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books about food

not cookbooks, but books about food.

i'm reading "Eat the City" by robin shulman and love it! great history book as well as present day foodies-of-NYC info. also started "Fannie's Last Supper" by Christopher Kimball of Cook's and ATK fame.

I also loved "Heat" by bill buford, "Stuffed" by Patricia Volk, and "Garlic and Sapphires" by Ruth Reichl

I've read bourdain's food books, and am reading "La Bonne Table" by Bemelmans. I've also got "Is There a Nutmeg in the House" by jill norman, waiting in the stacks. I've tried MFK fisher and gotten bored though... does anyone have more food/restaurant/hospitality recommendations?

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  1. On my to-read list is "Mastering the Art of French Eating" by Ann Mah.

    I liked "Julie and Julia," but did not enjoy Julie Powell's subsequent book about learning butchery - I just couldn't get into it. I also didn't care for "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, as some of it seemed quite preachy.

    Here are some other suggestions: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/food...

    3 Replies
    1. re: truman

      agree with the kingsolver. liked julie/julia until it became a movie! (though, totally love jane lynch..) will look into the Mah book.. and thanks SO MUCH for the goodreads thread!

      1. re: truman

        Agree on the preachy, but I happen to be in that particular choir, so I enjoyed "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle."

        1. re: truman

          I quite liked the Kingsolver book. The intensity of their effort to eat locally didn't seem preachy to me. Rather, it sent me back to the farmers' market for them to do the oogy bits. I admired, while en route to said market, their efforts to do otherwise.

          John Thorne has written a lot about American food, as has Karen Hess among other Southerners.

        2. Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking and More Home Cooking.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LeoLioness

            THANK YOU!!!! i remembered the wonderful cover art, but not the name! now going on my list...

          2. Ruhlman's "Making of a Chef" "Soul of a Chef" "Reach of a Chef" Are all outstanding.

            Autobiographies: Jacque Pepin, Marcus Samuelson, Gayle Simmons.

            1 Reply
            1. re: WNYamateur

              I'll second this, I loved Soul of a Chef.

            2. Ruth Riechl's earlier books about her growing up are very good too.

              I am currently reading "Provence, 1970" which is about a season when the Child's, James Beard, MFK Fisher and a few other of their friends were all together in the south of France.

              Michael Pollan's "Cooked" is very interesting and thought provoking.

              Also, there is an annual collection of short articles by many different authors called "Best Food Writing of 2013" (and past years).

              3 Replies
              1. re: pamf

                I agree, Tender at the Bone and Comfort me With Apples were as good as Garlic and Sapphires.

                The Sharper the Knife the Less you Cry was a fun read too. Kathleen Flinn is the author.

                1. re: melpy

                  yes i liked the other ruth reichl books as well, but G&S was my favorite.

                  checking out the flinn book now.. thanks

                  1. re: melpy

                    She wrote a 2nd book about teaching home cooks to get out of their dependency on processed foods:


                2. If you can get hold of Bemelmans's memoir, or any of his wonderful short-story collections, I urge you to do it. The man grew up in the hospitality business, loved and adored it, excelled at it, and wrote (and lived!) stories that only such a fellow could. He's one favorite author I would love to have known, if he hadn't been fifty or sixty years older and somewhere else.

                  James Beard's memoir is a delight; his book on American food and that of Evan Jones are both good reading with some fine recipes thrown in. John Egerton's instant-classic Southern Food is a fine and friendly book; he was a man I encountered a few times, including one memorable panel at a Nashville book festival he shared with Nathalie Dupree and Bill Clinton's ex-cook who'd just published a cookbook, and I had the notion to ask why Southerners insist on sweetening sweet potatoes, which led to about twenty minutes of great fun (Nathalie didn't really understand that either).

                  Reichl has a bunch of books about her journey from the LA Times to Gourmet, and things happening before and after those, but while the food's always present there's maybe more about her other concerns and appetites than I really needed to know, but Gael Green's memoir makes Ruth come off as almost a nun. Only Jewish. Just warning you.

                  Of course the most famous is The Physiology of Taste, by Brillat-Savarin, and if you got bored with MFK Fisher you'll really snooze after a page or three. I like Fisher, maybe admire her a bit more, but even her translation of this was something I couldn't wade through … and I'm the guy who can read whole clumps of Larousse Gastronomique as though it were a novel.

                  1. "The Sorcerer's Apprentices", which follows a group of stagiers during a season of working at el Bulli, is a really interesting read if you're curious about what it's like to actually work in a really high-end kitchen (spoiler: sometimes a cook can make something thousands of times over many nights and never actually get to taste it).

                    Someone on here actually recommended it to me and I finished it a couple of days later. It's that readable.

