found this book "unputdownable" :-)
Cuisines of the Axis of Evil - Chris Fair. A really, REALLY entertaining foodie look at the eating habits of not just North Korea, Iraq & Iran, but other "irritating states" (as per the author). Another book which made me laugh out loud.
I just went to a panel discussion last night (moderated by Kurlansky) with four European writers whose novels are decidedly food-centric. I've added all the books to my list!
Gordo - http://www.amazon.com/Gordo-Spanish-Jesus-Ruiz-Mantilla/dp/8478714774/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257889652&sr=1-1 - not yet available in English
Mitsukos Restaurant by Christoph Peters - not available yet, but I think it is going to be published in English.
This was the panel:
I just saw this thread after I posted myself about two books I just finished. I don't know if you're looking for "beverage" books in addition to "food" books ...
"Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause" by Tom Gjelten
"The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It" by Tillar Mazzeo
And I second the Kingsolver; the Reichl; and the US of Arugula; and of course the usual Fast Food Nation and Omnivore's Dilemma.
For something different, try "Boogaloo on Second Avenue: A Novel of Pastry, Guilt and Music" by Mark Kurlansky. It's a great read and offers a fun take on the changing ethnic history of the lower east side (NYC) and its food.
I highly recommend all of Ruth Reichl's books: Tender to the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires. All are highly entertaining and give beautiful descriptions of food and the food industry.
Eat, Pray, Love also includes some wonderful food scenes---especially when the author is in Italy.
I also enjoyed Bourdain's Nasty Bits (a collection of essays) and A Cook's Tour.
United States of Arugula was also interesting.
Lots of the new has made it into these lists, but nothing by or about one of the oldest and best!
James Beard is arguably the father of American cuisine in the same way that Julia Child perhaps is the mother. His Delights and Prejudices is one of the most delightful and fascinating and mouth-watering books imaginable, and it's a real treat for anyone who hasn't come across it yet.
A bit of a different focus here but I love:
Stalking the Wild Asparagus - Euell
Gibbons; a beautiful discussion of foods you can find in the woods and what to do with them;
The Scavengers Guide to Haute Cuisine - Steven Rinella; a hunter finds a copy of escoffier and makes a feast using only proteins he hunted himself.
I heart MFK Fisher. Happy reading, great thread
Some other books, and I apologize if they have been mentioned. Both have recipes as well as lengthy non-recipe text:
The Jews of Poland: Recollections and Recipes by Edouard de Pomiane - http://maefood.blogspot.com/2009/04/pomiane-and-jewish-cooking.html
Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties: An Entertaining Life (with Recipes) - http://www.amazon.com/Biscuits-Hostes...
Two of the most romantic and wonderful foodie books on my re-read list are by Marlena DeBlasi...A Thousand Days in Venice and A Thousand Days in Tuscany. Another of hers is The Lady in the Palazzo. All are about her life in Italy, her husband, the food they make, serve and eat. Each is a terrific stand-alone read but reading them in order is a real treat.
Currently, I'm reading her "That Summer in Sicily" and loving it also.
Sooooo many good titles, soooooo little time!
Several new and notable books in some cases posted on here:
- the new Mark Kurlansky, with the fiendishly long title The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food--Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation's Food Was Seasonal - have not yet read this
- Simon Majumdar's Eat My Globe, which is quite hilarious in spots (I wish he enjoyed being/eating in China more though)
- How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham, reviewed in yesterday's NYTimes - have not yet read this
- David Lebowitz's The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City (reading this, a little too golly gosh about the French in my opinion)
- Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen by Dalia Jurgensen (will be reading this next)
- Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table (of Orangette blog fame, reading this now too and like it a lot)
Lots of wonderful books out at the moment!
Thanks, Buttertart. I am interested in the David Lebowitz book because I like him and follow him on Twitter but a friend had the same reaction as you to the book. I'll put it on my list though.
