I love to cook, and when I’m not cooking, I love to talk about food. Just ask my co-workers. (Right now, I’m thinking about goat cheese croquettes. Or fresh cannolis. Or lemonade iced tea.) It doesn’t hurt that we have a fantastic cookbook collection. You may not know, though, that our cookbook collection also contains books full of stories about food, not just recipes. Here are a few authors who like to talk about food almost as much as I do.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
When Kingsolver and her family move from suburban Arizona to rural Appalachia, they take on a new challenge: to spend a year on a locally produced diet, paying close attention to the provenance of all they consume. “Our highest shopping goal was to get our food from so close to home, we’d know the person who grew it. Often that turned out to be ourselves as we learned to produce what we needed, starting with dirt, seeds, and enough knowledge to muddle through. Or starting with baby animals, and enough sense to refrain from naming them.”
Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper : A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop
Award-winning food writer Fuchsia Dunlop went to live in China as a student in 1994, and from the very beginning she vowed to eat everything she was offered, no matter how alien and bizarre it seemed. In this extraordinary memoir, Fuchsia recalls her evolving relationship with China and its food, from her first rapturous encounter with the delicious cuisine of Sichuan Province to brushes with corruption, environmental degradation, and greed. In the course of her fascinating journey, Fuchsia undergoes an apprenticeship at China’s premier Sichuan cooking school, where she is the only foreign student in a class of nearly fifty young Chinese men; attempts, hilariously, to persuade Chinese people that “Western food” is neither “simple” nor “bland”; and samples a multitude of exotic ingredients, including sea cucumber, civet cat, scorpion, rabbit-heads, and the ovarian fat of the snow frog. But is it possible for a Westerner to become a true convert to the Chinese way of eating? In an encounter with a caterpillar in an Oxford kitchen, Fuchsia is forced to put this to the test.
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles : Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8 Lee.
If you think McDonald’s is the most ubiquitous restaurant experience in America, consider that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Wendys combined. New York Times reporter and Chinese-American (or American-born Chinese). In her search, Jennifer 8 Lee traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. In a compelling blend of sociology and history, Jenny Lee exposes the indentured servitude Chinese restaurants expect from illegal immigrant chefs, investigates the relationship between Jews and Chinese food, and weaves a personal narrative about her own relationship with Chinese food. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles speaks to the immigrant experience as a whole, and the way it has shaped our country.
Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant by Jenni Lapidus
In this celebration of the meal for one, Ferrari-Adler connects short essays from a diverse set of writers recounting solitary suppers and reflecting on the singular rewards and blissful consolation of indulging no one else’s hungers but one’s own. Marcella Hazan affirms this truth, noting that the single diner tends to disdain nutrition for comfort and familiarity, but without sinking into childhood formulations. Many of these writers address the specific challenges of cooking in the severely limited conditions presented by tiny Manhattan apartments.
Death by Pad Thai: And Other Unforgettable Meals by Douglas Bauer
Some of today’s best writers invite readers to experience life through their taste buds as they reflect on their most unforgettable meals. Contributors include Steve Almond, Andre Dubus III, Aimee Bender, Peter Mayle, and Ann Packer.
As the New York Times‘s restaurant critic for most of the 1990s, Reichl had what some might consider the best job in town; among her missions were evaluating New York City’s steakhouses, deciding whether Le Cirque deserved four stars and tracking down the best place for authentic Chinese cuisine in Queens. Thankfully, the rest of us can live that life vicariously through this vivacious, fascinating memoir. The book—Reichl’s third—lifts the lid on the city’s storied restaurant culture from the democratic perspective of the everyday diner. Reichl creates wildly innovative getups, becoming Brenda, a red-haired aging hippie, to test the food at Daniel; Chloe, a blonde divorcée, to evaluate Lespinasse; and even her deceased mother, Miriam, to dine at 21.
My Life in France by Julia Child
Amazingly energetic, creative, and ultimately inimitable (despite many attempts), Julia Child brought French cooking to American kitchens. For this book she worked with her husband’s grandnephew Alex Prud’homme to record her experiences between 1948 and 1954 in Paris and Marseille (and a few later adventures), which she terms the best years of her life. Like her life, her book is full of fun and zest. Fans will savor, or devour, this account.