Books About Food
Forbes Library has a wonderful selection of books on food and eating. Here is a sumptuous buffet of titles selected by our staff for you to consume and enjoy.
This booklist was originally posted in August 2007. Some new titles were added in 2008.
- American Food Writing: An Anthology With Classic Recipes edited by Molly O'Neill.
This wide-ranging collection of essays, journal entries, excerpts from novels, and selected recipes spans three centuries of American eating, in prose that is often as appetizing as its subjects. Even dedicated readers of food writing will find much here that is completely unfamiliar, and those new to the genre will put the book down with a fresh respect for and delight in our astonishing culinary largess.
- Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio
A photo-chronicle that visits families in twenty-four countries in every inhabited continent, each photographed amidst their weekly food purchases. The accompanying text details food-intake lists with costs noted; provides typical family recipes; and draws on this data to produce such illuminating essays as "Diabesity," about the worldwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
- An Omelette and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David. RV.D28o
This collection of essays originally published in British newspapers and magazines allows easy entry into the writing of one of the greatest food writers of all time. Her books are glorious but dense; but here she touches deftly and lightly on all manner of culinary topics, from what makes a true sardine to the pleasures of cooking French food in your own little holiday kitchen in France. There are recipes throughout, but read this book for its witty, evocative, clear-eyed prose.
- Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen and More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. RV.C727h 2000 and RV.C727m 1995
Although Laurie Colwin is best known for her novels, she was also a gifted food writer, perhaps because her novelist’s sensibility provided a lively and unusual perspective on the trials and joys of “ordinary” home cooking. To name just three of the essays—Stuffed Breast of Veal: A Bad Idea; Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir; Easy Cooking for Exhausted People—is to show that here is a writer staking out her own delightfully opinionated territory. And the recipes are as rewarding to make as the prose is to read.
- Lulu's Provencal Table by Richard Olney. RV39.OL6L 2002
No one writes about French cooking in English as well as Richard Olney, and this collaboration with Lulu Peyraud offers a rare delight—quality time spent in the kitchen in the company of an extraordinary Provençal cook. She chatters as she cooks, Olney listens and observes, and the result is perhaps the best description ever given of a cook who works not from recipes but from instinct, years of practice, and hands-on familiarity.
- The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten RVO.St35m 1997
By temperament, the author, Vogue’s indomitable food columnist, is the sort of person who is not only willing to ask the chef for a recipe but to chase him around the restaurant kitchen until he gets it. The results are a heady mix of wittily intellectual inquiry and glorious gluttony, plumbing the mysteries of french fries (make them in horse fat), pursuing the secrets of perfect ice cream, or spelling out the dangers of eating salad.
- The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis. RV863.L585t
Because she was by nature reserved and even shy, Edna Lewis never received the credit she deserved for helping recreate American cooking in a style that treasured in equal measure our culinary heritage and our fresh, local foodstuffs. In this, her autobiography, she lets us see how this came about—a childhood totally immersed in the living tradition of country cooking as practiced in a small Virginia Piedmont community settled by slaves.
- Delights and Prejudices by James Beard RVO.B38d
This American culinary icon began life on the Oregon coast, where his mother ran a high-class boarding house renowned for the quality of its food. Beard’s was not a happy childhood, but it was a feast for all the senses, since the raw ingredients were incomparable and the dishes were international in flavor and epicurean in quality. Beard would learn to transform these experiences into the basis of a long and successful career writing cookbooks, teaching at his own cooking school and, later, on his own television shows, and helping establish notable New York restaurants.
- In defense of food : an eater's manifesto by Michael Pollan RU.P76i 2008
Cites the reasons why people have become so confused about their dietary choices and discusses the importance of enjoyable moderate eating of mostly traditional plant foods.
- Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini by Elizabeth Schneider RXV.Sch58v 2001
This extraordinary reference work (350 entries, 275 full-color photographs, 500 recipes) provides nearly everything you might want to know about an unusual vegetable (she doesn’t deal with the familiar ones)—where it comes from and where in the world it is especially treasured (not always the same place), what other names it has, what it tastes like, what to look for when you buy it, and how it can be cooked. Schneider approached chefs, cooking teachers, and native cooks for exemplary recipes, but she also gives clear basic cooking techniques so that you can just bring your find home, prepare it, and serve it with supper.
- Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. RV60//AL28j
The "Great Subcontinent" is the land mass that embraces Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and, most obviously, India. This handsomely produced volume, full of stunning photographs, personal, crisply descriptive text, and authentic, often simple recipes, takes the reader on a serendipitous voyage of discovery. As in their other inviting books on Asian themes, the authors, a husband-and-wife team, wander through outdoor markets, sample street food, and chat to all manner of cooks, inviting the reader to come explore with them a world of pungent spice and stunning flavor.
- Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond HECH.AL68c 2004
The aptly named Almond has a jones for almost any kind of candy, especially if it’s made by the smaller and quirkier manufacturers. Part rant, part social history, part confession, this funny and bittersweet book will not only tell you a lot you didn’t know about candy itself but reveal show you the role it plays in all our lives as a source of pleasure and an escape from pain.
- Books by John and Matt Lewis Thorne
- Simple Cooking RV.T393s
- Outlaw Cook RV.T393o
- Serious Pig RV.T393se 1996
- Pot on the Fire RV.T393p 2000
- Mouth Wide Open RV.T393m 2007
- The Taste of America by John L. and Karen Hess. RU.H463t
This polemic about American cooking grabs the food establishment by the back of the neck and gives it a good shake. It does this partly by setting the historical record straight and partly by exposing the conceits, lazy thinking, and nutritional gobbledegook of so many food writers. Karen Hess was a food historian, John L. Hess was a reporter with a nose for the telling detail, and together they have written a book that is eye-opening, deliciously mean, and, unexpectedly, affectingly evocative. Sadly, it is just as pertinent today as it was in 1977, when it first appeared.
- The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher RVO.F535ar
A compendium of the first five books by the famous food and autobiographical writer, filled with her mixture of insights into gastronomy and life in general. Her dry humor seasons the experience, as when she noted during the food shortages of World War II "when the wolf is at the door, one should invite him in and have him for dinner."
- The omnivore's dilemma by Michael Pollan RVO.P76o 2006
An ecological and anthropological study of eating offers insight into food consumption in the twenty-first century, explaining how an abundance of unlimited food varieties reveals the responsibilities of everyday consumers to protect their health and the environment.
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a year of food life by Barbara Kingsolver RGCX.K617a 2007
The National Humanities Medal-winning author of The Poisonwood Bible follows the author's family's efforts to live on locally and home-grown foods, an endeavor through which they learned lighthearted truths about food production and the connection between health and diet.
- Fast food nation by Eric Schlosser RUY.Sch39f 2001
Analyzing the influence of the fast food industry on American society, an award-winning journalist explores the homogenization of American culture and the impact of the fast food industry on modern-day health, economy, politics, popular culture, entertainment, food production, and more.
- Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America by Morgan Spurlock
Presents a humorous yet seriously critical examination of America's seduction by fast foods and the resulting health effects. Morgan Spurlock traveled across the country into schools, hospitals, and people's homes to investigate school lunch programs, the marketing of fast food, and the declining emphasis on health and physical education. He looks at why fast food is so tasty, cheap, and ultimately seductive, and shares what Americans can do to turn the rising tide of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes that have accompanied its ever-growing popularity.
- American Fried by Calvin Trillin RVO.T735a
Trillin is just as serious about food as some of the more earnest writers on this list, but also hysterically funny. His main thesis is that the local food usually is best, not the "continental cuisine" served in the pretentious restaurants found everywhere which he names generically "La Maison de la Casa House". This book is the first in his Tummy Trilogy, which moves on to Alice, Let's Eat, and finishes with Third Helpings -- a delectable three-course meal, all in our collection.
- Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world by Mark Kurlansky RKW.K965c 1997
A history of the fish that has led to wars, stirred revolutions, sustained economies and diets, and helped in the settlement of North America features photographs, drawings, and recipes, as well as the natural history of this much sought after fish.
- The botany of desire: a plant's eye view of the world by Michael Pollan RHA.P76b 2001
Focusing on the human relationship with plants, the author uses botany to explore four basic human desires--sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control--through portraits of four plants that embody them: the apple, tulip, marijuana, and potato.
- The Physiology of Taste; Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy by Jean Anselme Brillat-Savarin RVO.B76p
One of the great classics of food writing, still fun to read and filled with insights almost 200 years later.
- Julie and Julia by Julia Powell RVO.P871j 2005
Join Julie Powell as she tries to cook the entire "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" cookbook in one year. Her funny story started out as a blog and turned into one hilarious story about the adventures of trying something new.
Category: Reading Lists