I've been doing lots of yummy reading. I'm in an Elizabeth David vortex at the moment. Don't read that like it is a bad thing. :)
Further to the above, I finished the three books I was reading and the Jurgensen book was my favorite - a very good description of real life in the restaurant kitchen and some personal revelations which were integrated into the story in a way that they often aren't (thinking of Phoebe Damrosch's book on Per Se which would have been better titled Dear Diary...in my estimation). The Lebowitz book was entertaining but the slant on the French was consistently irritating throughout. Nice recipes though - I made the Absinthe Cake and it is delicious. The Wizenberg book was fun but cloyed toward the end when she ventured into Cooking for Mr Latte territory in the descriptions of meeting and marrying Mr Right.
I'm reading The Sweet Life in Paris, and absolutely enjoying it. Of course, one needs to be gaga about Paris, and love to bake. I think he is a great writer in addition to being a great pastry chef, and has a keen sense of detail and irony.
Monsoon Diary, by Shoba Narayan
and two anthologies by Traveler's Tales:
Food, and The Adventure of Food, both edited by Richard Sterling, whose own travel memoir, The Fire Never Dies, I think is better than anything Bourdain ever wrote.
I've just read "A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table," by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette blog fame. It's a quick read, sweet but slight. Lots of short chapters, each with stories of her life, plus associated food memories and a recipe to go with. Now I want to make pickled grapes...
the books I liked the best have already been mentioned or you said that you had already read them: "Kitchen Confidential," " Heat," "Garlic and Pearls," "The Man Who Ate Everything," and "On Food and Cooking." (I had to mention these because they're so great.)
Other, more obscure books which you might enjoy are: "The Best of DeGustibus" by Marian Burros, a collection of articles by the long-time "New York Times" food columnist; "Won Ton Lust," a man goes searching for the world's best Chinese restaurant; and "Julie and Julia," about a New York City twenty-something who decides to cook all the recipes in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I" in a year and describes her experiences. (I recommend "Julie and Julia" with some trepidation because the author's attitudes can be irritating and the book starts out only tangentially discussing the author's project. But as the book proceeds, it picks up steam and becomes more oriented to the project at hand.)
I also liked "Culinary Artistry" by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, a somewhat unfocused book about flavor pairings, chefs' tips about what works well together, lists of the ten ingredients famous chefs can't do without, descriptions of the development of menus, chefs' philosophies, etc. It isn't the sort of book that you read cover to cover, but it is a great book for dipping into for ten minute reads while waiting at the dentist's office or waiting for your girlfriend/boyfriend to meet you somewhere.
I was skimming the list to see if anyone had yet listed it, and here it is, finally! Re-reading The Augerge of the Flowering Hearth invariably puts me into a dreamy, benevolent mood, wanting to paint. Not how books about food usually affect me.
Lots of great books mentioned here. I also have several years' worth of the Holly Hughes' edited Food Essays of 200x, and would recommend them.
Swallowing Clouds, by A. Zee, about Chinese food, culture and etymology (characters).
Thoroughly enjoyed the old Clementine in the Kitchen, a Modern Library Food reissue.
Am trying to remember the names of some others that come to mind. Since I'm not at home but still in the office, I have to rely on my memory instead of being able to rummage through my shelves.
One exceptional book that I liked very much is by a young newly observant Jewish woman who learned kosher cooking from her mother-in-law. Wish I could remember the title.
Another is The Raw and the Cooked, by Jim Harrison, a collection of his essays. Great book, even if I couldn't sit down and read it all at once. I've got a robust appetite, but Harrison makes me feel downright delicate by comparison.
"The United States of Arugula", a wonderful examination of the gourmet-ing of America. A worthy counterpart is Jane & Michael Stern's "American Gourmet," which covers the same topic in a very different way, with recipes.
"Pure Ketchup" by Andrew Smith. Yup. A history of ketchup. You'll be surprised at how interesting it is.
"Southern Cooking" and "Side Orders" by John Egerton. Two indispensable books on the topic.
"Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain. I really put off reading this for a long time. I'm glad a read it. He's a natural storyteller.
"Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs" is a collection of great chefs showing us they're as fallible as we are.
Boudleaux...good list. Don't forget Hamburgers & Fries by John T. Edge.
