10 books every foodie simply must read
With the surge of interest in food and the explosion of blogs on the subject, there’s no dearth of foodie stuff to read these days. Still, the pleasure that a great food book affords is different – it’s like eating a perfectly roasted chicken, as opposed to buying a bucket at KFC. Here are some must-reads for the foodie:
1. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Who doesn’t love the good looking, fast-swearing, dares-to-eat wart hogs chef-turned-TV star? According to Anthony Bourdain, this book reveals ‘twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behaviour and haute cuisine.’ It’s the story of his time spent in various restaurant kitchens, places he describes are only fit for those with a masochistic, irrational dedication to cooking. Here is a quote that gives you a glimpse of its tone: ‘For a moment, or a second, the pinched expressions of the cynical, world-weary, throat-cutting, miserable bastards we’ve all had to become disappears, when we’re confronted with something as simple as a plate of food.’
We’d also hugely recommend his Les Halles Cookbook which is peppered with such words as ‘If you can’t properly roast a damn chicken then you are one helpless, hopeless, sorry-ass bivalve in an apron.
2. The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
This one makes it to most lists of Best Food Books Ever. The book is a collection of Steingarten’s columns in Vogue. As food critic for the magazine he went about overcoming his dislike for foods such as kimchi, lard and Greek dishes. It’s packed with laugh-out-loud anecdotes and some great recipes, too. And, oh, Steingarten never took to Indian desserts, describing them as face cream.
3. Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl was the restaurant critic of the New York Times and this book takes the form of memoirs about her childhood – her difficult relationship with her mother, learning to cook from her family maid, her culinary awakening and how food went on to influence her relationships. Ruth Reichl’s book about her life as a restaurant critic, Garlic and Sapphires, is also a super read.
4. The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher
No list of great food books would be complete without the work of M.F.K Fisher. This collection of essays, stretching from her childhood to her life in France, the beginning of World War II, the dissolution of her first marriage and the death of her second husband, established Fisher at the forefront of culinary literature. In the foreword to the book she wrote: ‘Like most other humans, I am hungry … it seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it.’
5. My Life in France by Julia Child
From watching Julie and Julia we’ve come to know Julia Child pretty intimately. This book, published posthumously in 2006, is a close look at the life of this famous food personality who became a household name in the US and continues to inspire home cooks to this day. The book is a love story – about her love of food, France and life itself.
6. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee
Want to know how man first decided to make cheese? Or, how we came to eat grains and cereals? Harold McGee is the ultimate authority to answer these and scores of other questions about food, cooking and the way we eat. This is a superlative encyclopaedia of food facts with never a dull moment between the pages.
7. The Raw and the Cooked: Jim Harrison
This is a superlative collection of essays on food by one of the most stylish writers of this genre. Harrison’s prose is robust and passionate, whether he’s penning an ode to the ubiquitous meatball or dwelling on the classic food of France. It’s also funny, insightful and extreme, revealing a man with an enormous appetite for all that is good and enjoyable in food.
8. The Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White
The Marco Pierre White we’ve seen most recently on Masterchef Australia is a mellow, tamed version of the young chef he once was. With his devastating good looks and attitude to match, he set some fine kitchen in Britain ablaze as a young and supremely talented chef in the early part of his career. This book tells it as it is, from his tantrums to his confrontations with guests. Marco Pierre White’s White Heat is also a great read.
9. Toast by Nigel Slater
Nigel Slater’s Toast traces the tumultuous childhood of this British writer. It’s an honest coming-of-age story — described as being ‘slightly tragic, sometimes funny, always engaging’. Slater writes with a charming openness about dealing with his family as a young and finding true happiness in food.
10. A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey
To wrap up this reading list, an Indian cookery book by that most accomplished of writers, Madhur Jaffrey. This recipe book, which packs in collections of regional recipes, is a true taste of India. Ms Jaffrey has gathered recipes from great home cooks across the country – Maharashtra, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Kashmir – to put this delightful book together. You will be tempted to cook from it – whether the prawn pulao of Kerala or the chicken in coriander from Kashmir. What’s more, they all work.
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