Food Books for Thought
Food Books for Thought

5 Essential Back-to-School Food Titles

Summer tomatoes are at their prime, the first fall apples have arrived. Where else but L.A. can you continue to cook your way through the best summer cookbooks by day while starting on those fall reading lists at night?

These are the sort of nightcap-worthy books to pull out when you don't quite feel like a full-on, Wednesday night hunter-gatherer academic analysis in The History of Taste, but are still looking for a meaty read. Or sure, as with that roasted raccoon recipe tale (after the jump), maybe you just need a little old-fashioned entertainment.

And by all means, add these books to your Goodreads list. Those summer cookbooks, too. Just to remind your East Coast friends of the glorious months of California sunshine still ahead.

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Cover and Photo of Julia Child from Dearie
Cover and Photo of Julia Child from Dearie

5. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child :

There is a fine art to capturing the life of someone whose story we have all heard too many times to count. And yet wherever you've settled in to read Dearie (the kitchen, we hope), Bob Spitz manages to convey the vigor, curiosity, confidence and booming voice of a truly remarkable woman as if she is sitting at the kitchen table with you.

Cover and a drawing from The Art of the Restaurateur
Cover and a drawing from The Art of the Restaurateur

4. The Art of the Restaurateur:

Want to open a restaurant? Financial Times restaurant critic Nicholas Lander takes a look at the real back-of-the-house driving force: The restaurant owner. In The Art of the Restauranteur, Lander profiles "those professionals I most respect and admire" in an often overlooked role that was once more revered than that of chef. (The word "restaurateur" is from the French verb "restaurer," meaning to restore weary travelers). Joe Bastianich, Danny Meyer, Gilbert Pilgram (Zuni Café), Juli Soler (El Bulli) and Enrico Bernardo (Il Vino in Paris) are among the 20 global restaurateurs who open their doors to Lander to talk about their experiences in the business.

American Tuna and author-historian Andrew F. Smith
American Tuna and author-historian Andrew F. Smith
UC Press

3. American Tuna: The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food :

In American Tuna, historian Andrew F. Smith chronicles the stateside life of the iconic fish, from its earliest fertilizer days to the most commonly consumed seafood in the country (until recently, when it was displaced by shrimp). It's a very American tale of rags to mega-riches and, well, back to mediocrity.

Though there are a handful of small, family-run, canned tuna companies (including one in San Diego coincidentally called American Tuna), the three major canned tuna brands that still exist in the United States are foreign-owned. Los Angeles plays a central role in the rise of higher-priced tuna stateside with sushi and Japanese restaurants -- just before the second half of the book: "The Fall."

Cover and photo of Samuelson as a child in Yes, Chef
Cover and photo of Samuelson as a child in Yes, Chef
Random House

2. Yes, Chef:

Marcus Samuelson's memoir has fueled a few kitchen fires. According to one rather vocal chef critic (Eddie Huang), the book, as well as the chef/his new Harlem restaurant, have controversial roots. Others, like Russ Parsons over at the Los Angeles Times, argue that the book is a "welcome breath of fresh air ... an old-school culinary memoir." All the more reason to decide for yourself.

Cover and Lowcountry Map from Hoppin' John Lowcountry Cooking
Cover and Lowcountry Map from Hoppin' John Lowcountry Cooking
University of North Carolina Press

1. Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking (20th anniversary edition) :

A cookbook, yes. But Hoppin John's Lowcountry Cooking arguably put the once hyper-regional low-country cooking on the nationwide map -- and shrimp and grits on fine dining menus. It's filled with entertaining notes from John Martin Taylor ("The ridiculously sweet tooth of Southerners has historical roots in Charleston Harbor") and chapters begin with histories of ingredients like Carolina Gold rice ("the caviar of the early 19th century").

The real gems are the recipe headers, which read like short stories, making this book perfect for drousy late-night skimming. "I met Pearl Edge at the From Scratch Food Festival in Georgetown, where she served her dish of stewed raccoon. Pearl is a rural mail carrier, director of a 42-member youth choir and a passionate cook," begins the recipe for roast "Black River 'coon." Not to worry, there are plenty of Southern recipes to make in the morning using more accessible grocery store ingredients.

Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Find more from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com



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