The best food books you've never read


The trend in cookbooks to be part travelogue, part memoir, and part instruction follows from the increased interest in leisure reading about food.  While not a new trend - people have been writing about food and cooking for centuries - food writing has especially blossomed in the last few decades. Paste Magazine takes a look at this trend and provides a list of great food books that deserve more recognition

The list ranges a book that first appeared in 1825 - Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste - to a book published in 2012, Bee Wilson's Consider the Fork, in which Wilson "ponders the impact and history of both the modern technologically advanced kitchen and more humble culinary tools such as the wooden spoon, the skillet and (obviously) the fork, all of which have radically reshaped the way we eat today."

Even though this list is about lesser-known books, it comes as no surprise that many of them already reside on several EYB Member Bookshelves. Other books mentioned in the article include John Thorne's  Serious Pig: An American Cook in Search of His Roots. In this series of essays, Thorne traces his identity as a chef and "uses passion and intelligence to question the role of food in our relationship with our identities and the places we inhabit."

Jessica B. Harris's  High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America also makes the list. In this book, Harris "traces the role of African food in the American culinary world. Beginning far before slavery, this text traces the importance of West African foods and cooking technique and traces the diasporic spread of African culinary staples in the United States and Caribbean."

See the complete list, including a couple of books that even EYB Members might not have heard of, like Mike Davis's Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. After you read the article, let us know if you have any other books to recommend that aren't on this list.


  • ellabee  on  11/10/2015 at 3:19 AM

    I think a list like this is incomplete without Salt, by Mark Kurlansky. It's fundamental to an understanding of food history. I'm surprised at how many of the listed books I've read -- except I couldn't get through Bill Buford's Heat. Might be less posturing than Bourdain, but that's a low bar; still too much testosterone for me. On the other hand, cooking and food reading is a haven from the significant amount of attention I pay to anti-imperialist thought and work, so I prefer not to think of the Mike Davis book (which I've read) as food writing.

  • sir_ken_g  on  11/10/2015 at 8:55 AM

    You are correct. I am 0:14

  • Jane  on  11/10/2015 at 4:31 PM

    I'm not much better at 2:14. Books about food that I've liked are 97 Orchard by Jane Ziegelman (about the food of 5 immigrant families in a NYC tenement) and The Sorcerer's Apprentices by Lisa Abend (about the young trainee chefs at El Bulli). And a book that resonated personally is A Pedant in the Kitchen by Julian Barnes. I haven't read Salt and I think I should.

  • hillsboroks  on  11/11/2015 at 11:32 AM

    I enjoyed "Salt" so much that I went on to read Kurlansky's other books, "Cod" and "Oysters" as well. But I also want to add Laura Schenone's two books, "The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken" and "A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove" to the list. The first book is the story of her search for her great-grandmother's fabled ravioli recipe. The search takes her all over the US and then back to Italy with lots of twists and turns and family stories along the way. The second book is a history of women in America told through their cooking, recipes and stories. She starts with Early American Indians and takes it up through microwaves and modern cooking. Both books are hard to put down once you start them.

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