And, Klyeo...fantastic list! My library is pretty big, too, but I'm definitely going to see what I'm missing.
I'd like to add "American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America's Back Roads" by Pascale Le Draoulec. I really enjoyed this book, even though I don't know anyone else who's read it .
"Fashionable Food" by Sylvia Lovegren.
A culinary history of America in the 20th century. Required reading if you somehow thought that we only started a love affair with processed foods, short cuts, and convenient labor-saving methods in the 50s and 60s.
It details the spread of "ethnic" foods in America, cocktail parties, casseroles, what defined "elegance" at various points, and how our national tastes evolved.
A great read even if it stops at its publication date of 1995.
Just finished "The Fruit Hunters"; it was a pretty fascinating read. Dunlop's "Shark's Fin & Sichuan Pepper" is next up on my list. I'd second all the recs for anything by Calvin Trillin, MFK Fischer, and Ruth Reichl. I know "Omnivore's Dilemma" is big right now, ad I enjoyed it, but you might want to look at some of his older stuff too - try "Botany of Desire". "United States of Arugula" is a little superficial but good. Add to that "Eating My Words" by Mimi Sheraton, "Climbing the Mango Trees" by Madhur Jaffrey, and the anthologies "Endless Feasts" from Gourmet, "Secret Ingredients" from the New Yorker, and the annual "Best Food Writing" series (I've got 2007 and it's great).
Just finished Moira Hodgson's new "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time" (great title), her very interesting memoir with culinary reminiscences and some recipes. What a life (lived all over the place primarily because of her father's career in British civil service). Also would recommend Gastropolis, on NY food, the best book I've read this year on food - from an anthro/sociological perspective. I posted in detail on it on this board to resounding lack of response. Would seem to be just the ticket for you, however.
Some of my faves:
Memoirs of My Life - Auguste Escoffier
The Physiology of Taste - Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Cooking for Kings - Ian Kelly
My Gastronomy - Nico Ladenis
The Wilder Shores of Gastronomy - Alan Davidson
Molecular Gastronomy - Herve This
An Alphabet for Gourmets - MFK Fisher
Seven Centuries of English Cooking - Maxime de la Falaise
All Manners of Food - Stephen Mennell
Rituals of Dinner - Margaret Visser
Food, A Culinary History - Jean-Louis Flandrin/Massimo Montanari
Charlemagne's Tableloth - Nichola Fletcher
Dear Francesca - Mary Contini
Table Talk - A A Gill
Breakfast at the Wolseley - A A Gill
Feeding Frenzy - Stuart Stevens
Last Dinner on the Titanic - Rick Archbold/Dana McCauley
Toast - Nigel Slater
The Short Life & Long Times of Mrs Beeton - Kathryn Hughes
Fish, Flesh & Good Red Herring - Alice Thomas Ellis
Plenty - Digressions on Food - Gay Bilson
Wild Weed Pie - Janni Kyritsis
French Damien Pignolet
Recipes & Stories - Kylie Kwong
A Life in Three Courses - Beppi Polese/John Newton
Kafka's Soup - Mark Crick
Don't Try This At Home - Kimberly Witherspoon/Andrew Friedman
Finding Betty Crocker - Susan Marks
Why We Are What We Eat - Raymond Sokolov
Why Do Donuts Have Holes - Don Vorhees
Great Cooks & Their Recipes - Ann Willan
The Mere Mortal's Guide to Fine Dining - Colleen Rush
Tinglish in Thai Cuisine - Boon-Song Klausner-Nathan
Al Dente - William Black
The Land That Thyme Forgot - William Black
Tummy Trilogy - Calvin Trillin
Rare Bits, Unusual Origins of Popular Recipes - Patricia Bunning Stevens
Ladyfinger's & Nun's Tummies - Martha Barnette
Choice Cuts - Mark Kurlansky
Pedant in the Kitchen - Julian Barnes
Are You Really Going to Eat That? - Robb Walsh
The Fearless Diner - Richard Sterling
Food, True Stories of Life on the Road - Richard Sterling
Spotted Dick, S'il Vous Plait - Tom Higgins
Eating India - Chitrita Banerji
The Collected Writings of Vir Sanghvi
Curry - Lizzie Cunningham
A Matter of Taste, Penguin Book of Indian Writing on Food - Nilanjana S Roy
The Gourmet Club, a Sextet - Junichiro Tanizaki
Julie & Julia - Julie Powell
It Must Have Been Something I Ate - Jeffrey Steingarten
The Man Who Ate Everything - Jeffrey Steingarten
Fork It Over - Alan Richman
The Book of Salt - Monique Truong
In Search of Perfection - Heston Blumenthal
Life Is Meals, a Food Lover's Book of Days - James & Kay Salter
Everybody Eats There - William Stadiem/Mara Gibbs
The Story of Sushi - Trevor Corson
Eating with The Victorians - C Anne Wilson
The Sex Life of Food - Bunny Crumpacker
The Garrulous Gourmet - William Wallace Irwin
British Bouquet, An Epicurean Tour of Britain - Samuel Chamberlain
The Devil in the Kitchen - Marco Pierre White
Great list, klyeoh - Boudleaux could satisfy his or her year (or two) here.
