Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Great food books I read in 2008

Since I like lists, I thought it would be fun to do a few year-end type lists. Since it's already December 30, this will probably spill over into January. Oops. Let's be postmodern about this and acknowledge that the new year is just an arbitrary calendar date. This list is of food books (not cooking) I read and recommend this year.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver.
Kingsolver, a wonderful novelist (check out The Poisonwood Bible), chronicles her decision to move to a farm and dedicate a year to eating only food grown locally. There are meal plans, with recipes, by the seasons, along with essays from her 19 year-old daughter about her experience, and more background info about eating locally provided by Kingsolver's husband.

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances. Laura Schenone.
Schenone uses food as a framework with which to look at American history, women, and culture by looking at how people ate and women cooked. She begins with Native Americans, then follows through different periods chronologically: the pilgrims, immigrants from the old world, slavery, and through to the present day phenomenon of being too busy to cook.

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally. Alisa Smith and J. B. Mackinnon.
It seems like the same premise as "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" of eating locally for one year, but Alisa Smith and J. B. Mackinnon, a young couple, decide to define local as only things within a strict 100-mile radius. It's also a much more intimate account than the one offered by "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle."

The Language of Baklava. Diana Abu-Jaber.
A nice food memoir with wonderful recipes. Abu-Jaber is Jordanian-American and she recounts her life growing up between the two countries and cultures, while sharing the recipes for the food she ate along the way. I want to read more memoirs like this. Check out some of the recipes I tried here, here, and here.

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family. Laura Schenone.
This book chronicles Schenone's effort to recover her family's authentic ravioli recipe. It got me thinking about our connections to the food we eat, definitely made me want to make ravioli, and inspired me to pick up her earlier book, A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove (also on this list). (This book also prompted my "home food" post.)

Still reading:

Culinary Artistry. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.
This book is changing the way I think about food. It seems more directed towards a high-end chef, but it's still fascinating reading. It discusses whether cooking can ever be an art, has charts for which ingredients go well together, and discusses how important presentation really is to a dish - turns out a lot of chefs think that sprig of rosemary stuck in the middle of your pasta is silly. The cool thing is the authors interview a bunch of different chefs, so you're exposed to a variety of opinions on each topic.

It Must've Been Something I Ate. Jeffery Steingart.
This is a funny collection of essays by Vogue food critic and his continual quest for great-tasting food, like hitting a dozen boulangeries in Paris for perfect baguettes. He's obsessed, and teaches you a few things along the way.

One more I didn't read this year but still recommend: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It traces the journey of your food from farm to table. I posted a review of it here.

Finally, the following is a list I found of "farm to fork must reads" in this newspaper pamphlet-thing about a Seattle harvest festival. I'm planning to read a few more on this list.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Barbara Kingsolver. 2007.
Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty. Mark Winne. 2008.
Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet. Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe. 2003.
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. 2005.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Michael Pollan. 2008.
Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food. Warren Belasco. 2006.
Organic, Inc.: Natural Foods and How They Grew. Samuel Fromartz. 2007.
Omnivore’s Dilemma: a Natural History of Four Meals. Michael Pollan. 2007.
Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally. Alisa Smith, J.B. MacKinnon. 2007.
Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, And Fair. Carlo Petrini. 2007.
What to Eat. Marion Nestle. 2007.

PS: You can find a cool list of food memoirs to read here at the NPR website.


Bethany said...

very nice post.

the language of baklava is still on my list to read. I loved reading your comments on it in previous posts.

sutros said...
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