Wednesday, March 3, 2010

foodie lit roundup

I had this amazing plan to blog about this out of this world pound cake that I've made twice now, but each time I go to take photos, I get caught up in making it and forget to take a photo of the finished product. And that's the best part! I will just need an excuse to make it again, I guess.

But in the meantime, here are some of the foodie books I've read so far in 2010.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
By Ruth Reichl

Since it was my turn to host my book club in January, I chose 5 foodie books as the selections. The group narrowed it to this Ruth Reichl memoir, the tale of Reichl's time as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. I had only read one of her personal memoirs before (Tender at the Bone). Reichl went on to be the editor of the (sadly) now-defunct Gourmet magazine. She's a great food writer in that you can practically smell and taste the food she is describing. She makes you want to try things you would never think you'd be brave enough to try. Though I thought her tone bordered on self-absorbed by the end, the majority of the book was really interesting and it illuminated parts of the food world that aren't always public knowledge. Reichl takes on multiple disguises so that she can eat at restaurants and see how "regular people" are treated. It makes for interesting twists and turns. (Like how the NY Times critic is a walking paradox: both respected and reviled, sought after and ignored, an icon and a scapegoat.) If you are a NY Times junkie like me or a food writing junkie, you will probably enjoy this book. And if you aren't a NY Times junkie, you should be. Just saying. :)

Food Rules: An Eater's Manual
By Michael Pollan

Alongside my addiction to the New York Times, I have a food literature love affair with Michael Pollan. His food writing will change the way you look at food altogether; The Omnivore's Dilemma was the first book of his that I read (and I highly recommend it). His new book is a compilation of "rules" that we can use in evaluating the decisions we make about food, ideas that are passed through generations that have taught us about our relationship to food. The book is pocket sized and you'll zip right through it, but the rules will stick with you: "Never fuel your body in the same place you fuel your car." (Almost all food in gas stations is processed and full of high fructose corn syrup.) Pollan argues in much of his work that one of the reasons we have problems with obesity in America is because we've lost our connection to the production of food we eat. Fried chicken and ice cream are no longer really treats for special occasions because we can get them anywhere at any time; we no longer have to spend a whole day churning or cooking to get to the end product. We eat food that's been made far away, overly processed and beefed up with chemicals, and then wonder why we see poor results in our health. I'm not an organic food freak or anything, but what he has to say is really good food for thought and it is so wonderfully written, that it's hard not to get sucked in. For any foodie who prefers journalism or non-fiction over memoirs or fiction, Michael Pollan is your man.

The Gastronomy of Marriage: A Memoir of Food and Love
By Michelle Maisto

This book is the current front-runner for best book of 2010. It is rare that I finish a book and am saddened that it's over, and that was certainly the case with this one. It hit me in the shower the morning after I finished the book that the reason I loved it so much was that it is the book I've always wanted to write: a story about an independent female with feminist tendencies who loves to be in the kitchen and who loves a boy. And how those traits can peacefully co-exist. Michelle Maisto writes of the intersection of her love of food with her love of her fiance, and how it both brings them together and differentiates them. It was absolutely beautiful and tender-hearted, at once assertive and delicate. Treat yourself to this book and the recipes inside. I am so glad that I did.

Next foodie book on the list will be Julia Child's My Life in Paris. Have you read anything good lately?