A GOOD READ: Books for cooks and eaters
Everyone eats every day so it’s no surprise that there’s a glut of fabulous books about eating and cooking. Visit your library for these and other good reads:
• Heat: Bill Buford, a middle-aged writer, decides to quit his job and work for free as a “kitchen slave” in Babbo, celebrity chef Mario Batali’s New York restaurant. Buford was an over-ambitious home cook who felt that he was missing something when it came to food. He was — he was missing knife skills, grilling skills, cooking skills and, most importantly in the Babbo kitchen, speed. Buford’s skills slowly progress as he breaks apart hundreds of ducks, finely dices piles of onions, all the while being cursed and glared at by the professionals. Buford’s food obsession does not end there. After laboriously climbing the kitchen ladder from slave to line cook to pasta maker, Buford’s compulsion takes him to Italy, where he delves into the complexity of Italian cooking. Funny, chaotic, self-deprecating and illuminating, Buford’s kitchen adventures result in an engrossing and mouth-watering story.
• What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets: In a fascinating study of people and their diets, Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio present photographs of 80 people from 30 countries with what they ate on an ordinary day. These photographs are accompanied by a list all of the food pictured and how many calories the day’s worth of food contains. The differences are shocking. Spanning from the 800-calorie diet of the Maasai herder in Kenya to the 12,300-calorie diet of a binge eater in England, people’s choices and lives are exposed honestly without judgment. These riveting photographs are supplemented with essays about food culture and nutrition. The diversity in resources, lifestyles and choices available to our species is astounding. You will be left thinking about your daily bread.
• Blood, Bones and Butter: Gabrielle Hamilton is passionate about simple, straightforward food despite the complicated and round-about way she took getting into the kitchen. Hamilton’s nostalgia for the spit-roasted lamb and starry nights of her childhood infuses her difficult life story. Hamilton moves from rural Pennsylvania to New York City at age 17 and is quickly drawn into a lifestyle of drug abuse and theft. Gradually, with the help of food and compassion, she becomes a successful chef, restaurant owner and mother. Hamilton’s grit, humour and passion come through in this compelling life story.
• A Homemade Life: In 2004, Molly Wizenberg decided to quit her PhD program in cultural anthropology to write and cook. Her efforts produced the blog Orangette and A Homemade Life is the first published result of her work. A Homemade Life is full of charming stories that span all stages of Wizenberg’s life. She writes bravely about her beloved late father and recounts the romantic meeting of her boyfriend through her blog. Wizenberg’s writing captures the joy of cooking and eating at home with friends and family. Her stories could stand alone but are luckily accompanied by delicious recipes. A Homemade Life is a treat in and out of the kitchen.
• Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating: There’s no shortage of books telling us what and how we should eat. In all of this literature comes the common-sense voice of Mark Bittman, who writes, “Eat less meat and animal products. Eat less processed food and more vegetables.” Bittman explains why this lifestyle will help you feel better and be easier on the planet. With clarity and measure, Bittman exposes modern food production (without being too graphic) and delves into the bureaucratic nature of our contemporary government food guides. Eating should be tasty, healthful and easy, without convenience and fad foods. Bittman backs up his argument with a diet plan and tempting recipes.
A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published every Wednesday. Dana Ionson works at Terry Fox Library in Port Coquitlam.