I have to say, though, I was underwhelmed by Don't Try This at Home. Some of the stories were funny and truly about culinary disasters, but most were decidly ho-hum. And Curry: Of Cooks and Conquerers was interesting but I felt there was some of it that could easily have been cut - an all-too-common case of the academic throwing in everything she turned up, even when it didn't add much to the history.
I think you would definitely enjoy Mark Kurlansky's histories of cod, salt, and oysters.
re: Caitlin McGrath
I do agree with you - and each author has his/her own style, which makes food books so interesting.
Oh yes, I heard about Kurlansky's "Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World" definitely on my to-read list. I'm currently reading Paul Arnott's wonderful "Let Me Eat Cake".
You have a great list already. I'd add "Perfection Salad," by Laura Shapiro. It's a well-told account of the "scientific cookery" movement in the early 20th century in our country (popularized by, among others, Fanny Farmer), and the processed food industry it fostered and encouraged.
A very interesting counterpoint to Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma."
One of the best. "Beautiful Swimmer" by William Warner about the Blue Crab of the Chesapeake Bay and the life of the watermen who catch them.
Warner won a Pulitzer for this wonderful book, and although it's not actually about food per se, you'll get an appreciation for where your food comes from, the culture of the watermen, and life on the Chesapeake.
It also details the biology of the crab, a fascinating creature, unfortunately threatened by overfishing and environmental problems in the Bay watershed.
One of the best books I've ever read and re-read. And given as gifts time and again.
Add Jen Lin-Liu, Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey through China. Also The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family by Laura Schenone. She tracks down her hallowed family recipe to the batterd old handwritten card--which calls for Philadelphia cream cheese--huh? And winds up chasing the recipe back to its roots in the chestnut-eating Ligurian highlands. Facinating take on food Americanization.
I can't wait for the late September release of "Far Flung and Well Fed: The Food Writing of R. W. Apple"
Johnny Apple was a foreign and political correspondent for the NYT, but he indulged his love of food from the most humble to the haute everywhere he traveled, and wrote about it with joy and skill.
It didn't matter if he was discussing a Michellin-starred meal or the joys of Silver Queen corn on Maryland's Eastern Shore, he loved it all.
Sign up in advance http://www.amazon.com/Far-Flung-Well-...
I'm just finishing Far Flung and Well Fed and absolutely loved it, one of my two favorite books on food this year (the other being Gastropolis, on food in New York). What a treat to read him again. The man could blow your socks off write: describing pho broth as "It glittered in the mouth, the way homemade bouillon does and beef stock made from a cube doesn't.", "vegetable dumplings, as sheer as a stocking", and so much more. It also includes his appreciation of Taillevent under M. Vrinat, where it was my great good fortune to celebrate a signal anniversary with one of the best meals of my life, in true luxe, calme, et volupté. The book took me back to the glory days of food writing, when such stars as George Lang, Lilian Langseth-Christensen and Joseph Wechsberg were active. Read this book!