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Book Recommendation

Need a food book recommendation. Just finished Norman Van Aiken's, thought it started well but ended 'meh.' Enjoyed Anything That Moves (Goodyear), Blood Bones & Butter (Hamilton), Heat (Buford), anything by Bourdain, Steingarten, Ruhlman. Not a huge fan of the historicals - Extra Virginity, Salt, Consider the Fork - but do veer toward the educational/resource (McGee, Flavor Bible).

Restaurant Man, Counter Intelligence, L.A. Son are probably my three 'favorite' reads so anything along any of these lines would be great.


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    1. re: mike0989

      absolutely perfect rec, but i've read it. left it off the list as i was looking through my bookshelves and have that loaned out. perfect perfect 'what i'm looking for' though thank you

    2. I loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.


      <<Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.>>

      2 Replies
        1. I have one suggestion that Might be just slightly outside your preferences: "Come In, We're Closed; An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World's Best Restaurants" by Christine Carroll & Jody Eddy. "Insider" stories and interviews, all accompanied by some of the recipes the staff enjoy before the doors open to us. Of the 25 restaurants profiled, a couple of very recognizable names: Ad Hoc, The Fat Duck, and the soon-to-be-closed wd~50.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mcsheridan

            nope this works, this is really unique and my friend who's a front-of-house lifer always regales me with his family meal stories. great call, thank you.

          2. "Secret Ingredients", an anthology of New Yorker magazine's food writing and cartoons. Varied and fascinating topics, including articles like the one by Bourdain that was expanded into "Kitchen Confidential".

            "The Apprentice", Jacques Pepin's memoir.

            1 Reply
            1. re: greygarious

              I'll second the New Yorker volume. I've read it through about three times now!

            2. This is a good one on Daniel Boulud's New York restaurant.


              Anything by Michael Pollan or Ruhlman, as you mentioned.

              Marlena di Blasi's series on Italy is pretty good, though they may be more "chick" books. They are about travel and food in Italy, but her descriptions of Italian food are
              quite evocative.


              1. Might not be what you have in mind, but take a look at "The Debt to Pleasure" by John Lanchester. I'm about halfway through it and finding it thoroughly delightful.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JoanN

                  this is tough; i'm usually non-fiction all the way, but looks like it reads well

                  1. re: MagnoliaGardens

                    Just fyi, reads more like a memoir than like a novel.

                    1. Check out this thread; it's from five years ago, so doesn't encompass more recent publications, but perusing it will turn up dozens of worthy titles in a similar vein: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/605961

                      1. I just finished Dan Barber's "The Third Plate," which is about sourcing and sustainability. I liked the sections on fish and rice.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Kalivs

                          i'm through the 1st three sections (soil, land, sea) about to start the 4th and final, seed.

                          barber's a fine writer. and he's not advocating a particular agenda -- just a thoughtful consideration of the ambiguities of trying to eat and cook responsibly. highly recommended!

                        2. Suggest getting into John Thorne, whose books are collections of his unique essays/ruminations on recipes, foodways, cooks and their books, and the eating life in general, from a wry, knowing, distinctively voiced observer who's not really part of the celeb food media circus. Outlook Cook, for one.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: bob96

                            great rec here. thank you. his entire canon looks good

                              1. re: bob96

                                just put aside the New Yorker compendium to jump into this. Yes - great read. Thorne is a great writer with passion and precise prose. This was a perfect recommendation and thank you.

                            1. re: bob96

                              Serious Pig was my first Thorne book. Reading him eventually led me to Chowhound over a decade and a half ago. Recommend it highly.

                            2. I liked Jacques pepin's the apprentice, my life in the kitchen.

                              I cannot come up with the title but I also enjoyed a memoir written by a women detailing her experience working as a novice server at Per Se.

                              A billionaire's vinegar about the rare wine industry

                              1. Really enjoyed R. W. Apple's "Far Flung and Well Fed".

                                1. Two books that I really enjoyed were:

                                  1) The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering and eating local (all on forty dollars a week) by Robin Mather. The writing is easy, the story something most of us can relate to at some level, and it's got a few recipes interspersed throughout the book.

                                  2) The Dirty Life...On Farming, Food & Love by Kristin Kimball. Once again, very easy read. Loved this book

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                    I already loved The Dirty Life and now I'm reading A Feast Nearby. What a terrific book! I think I need to buy it. It is really a great resource for putting up food. Freezing eggs is something I never heard of before.

                                    1. re: Berheenia

                                      In spite of having odd titles, I think both these books are well written and really worth the reading time. Definitely under-rated and under the radar

                                  2. The Third Plate (by Dan Barber)

                                    Generally a breezy read, which is good for summer, but enough thought-provoking depth that it doesn't make you feel like you're gumming up your mental synapses with brain candy.

                                    1. I enjoyed reading anything by Ruth Reichl.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: elegraph

                                        Have you read "Delicious!" yet?

