Books to Chew On
After a thorough scouring of book shelves and review lists, it seems that 2006 is the year for two genres among food-centric titles: culinary memoirs and organic/sustainable/food ethics and politics.
In a typical year of recent memory, it's one or two (tops) foodie auto-bios that get released - "Garlic and Sapphires" by Gourmet magazine's Ruth Reichl was last year's big chow, for example.
This year, it's a veritable literary smorgasbord, with at least eight new titles to sink your teeth into, from a motley mix of great writers, chefs and critics. Here's what's on the menu:
I am close to finishing "My Life in France, " by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme, a delightful romp through Paris and Marseille (among other European posts) with the late grande dame and her beloved husband, Paul Child.
Even if you've never picked up a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," the tome that made Julia famous, you can still relate to the adventures of a curious woman who, admittedly, didn't know how to cook until she and her husband moved to Paris in 1948.
When not living vicariously through Julia, I'm back on the line cooking with Bill Buford, who recounts his life-changing experiences working at Babbo, the famous New York restaurant owned by uber-chef Mario Batali. The title is "Heat," an apt name for life in a commercial kitchen, for both its physical temperature and temperament of Mario himself. In addition to his first-hand account of working the line, Buford, a staff writer at The New Yorker, reports on Mario's rise to fame and the characters who shaped him. It's a riot reading Buford's travails, as I can relate to my blundering early days as an apprentice at Cashion's Eat Place in 1996.
Keep your eyes peeled for a Book World review June 18.
Although it doesn't fit as neatly into the genre of cook-eat-biographize, "Eat, Pray, Love," by Elizabeth Gilbert, which was released earlier this year, is a personal journey and travelogue of a year spent in Italy, India and Indonesia. Gilbert's first three months in Italy are an eating extravaganza, as a way to work through major life events (divorce, followed by volatile relationship), and you'll witness her release from the stress through language, culture and gelato. Personal note: Gilbert and I waited tables together at a stainless steel diner in Philadelphia in the early 1990s, before she made it to the big time.
Book World Review.
Others I'm gearing up for:
"Insatiable" by Gael Greene, the former restaurant critic at New York magazine, who's penned her dining-out chronicles, which I'm told by a restaurant critic friend, is HOT STUFF. Lots of sex, if that's your thing.
"Mostly True" by Molly O'Neill, a former food columnist for the New York Times magazine. I cut my culinary teeth on O'Neill's column back in the 80s before I even thought about becoming a cook, so my motivation to read her tales is highly personal. Her brother, Paul, also featured in the book, is a retired right fielder for the New York Yankees.
Tomorrow: Part II of the summer reading list, with a focus on the ethics and ecology of eating.
By Kim ODonnel |
June 7, 2006; 10:36 AM ET
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