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A Recipe for Reading Enjoyment: Great Books About Food

Mar 24, 2014 | 1 comment

Cooks love to read cookbooks without a doubt. But what about other books that relate to food and the experience of making, sharing, eating and enjoying food? There are a lot of fiction and non-fiction books alike that delve into the wonders of food enjoyment.

Given my personal love of food (and all things related to food!), I love reading books that weave culinary delights into the storyline or have cooking at the very heart of the plot. I thought I’d share some of my personal favorites, and would love you to share your own recommendations. I’m always on the hunt for a great read, and if I tell the truth, books about food are just an excuse to think more about cooking.

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Here’s my list so far…in no particular order

  • The Last Chinese Chef – A wonderful novel about a food writer in America coming to love both the culinary traditions of China and the rising star chef she’s sent to profile.
  • My Life in France – The fabulous Julia Child’s entree into the world of cooking, teaching and food television is recounted in this book. An amazing look inside the heart, soul and stomach of one of the world’s most inspiring chefs.
  • Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen – The book behind the famous movie starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep (who did an amazing job as Julia Child), this is a great read about a New Yorker attempting to cook all 524 recipes in Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year out of her apartment kitchen. Funny, entertaining and appetite-inspiring.
  • The Storyteller – A fictional story about a baker named Sage who is looking to find her way in life and the friendship she develops with an old man who turns out to have a very disturbing secret that challenges everything she thought she knew.
  • Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain’s highly controversial memoir telling tales of what really happens behind the kitchen doors of restaurants. Bourdain is a fantastic story teller, highly entertaining, and offends just about everyone. The phrase “obscenely eloquent” is very apt.
  • Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta Maker and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany – The title says it all. Bill Buford, a writer for The New Yorker, wanted to write about Mario Batali, and ended up learning to cook. Hilarious, and a great read.
  • The Secret Life of Bees – Although this novel is really a coming-of-age story of a young girl seeking to find herself, a very big part of the story is about beekeeping and the delicious honey they product. A great interweaving of food, love, and the search for family.
  • Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef – When I read this book, I thought it was a fictional novel, and found out only later it’s really a memoir of chef Gabrielle Hamilton. It tells her story of growing up, learning to cook in various places throughout the world, and her ultimate opening of New York restaurant, Prune. Wonderful read with lots of insight into the person behind the food.
  • Like Water for Chocolate – Obviously, most people know the movie, but the book is wonderful. It’s a love story of a young Mexican woman, using cooking as a way to win her desire of marrying her true love. Each chapter starts with a recipe.
  • Eat, Pray, Love – Particularly the “Eat” portion of the book, this journey of a woman finding herself after a divorce has a great depiction of the joys of eating. It also does a great job of describing the beauty and culture of Italy, India and Indonesia.
  • Tender at the Bone – This is the memoir of Ruth Reichl, famed for her role as Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine. She talks about her growing up and the experiences throughout the decades that shaped her own love of food. Great richness of characters!
  • Food Play – And to end on a different note, check out this awesome and hilarious picture book filled with incredibly creative photos of food as faces. You will not be able to help but laugh!

Have some fun reading about food, chefs, travel and cooking…and share your own favorites!

Bon appetit!

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1 Comment

  1. Larry Reisinger

    Hi Whitney. Are you off to some exotic clime testing the limits of your jet lag? Don’t know how you do it.

    Got your Mom’s BBQ sauce and wondered if you had the recipe for the stacked potatoes that look like a set of kicked over dominos. Seems like thin slice, EVOO, toss with salt and pepper, drizzle with butter and bay leaves and bake..maybe 425 for 30 min..not sure..Thanks, Larry


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