                    1. Secret Ingredients, a collection of food pieces from The New Yorker. You can dip into it anywhere, so although it's large, you can read it as your leisure. Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential grew out of a New Yorker piece.

                      Salt, a fascinating history of this primal condiment.

                      The Apprentice, which is Jacques Pepin's memoir.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: greygarious

                        ha! i got secret ingredients from the used bookstore and opened it the other day...only to discover someone had gotten to it before me (it looked pristine) and marked the heck out of it. but, here's the weird part.. they made comments about the comments - as if someone was reading over their shoulder, or they knew they needed to interact with an unknown entity. i chalked it up to media saturation - everyone knows what i'm doing, i have an opinion and here it is, etc... - but i found it really weird and now i'm thinking i might have to get another edition of the book just because the "notes" are so pervasive! so strange...

                      2. kitchen confidential! kitchen confidential!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ahuva

                          already trod the bourdain road! thanks

                        2. A lot of the earlier Gourmets had reminiscences about the good old days.

                          While I think of it, Clementine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain is a treasure.

                          And John Thorne's tomes are well worth perusal.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: sr44

                            thanks. clementine is now on the list for sure. will check john thorne, though the word "tome" in your description is making me nervous...

                              1. re: sr44

                                didn't say he was... i thought tome more implied the size of the manuscript

                          2. And Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter. The writing is terrific.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: sr44

                              already read it - it was very good

                              1. re: sr44

                                Pretty amazing - in ways not even related to food. She writes very well.

                                But I found it less interesting toward the end - her balancing her self-identification as a lesbian while married to a man and having two kids with him.

                              2. Mark Kurlansky(sp?) has written several GREAT books on food items...........Cod.....salt....oysters......tracing their history and influence on the world

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                  salt is already in the stack! didn't know he'd written about oysters: not sure i want a whole book connected to them...!

                                  he also edited a book called Food of a Younger Land, which was pretty interesting. It was compiled from the WPA writers project.

                                  1. re: rmarisco

                                    Funny you should mention the WPA book.After this posting I went to checkout the spelling of Kurlansky's name and ordered that book for my Nook

                                    I suspect that the book on oysters could be interesting since he tends to weave other issues into his "food-histories" He has several other books on commercial fishing as well

                                  2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                    His book "Edible Stories" is also quite good and more fun than the others.

                                  3. To an extent, all of the Nero Wolfe books are about food. For the uninitiated, this is a series of about forty murder mysteries by Rex Stout, my favorite author.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mwhitmore

                                      brother of ruth stout, greatest gardener EVER

                                    2. I have dined at the just-shuttered Upstairs on the Square and its predecessor, Upstairs at the Pudding, in Harvard Square, but have not read Charlotte au Chocolat, the memoir of the daughter of one of the landmark restaurant's
                                      founders. But there's a thread about it somewhere on CH, well-reviewed.

                                      I also liked Gesine Bullock-Prado's witty memoir, originally titled Confections of a Master Baker but when released in paperback, called Starting Over from Scratch. Her writing style is very conversational, and there are some appealing recipes sprinkled amongst its pages. She started as a lawyer and member of her actress sister, Sandra's, production company, but wound up running a bakery-cafe in Vermont and restoring an old homestead there.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        grey, I can recommend Charlotte au Chocolate. It is a lovely memoir and particularly poignant for those of us who have been to either the Pudding or On the Square.

                                        I also loved Gesine's book (and the sly original title.) How I wish I had made it to her bakery before she moved on. Both books are worth a read. Here's a link to a sweet (pun intended) segment with Gesine on All Things Considered.


                                      2. I've enjoyed all three of the Ruth Reichl books mentioned. Also read Jeffrey Steingarten's "It Must Have Been Something I Ate," and enjoyed it immensely.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: jlhinwa

                                          I'll second Steingarten, and add "The Man Who Ate Everything" (which came before "It Must Have Been Something I Ate").

                                        2. I suppose you've already read these but just in case you missed them. Under the Tuscan Sun & Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes. I really enjoyed those two.

                                          1. I recommend the writing of Roy Andries de Groot. Auburge of the Flowering Hearth is a beautiful food read and there's also In Search of the Perfect Meal which is a collection of his best writing. His descriptions of meals are so amazing, even moreso considering he was blind.

                                            1. Posters have already mentioned my favorites, such as Kitchen Confidential, the Soul of a Chef, Heat, and It Must have Been Something I Ate, but here are a two others: Life on the Line by Grant Achatz, and the Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee. Achatz's description of his battle with cancer while running Alinea, the famous molecular gastronomy restaurant in Chicago, is gripping. Jennifer 8. Lee's description of the Chinese restaurant industry (and, basically, a separate society) is the opposite extreme--a featherweight look at a closed society.