Throughout the summer, EW has been rolling out lists of some of our favorite books of all time. So far, we’ve suggested YA books not just for kids, celebrity memoirs, heart-stopping thrillers, audiobooks, laugh-out-loud humor books, and inspiring sports books to devour in the sun. This week’s installment is good enough to eat. Pulling decades back, we’ve compiled 15 food books that you’ll want to devour.
Heat by Bill Buford (2006)
A middle-aged magazine writer with baby smooth hands discovers glorious humility and satisfaction working as a line cook in the cramped kitchen of New York’s three-star Babbo restaurant. In between back-breaking shifts, he whips together a magnificent portrait of legendary chef Mario Batali, a man of enviably enormous appetites.
Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin (1988)
How not to fall for a food writer who not only whipped up gorgeous prose but had the accessibility and good humor to declare, “There is something triumphant about a really disgusting meal.” The unpretentious Gourmet columnist died unexpectedly at 48, but she left behind a treasure trove of vibrant odes to the wonderfully messy art of cooking.
Julie & Julia by Julie Powell (2005)
The story of a paper-pushing secretary-turned best-selling memoirist put a fire under bloggers’ seat cushions everywhere. In 2002, Powell began a year-long chronicle of her attempt to tackle all of the daunting recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The result landed her a book deal, then a best-seller, then a beloved movie that earned Meryl Streep her 16th Oscar nomination.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (2000)
Beware the eggs Benedict. Mind those mussels. Bourdain, top chef at New York’s Les Halles, served up great dish in his blustery, big-mouthed memoir about his time in restaurant kitchens. The man knows and loves food; his gratitude for a good meal renders the tough talker wondrously child-like.
The Man Who Ate Everything Jeffrey Steingarten (1997)
When he left his legal career to became the food critic of Vogue in 1989, Steingarten embarked on a delightfully wry process of palate expansion. Full of his trademark biting humor and intellectual verve, these collected essays cover everything from his attempt to create the perfect French fry to his search for Alsatian choucroute.
Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson (2004)
Anthony Bourdain declared this delightfully irreverent cookbook “a cult masterpiece.” Indeed, the famed British chef is one of a kind. The title hearkens to the thrifty British tradition of making delicious use of every part of the animal, and some of the recipes (eg., pig’s head) are indeed daunting.
An Omelette and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David (1984)
From the warmly inviting title to each of the collected 62 articles that ran between 1955 and 1984 in publications such as Gourmet and Vogue, David proves herself an incomparable chronicler of food and cooking. “I’ll Be with You in the Squeezing of a Lemon” feels as joyful and pungent today as it did back in 1969. The very definition of pleasure reading.
On Food & Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee (1984)
The brainy, beloved bible of ambitious foodies and professional chefs. McGee seeks to explain not just the soul of food but the inner dynamics that can give a meal serious technical oomph. Considered the investor of “molecular gastronomy,” he completely updated his classic on its 20th anniversary, imbuing it with a wholly fresh spin on the magic of a science-minded kitchen.
Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl (1998)
Make yourself a plate of cream puffs and settle in for this wry and delightful ode to food, family, and the grounding pleasure of friends gathered around the table. Reichl, a former New York Times restaurant critic, shapes the first volume of memoir with rich tales of a palate well served.
Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger by Nigel Slater (2004)
With biting honesty and sparse prose, the English chef takes us through his childhood – rife with tragedy after his mother dies – through the foods and ingredients that sparked his lifelong love of cooking.
Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop (2009)
Dunlop, a British food writer, spent 15 years traveling across China and immersing herself in its food. The result is this beautiful memoir and travelogue, which raises some fascinating questions about cultural culinary traditions across the globe.
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton (2011)
Hamilton chronicles the years before she opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, carrying the memories, tastes, and smells of her parents’ meals with her as she headed out on her own, traveling, cooking, and catering, before realizing her dream.
The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti (2013)
One of EW’s favorite books of 2013, this piece of culinary reportage follows the author on a hunt for the truth about a type of cheese so delicious that it’s thought to have mystical properties. But when Paterniti becomes enmeshed in the small Spanish village, he finds things aren’t as quaint as he hoped – instead, the story of the cheese involves murder, theft, and other unseemly, and slightly treacherous, things.
Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey (2006)
This evocative memoir of childhood spent in Delhi and the Himalayas by food writer Madhur Jaffrey is not just a compelling read full of delectable flavors: It includes over thirty recipes, so you can actually make the dishes you’ve been dying to taste throughout your reading.
The Raw & The Cooked by Jim Harrison (2002)
Once called the “poet laureate of appetite,” Harrison, a legendary food writer for Esquire and Smart, brings his famously lovely prose, sharp opinions, and earned wisdom to this absolutely divine collection of essays, covering everything from meatballs to his friendship with Gerard Oberle.
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