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Books for Cooks: Required Summer Reading



I read food books more than I read anything else. Whether I'm deep in a new cookbook—I just bought James Oseland's (editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine) divine Cradle of Flavor—or eating up one of Diane Mott Davidson's food-centered murder mysteries, food and good writing seem to go together like beaches and barbecues, or popsicles and summer days. Here are some of the books lying next to my bed right now—some other time, we'll have to talk food films.

Everyday Drinking
by Kingsley Amis.  This just-released collection of essays sees the master of British wit contemplating the whys, hows and wherefores of enjoying alcohol. SF's cocktail-swilling hordes will enjoy Amis' encyclopedic knowledge (and experience) of booze in all of its intoxicating forms.

John Thorne's newsletter Simple Cooking has had a cult following for almost 25 years. Mouth Wide Open, the latest in a series of essay collections came out this year; I love Thorne's quirky and unconventional approach to eating and cooking, and as a fellow hater of breakfast cereals, have signed on to his zealous crusade for savory breakfasts. Eggs baked in cream, anybody?

Food historian Laura Shapiro short biography of Julia Child recently won the IACP's 2008 book award for literary food writing. Who doesn't want to spend 200 pages with the dulcet-voiced mother of American gastronomy?

The Taste of Place is a must-read for the serious-minded foodie. In it, Amy Trubek takes up the story of terroir, the idea that the taste of food and wine comes from the place where it was grown. An important next chapter in the conversation started last year by Michael Pollan.

The Debt to Pleasure by John Lancaster is completely evil and totally irresistible, if you like your food writing with a side dish of murder. Or maybe you just hate food critics! This novel about a horribly unkind but wickedly funny food critic is delicious reading with a bittersweet aftertaste.

Although he died ten years ago, James Beard's imprint on American food culture has yet to be erased. Some of his books are out of print, but they can easily be found in used bookstores and online. Lately I've been reading his very wonderful 1960 book, The Complete Book of Outdoor Cooking. I'm taking it on a camping trip in a few weeks. It's that good.