                                        It was, unfortunately, a complete waste of an afternoon for me.

                                        If you have not read it, I would keep it that way.

                                      2. "The Supper of the Lamb" By Robert Farrar Capon. There's simply nothing else like it.

                                        It is one recipe -- "Lamb for eight persons four times." But it is so much more than that, with digressions on numerous culinary and non-culinary topics.

                                        I heard about it for years, but could never find it until in an antique store I happened across a bookshelf full of what was apparently the collection of review copies given to a former food writer. I fell in love with it. It's back in print now. http://www.amazon.com/The-Supper-Lamb...

                                        Read it. You will not regret it.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: jmckee

                                          This was one of the key books in my household growing up - a huge favorite of my mother's.

                                          1. re: jmckee

                                            Thanks for this- I just bought the kindle version for my vacation reading.

                                          2. Salt
                                            The Big Oyster

                                            all by Mark Kurlansky

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: kcshigekawa

                                              KC-> have you read Birdseye?
                                              I got a digital version, which won't open, and because I'm so aggrrrrrrvated about that, I can't bring myself to just buy the book!

                                              1. re: Kris in Beijing


                                                I have, and I liked it a lot. He was a fascinating man...

                                            2. I recently finished "Mastering the Art of French Eating" by Ann Mah - absolutely loved it. Her husband's in the diplomatic corps, they finally get a posting in Paris, and then he gets shipped out to the Middle East - so she's on her own for a year, eating her way around France.

                                              If you're open to fiction, "The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris" by Jennie Colgan was a light and entertaining read too.

                                              Re. chef lit, I read, but did not care for, "Sous Chef" by Michael Gibney. I think I read it originally when it was called "Kitchen Confidential!" I read Alton Brown's "Feasting on Asphalt" a while ago and enjoyed his road trip stories.

                                              FWIW (and sort of off topic), Goodreads is pretty useful for finding books in a specific genre, e.g. https://www.goodreads.com/genres/food .

                                              1. John T. Edge has several mouthwatering and entertaining small volume books (I own only two):
                                                On an edgier (no pun intended), I just finished "Folks, This Ain't Normal" by Joel Salatin:
                                                A good read, but somewhat alarming, too.
                                                Also, a good source of food-related books, both cooking and food essay, not to mention very inexpensive is:
                                                There's a whole category just on food.
                                                Hope that get's you started. Good luck.

                                                1. Everything nonfiction by Peter Mayle, starting with A Year in Provence (1991).

                                                  1. While these are quite old they are not difficult to find and l reread them often:

                                                    Blue Trout and Black Truffles-Joseph Wechsberg
                                                    The Food of France-Waverly Root
                                                    In Search of the Perfect Meal-Roy Andries de Groot
                                                    Italian Days-Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                      All great choices. I'd add
                                                      Madeline Kamman, When French Women Cook
                                                      Elizabeth Romer, A Tuscan Year
                                                      Patience Gray, Honey from a Weed (the classic Mediterranean food memoir)
                                                      Vincent Schiavelli, Bruculinu, America (a classic Italian American food memoir, from Brooklyn)

                                                      1. re: bob96

                                                        Agree on Honey from a Weed, I read it years ago (it's still in a prominent place on my book shelf) and it really changed how I thought about all things food.

                                                        1. re: bob96

                                                          Just bought 'Honey from a Weed', thanks.
                                                          Schiavelli's book was lovely when read a while ago.

                                                      2. I am enjoying David Lebovitz' MY PARIS KITCHEN, more memoir than cookbook, but technically both.


                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                          Have you read David's The Sweet Life in Paris? Very enjoyable read.

                                                          1. re: bear

                                                            Yes. I read SWEET LIFE shortly before MY PARIS KITCHEN. David Lebovitz has become one of my favorite food writers.

                                                          2. re: Jay F

                                                            On the contrary, I'd definitely classify My Paris Kitchen as a cookbook, as much more of its real estate is given to recipes than essay, whereas The Sweet Life in Paris is a straight-up memoir.

                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                              Yet after reading MY PARIS KITCHEN I feel I know so much more about David than I did before. I think I've read all of his books, and I know he answered a lot of questions he posed (at least in my mind) in SWEET LIFE. Or at least filled in more detail. I think both are worth reading.

                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                I agree that the stories in My Paris Kitchen are well worth a read. Lebovitz has an engaging voice.

                                                                If you haven't read his blog entry on the making of the book, you should: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2014/04/...

                                                          3. I am assuming from what you wrote above that you are not seeking recommendations for Bourdain, Steingarten, and Ruhlman, all favorites of mine, because you are already aware of these excellent authors.

                                                            I would recommend "Life, on the Line" by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. Only about a third of the book is devoted to Achatz's battle with cancer of the mouth (and running a world famous restaurant, Alinea, at the same time).

