Whether it's a chef's memoir or a novel set in the kitchen, books that center around food have conjured up cravings, inspired us at the stove and opened us up to new adventures in dining. This is a list of our favorites: some fiction, some exposé, some popular, some obscure, but all in celebration of food. And since our 10 will doubtless not match yours -- this morning's Google search for 'books about food' turned up 337,000,000 hits -- please feel free to weigh in with your picks at the end.
Photo by quinn.anya via Flickr.
by: Laura Esquivel
This book, choc full of both recipes and gluttonous scenes, is the story of one sister using her Mexican culinary skills to steal the lover of another. It's food as a love spell, especially appropriate for when you've got a sibling rivalry score to settle.
by: Michael Ruhlman
Ruhlman was the 007 of culinary students, masking his Journalist title to go undercover at the CIA, the Harvard of cooking schools. He chronicles his experience in this intense and flavorful book, perfect for the day you want your food literature with a side of incognito.
For many, food is poetry, so this book seems like a natural instinct. The collection, which includes musings by a wide range of writers including John Updike, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and even songster Cole Porter, celebrates food and drink at its most lighthearted. It's a perfect side dish to any festive feast.
Edited by: Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman
When the pot boils over, your muffins fall flat or your blackened chicken turns out simply charred, pick up this book - a collection of your favorite chefs' most horrifying culinary calamities. On a day when all you've successfully made in the kitchen is a small fire, it's comforting to remember that even the likes of Anthony Bourdain have suffered their own spectacular failures.
6. Bread Alone
by: Judith R. Hendricks
In this novel, Wynter Morrison, a kept wife, finds herself kicked to the curb by a cheating husband. Having only one real marketable skill, she takes a job in a small Seattle bakery, which conjures up memories (and recipes!) of how bread, in its simple splendor, has livened up her life. Atkins dieters beware.
by: Molly Wizenberg
Like Julie & Julia author Julie Powell, this is another tale of a food blogger turned national sensation. In this book, Wizenberg illustrates how closely food can be tied to memory as she shares anecdotes about her mother and late father via the dishes they cooked, as well as how her love for food writing led to an online romance.
by: Michael Pollan
Are we in control of our gardens, or our they in control of us? Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, among others, ponders that question as he explores the human relationship to the plants we consume. Specifically Pollan details the rise of apples, tulips, marijuana and potatoes (not all food, we know, but these examples paint the bigger picture) to demonstrate how what we've chosen to farm may have been less our choice and more so based on a yearning provoked by the plant itself. It will have you looking at your side salad in a whole new light.
by: Steve Dublanica
While the behind-the-scenes life of a chef is a common focus in food literature, occasionally we must remember he or she who is the liaison between culinary masterpiece and our table - the waiter. In Waiter Rant we're reminded that it's our servers who often catch the most heat - both from overbearing chefs and persnickety diners. It's a fun read particularly for anyone who has ever wielded a tray, and a good reminder for all of us that waiters and waitresses work hard for the money.
by: Ruth Reichl
We couldn't create this list without including at least one Ruth Reichl book, and this one is definitely our favorite. Unlike her previous two efforts, in this memoir Reichl is in her element, indulging in lavish meals as the New York Times food critic. Reichl dines in various costumes in an attempt to disguise her identity and finds her appearance affects not just her appetite but her persona as well. It's a funny and poignant read about a woman living the dream.
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by: Bill Buford
For anyone who's ever felt compelled to break out of their box, Heat lets us live the fantasy. This is the story of Bill Buford who, as the title suggests, delves deep into kitchen life alongside famed chefs Mario Batali and Marco Pierre White, exposing their simultaneous brilliance and insanity. In the process, he happens to become a damn fine cook.