A Few Good Books

June 15, 2007

I just came up with this list of food books for NPR, to go along with an interview I did with Steve Inskeep.  So I thought I might as well post it here as well.

The Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu-Jaber. I was talking to Diana the other day, and she said, “There’s something safe and wonderful about being raised by a strict father, but it has its drawbacks.” That’s pretty much what this memoir – about growing up partly in Jordan and always with food – is about.

Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey. Madhur is an extraordinary cook with an amazing ability to recall – and recreate – the evocative flavors of the India she grew up in.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. The original bad boy chef – and so much fun!

The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten. Before there was Bill Buford there was Steingarten. Few people are as erudite – and no one is as food-obsessed – as Jeffrey Steingarten, who will follow any food trail to literal absurdity.

The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin. Could be subtitled: Why life is more fun for people who like to eat.

The Apprentice, By Jacques Pepin. There is a reason why Jacques Pepin became one of our most celebrated French chefs. He’s a cook with a remarkably interesting mind.

Talk Talk by T.C. Boyle. A novel about identity theft that contains some of the most wonderful descriptions of cooking that I’ve ever read. And why not? Another Boyle book contains the great short story, Sorry Fugu.

Older Books
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. The ultimate writer’s writer, Mitchell is not usually thought of as a food writer. But so many of his stories are about markets, pubs and restaurants. And this book contains my all-time favorite food story, “All You Can Hold for Five Bucks.”

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. You’ve never read Laurie Colwin? What a treat you have in store.

 Between Meals by A.J. Liebling. Most famous quote: “The primary requisite for writing about food is a good appetite.” Probably our greatest food writer.

Hotel Splendid by Ludwig Bemelmans. An endlessly amusing behind-the-scenes look at a great hotel restaurant by the man who wrote the Madeline books. Bemelmans wrote from experience; he worked at The Ritz.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. Contains a remarkably graphic, and completely unforgettable, behind-the-scenes look at restaurant kitchens.

Coming Soon:Fair Shares for All by John Haney. An extraordinarily affectionate book about growing up hungry in London’s East End.

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