Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Food Books

I come from a family of readers. Voracious ones. My mom always, always, always has a book she’s reading. Dad pretty much does, too.

My dad and mom. Hey!

Ditto my husband.

Read, read, read. Always reading.

I also love to read, but my tastes lean toward non-fiction. (Faulkner, Orson Scott Card and JK Rowling aside.) My Pootie is a history man. Got his MA in Nautical History. He teaches history at the local community college. He lives and breathes nautical history and WWII history. It, shall we say, permeates our household like that comforting, musty, library odor. I love, love, love, colonial history (US, I mean) and biographies from that time period. But what I love the most?

Food History.

Now all three of you lovely readers are sitting there and saying “Good lord, no WONDER they have to pay people to be their friends!” It’s true. I’d say our cocktail conversation isn’t scintillating. I have no idea who Justin Beiber is, I don’t know anything about the Jersey Shore Housewives or whoever they are, and I’ve never read anything by Dean Koontz. I’m sorry. This is my current reading pile:

I’ve read Food in History before – I’m on my second go-through right now. My sweet Steamboat Poppy had a little chew on it. He had a thing about books that smelled like our hands. Caused us some frustration to be sure. Now I just look at it and sigh.

But let’s cut to the chase! If you’re still with me, you’re saying “Oh, Andie! What have you read!? What should I read??”

Here’s my own personal list of Food Books I’ve read and my take on them, plus a couple I’ve got waiting in the wings. Not all are history, but most are. If you have any you’d recommend, I would love to give Amazon even more of my money, so leave a comment!

Food in History by Rea Tannehill
I’ve read this twice and use it as a frequent reference manual. She starts before recorded history and goes on up to present day. This is an excellent overview of food and its importance to civilization as well as how different foods regionalized over history.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage
I loved this! Beer, wine, booze, coffee, tea and Coke and how they shaped the world.

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage
Another one I stick with Food in History. Very good overview and well-written. I love Tom Standage.

The United States of Arugula by David Kamp
A recent history of how we went from a nation of culinary rubes (more or less) to a food-obsessed country in a couple or three generations. Loved this one too.

A History of Cooks and Cooking by Michael Symons
Honestly, I haven’t finished this one. I don’t care for his writing style. It’s cluttered with footnotes and is a clunky read. It seems more like a collection of quotes than a narrative. I’ll probably come back to it at some point, but right now it’s been tossed aside.

The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky
Love, love, love Kurlasnky. He is such an engaging writer. This a sampling of writings from The Federal Writer’s project started by FDR as part of the WPA.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Love, love, love Kurlansky, and love, love, love salt. This one mineral has played a huge role in world history. This book was fascinating.

The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
I honestly only toyed with becoming a chef once, very long ago, and quickly abandoned that thought when I found out how hard I’d have to work. I’m lazy. And this book reinforced for me that I made the right decision. But getting inside the Culinary Institute of America was fun.

The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
The saga continues. Ruhlman is a compelling writer. I enjoyed this read.

The Reach of Chef by Michael Ruhlman
It rounded out the set well.

Ratio by Michael Ruhlman
More a reference than a sit-down-and read, this gives common formulas for things like pie crust.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
An oldie but a goodie. I know enough chefs and I’ve read enough to know that this isn’t how all restaurants work, but it was a scandalous good time!

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme
Oh, how I love Julia Child, and this book reads like she’s sitting there just talking about her time in France. Don’t get me started on the movie. I wish they’d made the whole thing about her and left Julie Powell out of it. She just comes across as a narcissist. (Powell, not Child.)

Life Is Meals by James and Kay Salter
This is just a little book of days – a collection of anecdotes, a smattering of recipes, etc. It’s a nice bedside book. Some of it is a little pretentious, some a little too precious, but overall it’s nice.

Ones I have, but haven’t got to yet:
How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher

The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher

Catching Fire by Michael Symons

Sweetness and Power by Sidney W.Mintz

The Elements of Cooking by Michael Ruhlman

So what are yours? Any I’m missing that I have to read?


ronda said...

If you can, listen to Kitchen Confidential rather than reading it. Anthony Bourdain reads it as if you are a guest at his party. I would find reasons to get in the car for a listen ("Honey, I'm running up to the corner store to get smokes" "But you don't smoke...and we don't HAVE a corner store!"). I was disappointed when it was over, kind of a like leaving a great party a little too early.

Phillip Reid said...

I need to read Sweetness and Power too. It is about you, right?