Whether you're spending the dwindling days of summer off the grid with nothing but time, or eagerly awaiting the moment when back-to-school means reclaiming a few hours of your day, this list was made for you.
These aren’t cookbooks. That’s another list for another time (and perhaps a different skill set). This list spans our favorite chef memoirs, food essays, travel stories, and food industry gossip with a few recipes thrown in for good measure.
While not required reading, these books promise to inspire, touch and provoke some of our own enjoyable memories and meals.
Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
by Anthony Bourdain
In this case the title says it all. Bourdain’s style alternately embraces food porn, plentiful f-bombs and a bit of shock and awe as he candidly explores the food industry and the stars who inhabit it. This take no prisoners approach is why we obsessively follow Bourdain and why we are happy to tag along with his explosive diatribes and delicious journeys.
Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food
by Paul Greenberg
This book lays out the intricate relationship with the global fisheries market through an exploration of four fish: salmon, sea-bass, cod and tuna. These examples illustrate both success (sea bass) and utter failure (salmon), bringing the reader on a journey of fish enlightenment. In Sam Sifton’s recent New York Times review he describes Four Fish as a “necessary book for anyone truly interested in what we take from the sea to eat, and how, and why.” A must-read for any seafood lover with a conscience.
The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection
by Michael Ruhlman
Exacting and precise to Anthony Bourdain’s chaos and tribulations, Michael Ruhlman’s style as both a chef and writer is the polar opposite of a Bourdain. In The Soul of a Chef, Ruhlman explores what makes those perfection-seeking chefs tick. The book is segmented in three parts; an almost painful look into the Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, a rising culinary star in Cleveland and a portrait of Chef Thomas Keller with whom Ruhlman worked with as co-author of The French Laundry Cookbook. Enough said. That chapter alone is worth the price of admission for this book.
My Life in France
by Julia Child
My Life in France is a touching and personal tale of an adventurous newlywed with a unrelenting drive to learn French cooking (or cookery as she calls it) while stationed in one of the most idyllic outposts, Paris. That this newlywed is Julia Child, one of America’s most beloved food personalities and author of the French cooking masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking means you can’t help but to hear her falsetto-like voice narrating as you read this wonderful gem of a book.
Food Rules: An Eater's Manual
by Michael Pollan
What should I eat? Eat food. What kind of food should I eat? Mostly plants. How should I eat it? Not too much. Those questions and statements form the backbone of Pollan’s most recent book, a compendium of food rules that encourage and remind us to get back to the basics with our relationship to food.
Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life
by Kim Severson
Marion Cunningham, Edna Lewis, Alice Waters, Rachael Ray, Ruth Reichl, Marcella Hazan, Leah Chase and her mother, Anne Marie Severson. Stories of these women guide Kim Severson's witty memoir. A food writer for the New York Times, Severson's journey of self-exploration is divined with the kitchen as her classroom.
"Every restaurant is a theater." So declares Ruth Reichl who needs no introduction. In this 2006 memoir, Reichl recounts a decade of serving as the New York Times's restaurant critic in the 1990s. Her flowery prose is inimitable, and her meals, memorable.
This premise of this book is in every gourmand’s daydream rotation. This would be the one where you cash in your chips, ditch your day job and apprentice with/at _______ (fill in the blank with your favorite chef, farming activity or artisinal craft). Yup, you are not alone. Bill Buford actually indulges this intense curiosity in what amounts to a four year exploration of chef Mario Batali. Working in his restaurants, alongside his teachers and diving into tomes of Italian cooking and history fill out the pages of this book. Warning, this book will make you mentally write yet another letter of resignation.
Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table: A Collection of Essays from the New York Times
by the New York Times | edited by Amanda Hesser
Food provokes memories, as Proust famously channeled with the help of a french cookie, the madeleine. Editor and food writer Amanda Hesser selects 26 essays that originally appeared in the New York Times Magazine in this elegant collection of food-centric stories, Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table. Some of these stories are savory meals such as "Home Turf" by Kirin Desai, while others, such as the poet Billy Collins’ contribution, are a short and touching amuse bouche.
Italy for the Gourmet Traveler
by Fred Plotkin
If you’ve traveled to Italy or plan on booking a trip, this may be as valuable as your Michelin and Frommer’s Guide combined. Plotkin details the countries regions, culinary specialties, restaurants and cultural climates. A true resource for any gourmand’s pilgramage to the Italian holy land of food.
The Art of Eating
by M.F. K. FIsher
A collection of five works that totals almost 800 pages, this doorstop is the foodie equivalent of Ulysses. Fisher’s writing is elegant, witty and downright beautiful. If I could urge you to devour any of these books, it would be this one.