                                                            About two thirds is about his introduction to cooking at his family's restaurant as a teenager, working briefly for Charlie Trotter, working for several years for Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, becoming the head chef at Trio (more or less a forerunner to Alinea), and founding Alinea.

                                                            I mention to the proportion of the recounting of his battle with cancer to the rest of the book so that people won't think it is a non-food related book. It isn't. And the battle with cancer is inspiring, but even without it, it would be a great book about a world class chef working his way up in his profession.

                                                            I would also recommend "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry" by Kathleen Flinn. This is a true story about a writer who has taken a career detour into corporate america. She is assigned to London and, after a few years, is downsized out of a job. She is rudderless.

                                                            Then she decides, "The heck with it. I've always dreamed of going to the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. I've got the time. I've got the money (barely) and I speak some high school French." She uses her savings from working in London, enrolls, and describes what it is like to live in Paris and how the Condon Bleu Cooking School works.

                                                            I think that many Chowhounds have had a similar fantasy, knowing that we could never do it because we don't have the money, we don't have the time, we have impossible to sever outside commitments, or we don't speak French. So this book is a sort of fantasy fulfillment and shows what can be done if you have the guts to drop everything and just go do it.

                                                            One word about Michael Ruhlman, despite my staying away from commenting on his books because you obviously are already aware of him: Take a look at "Ratio," which will revolutionize your cooking.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: gfr1111

                                                              I also really enjoyed Life on the Line. It's always amazing to see Grant and realize just how gravely ill he was and how incredibly healthy and vibrant he is now. On a slightly different note, I also really enjoyed watching the documentary Spinning Plates, in which Achatz and Alinea were one of the three restaurants profiled.

                                                              The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry was lots of fun, and I have loved everything Ruhlman has written.

                                                              1. re: bear

                                                                Kathleen Flinn's second book, 'The Kitchen Counter Cooking School,' is also interesting and entertaining. She has a memoir out in late August, I believe.

                                                                1. re: nikkihwood

                                                                  Thanks, nikki. I'll definitely check it out.

                                                            2. One more that that I'd be nuts not to recommend: Chris Bakken's journeys to Greece, a work of deep feeling, fresh surprise, and hard won appreciation.http://www.amazon.com/Honey-Olives-Oc...

                                                              1. What a great thread--my Amazon wish list is growing! Let me add "Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing" by Anya Von Bremzen. It's a beautiful combination of personal memoir, family history, and a compressed story of the USSR told through the decades via food.

                                                                1. Laurie Colwin continues to be one of my fav authors.

                                                                  She only wrote two books of collected food essays (Home Cooking and More Home Cooking) but her voice is so true and bright and funny and helpful - I still read her books and compare others to her.

                                                                  She makes me feel better about my perfectly imperfect biscuits - and her buttermilk chocolate cake (with 1/4 cup less flour, it's dry in LA) still vindicates me at many a dinner party and bribes my husband well.

                                                                  1. Just remembered - one of the first true foodie books? Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods.

                                                                    Next up? Farmer Boy.

                                                                    Both dealt with the pluses (and minuses) of the food supply at pioneer times. Stunningly evocative, informative, and there are many books out there that can help you create the food she describes. Awesome stuff.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: happybaker

                                                                      This is a recommendation for you rather than for the original poster, if you haven't already read it: Pioneer Girl, by Bich Minh Nguyen.
                                                                      It's a novel, not non-fiction, but plenty of fascinating discussion about Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane, and for CHs, the immigrant family business is AYCE "Chinese" buffets, with plenty of discussion of that.

                                                                    2. Another one that I just thought of: "The I Hate to Cookbook" which has enough wildly funny introductions and comments to count as more than a cookbook. I recommend it highly.

                                                                      1. If you've not read "Yes, Chef" by Marcus Samuelsson, it's captivating. And Marcella Hazan's memoir, "Amarcord," is also a great read.

                                                                          1. re: dkennedy

                                                                            All his books are quite funny. In Heat I think maybe my favorite section was where the kitchen all freaks out each time Mario shows up to go through the garbage and ream them out for discarding leftovers.

                                                                          2. My library's July Biography/Memoirs newsletter included these as "Food and Memories" recommendations (I have not read any so can't comment on them):
                                                                            As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto - by Julia Child and Avis DeVoto; edited by Joan Reardon
                                                                            Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War - by Annia Ciezadlo
                                                                            Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India - by Madhur Jaffrey
                                                                            Stealing Buddha's Dinner: A Memoir - by Bich Minh Nguyen
                                                                            Yes, Chef: A Memoir - by Marcus Samuelsson

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: truman

                                                                              As Always, Julia is interesting (particularly if you've read her memoir, My Life in France), and ranges far beyond food.

                                                                              I also thought Climbing the Mango Trees and Yes, Chef were good and interesting reads.

                                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                Another vote for Climbing the Mango Trees.