Holiday Reading: Books about Food!

The holiday reading marathon progresses, from art-making to...food.  I love reading cookbooks of all kinds-- especially the old-fashioned ones that fill me in on how it used to be when rabbits had to be skinned.  They're a relaxing read.

But beyond cookbooks is the world of food writing -- and I must say, the eating and cooking and food bring out the best in writers, from Dickens to, of course, Proust.
I'm listing a few of my favorite books about food.  My list could be much longer, since any one of these writers (especially the great M.F.K Fisher) offers other, worthwhile and entertaining books-- so these should be taken as starting points for a food-reading marathon.

HOME COOKING:  A WRITERS LIFE IN THE KITCHEN by Laurie Colwin.  

 I love Laurie Colwin's novels.  And I love her short fiction.  But I adore her food books.  They're funny, warm and they celebrate family in a non-sappy, heart-felt way.  Plus, Colwin has great cooking tips and recipes.  What's not to love?   Plus, after you finish HOME COOKING, you can happily move on to MORE HOME COOKING.




TENDER AT THE BONE and COMFORT ME WITH APPLES by Ruth Reichl.  

I noticed that these two have been released in a single edition for Kindle.  Great!  These are memoirs, and they're not always about food.  But food and cooking are central to Reichl's themes of self-knowledge and independence.  Her mother was a bad cook, going so far as to poison the family -- and sure enough, her daughter becomes a great cook and a great food writer.  Reichl doesn't even hit false notes-- she's someone who knows why we cook.


LONG AGO IN FRANCE:  THE YEARS IN DIJON by M.F.K. Fisher.  

There's not much left to say about the great writer M.F.K Fisher.  And you can pick any of her books at random and be happy.  But this memoir about the newlywed learning the ropes of French cooking during wartime has a peculiar sweetness.  We get a sense of the young, intensely curious Mary Francis finding her way in a world that's now vanished-- I've read this one many times.

ALICE, LET'S EAT: FURTHER ADVENTURES OF A HAPPY EATER by Calvin Trillin.  

From lyrical Fisher, we come to the ever-funny, ever-welcome and peppy pose of Calvin Trillin.  Mr. Trillin is, fortunately, not a cook -- he is that rare happy eater, who eats a hot dog and wants another.  Not for him, the fancy eateries of Chez Whatever.  Trillin zooms from fried chicken to barbecue, all accompanied by his patient (and much adored) wife.  Read it and laugh!





CLEMENTINE IN THE KITCHEN by Samuel Chamberlain.

This is the first volume in Modern Library's new "Food" series -- and a great place to start.  The Clementine of the title is a Burgundian cook who worked for the Chamberlain family first in France and then in Massachusetts.  There are wonderful French recipes in the book, combined with a small glimpse of cultural history.  (The book was first published in 1943, before America's gourmet revolution, and this new edition offers an introduction by Ruth Reichl.)


 

  
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