Week 3 here we go! This week our host is Veronica @ The Thousand Book Project and here’s our topic:
Week 3: (November 15-19) – Be The Expert/ Ask the Expert/ Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
As always I combine all three. For the past couple of years, I keep promising myself I’ll read more foodie memoirs and then not doing it. The issue seems to be that the ones I pick up aren’t really what I like in this category and then I’m put off.
I love a good foodoir (no, I can’t take credit for that fantastic term!) that tells a meaningful story of the writer’s life through food, or how cooking changed or healed them. The food element doesn’t have to be highbrow, I kind of prefer otherwise; I loved Nigel Slater’s Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger, for instance, and its focus on very working-class British meals and junk foods.
I’m always searching for another foodoir that’s like Laurie Colwin’s sublime Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen and More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen, which managed that magical chocolate-peanut butter combination of being funny, relatable, heartfelt, and poignant. The fact that I managed to get so many now go-to recipes from them has been a delightful bonus. I know there’s no other like Laurie Colwin, but I want to find more that might be similar.
Elizabeth David’s name inevitably comes up in this category. I have a few of her books I haven’t gotten to and have read Summer Cooking but her style feels chilly and removed to me, without the kind of warmth and personality that characterizes Colwin’s, and not as much narrative structure.
I didn’t really like the twee-ness of Ella Risbridger’s Midnight Chicken and although tempting recipes are a big bonus, I want books that swing more heavily towards memoir than towards cookbook, which that one did.
Others that have really worked for me are Ann Hood’s Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food, Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table and Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir, and Julia Child’s My Life in France (I don’t want to read Julie and Julia, I can tell I won’t get on with the author. Yes, I know I’m being really difficult and picky in my requests, but this is why I have issues in this genre).
The most recent one I’ve loved is Alexander Lobrano’s My Place at the Table: A Recipe for a Delicious Life in Paris, which hit a lot of points I love in a good foodoir: serious topics that the author is processing (his sexuality, an incident of childhood abuse) along with an immersion in a culture that’s new to them, and discovering that something around food or the food business is what they’re most passionate about.
If it has a targeted historical element or researched topic in addition to author experience, I’m also in. I loved The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat, The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket, and Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, which weren’t so much memoir as well researched narrative looks at our relationship to various foods, supply chains, and cooking techniques.
One such with a stronger memoir perspective I really enjoyed was Michael Twitty’s The Cooking Gene, exploring his family’s history and genetics in Africa and the American South and his own experience as a chef and historical interpreter.
Some other favorites:
Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table, by Boris Fishman
Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers, edited by Natalie Eve Garrett
The Bread and the Knife: A Life in 26 Bites, by Dawn Drzal
Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France, by Craig Carlson
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing, by Anya von Bremzen
Some that are on my list are Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant, an essay collection by various writers on eating alone, chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Yes, Chef, and The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite by Laura Freeman, which I think may end up being more literary than foodie but takes the compelling angle of healing the pain of an eating disorder through reading.
What foodoirs, food histories, or exceptional food writing you can recommend?
Don’t forget to link up with Veronica this week with your Expert posts!