Long Reads

Summer Reading Recommendations from Food Writers, Part 1

August 26, 2014

We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else. 

Today: We asked some of our favorite food writers (and other assorted friends) what we should be reading on summer vacation. Here's the first installment of their answers.

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If you hadn't already heard, the Food52 staff is taking off this week, closing our computers in favor of books and oceans and bright new places. Before we packed our bags, we went searching for some food-related book recommendations. Here's what a slew of food writers, readers, and eaters had to say:

Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer, cookbook authors and lunch eaters at The Canal House:
Two food-related books we're enjoying this summer are Giving Good Weight by John McPhee, especially the essay "Brigade de Cuisine,” and Bento's Sketchbook, by John Berger.

Rosie Schaap, New York Times Columnist and author of the memoir Drinking With Men:
I like to mix up the poetry, the fiction, and the nonfiction, so here's one recommendation for each category:

  • Poetry: The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink, edited by Kevin Young. Democratic and delicious, untethered to any particular poetic style or school. Bring it to a summer dinner party and let all your guests pick a poem to recite as dessert winds down.
  • Fiction: The Epicure's Lament, by Kate Christensen. A brilliantly hilarious novel about a suicidal rogue who loves Montaigne and M.F.K. Fisher and really knows how to cook. Hugo Whittier is one of my all-time favorite antiheroes.
  • Nonfiction: Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, by Anya von Bremzen. Beautifully written -- with great measures of heart and humor -- von Bremzen's memoir-with-recipes is also a surprising and revealing work of history. 

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking  

Adam Roberts, blogger at The Amateur Gourmet and author of Secrets from the Best Chefs:
I'm actually leaving for summer vacation and the two books that I'm taking are not food related: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (which I've already started and I'm loving); and My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard which doesn't seem like a beach read, but I'm very curious about it (people say it's one of the most important books to come along in a long time), so we'll see. 

For food-related summer reads, I'd recommend: Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, which is probably the best food memoir I've ever read -- funny, revealing, shocking, moving, and highly entertaining; The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher, which is just as sharp as Hamilton's book but pre-dates it by about 50 years; and Feeding A Yen by Calvin Trillin, which was the first food book that I ever read and offered up a master class on balancing heart, humor, and hedonism. Happy reading! 

Louisa Shafia, blogger at Lucid Food and author of the Piglet-Winning The New Persian Kitchen:
The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue, by David Sax. Sax is a smart and hilarious writer, as anyone who read his James Beard Award-winning book Save the Deli already knows. Although it’s full of solid research on the science behind food trends, it also looks like a fun beach read.

Saraban: A Chef’s Journey Through Persia, by Greg Malouf and Lucy Malouf. This Australian chef traveled through Iran in style, visiting all of the beautiful places and tasting the highlights. I’d love to read about his adventure to find out what experiences we had in common, and what I need to see the next time I’m in Iran.

David Priorwriter and professional traveler:
Sherry, by Talia Baiocchi. Being a food writer I am really lucky to get advance copies of books from publishers. I was thrilled when I received a copy of [this book] not only because I’ve wanted someone to celebrate this, surely the world’s most underrated wine, but also because she’s done such a beautiful job at demystifying the drink and the magical region of Andalusia. Make mine a manzanilla!

The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and Its Citrus, by Helena Attlee. I’m fascinated by this beautifully evocative book that tells the story of citrus in Italy. Much like they have with tomatoes and peppers, the Italians seem to take something and over time in their inimitable way just make it their own. Sicilian blood oranges, Ligurian cinotto, Amalfi lemons, Calabrian bergamot, cedro, and clementini! Imagine Italy, its landscape or food, without them? Unthinkable. 

Lucky Peach and Cherry Bombe. These are my beach mags this year. The edit and art direction of both is so fresh and I find that each one balances the other out. I always end up laughing out loud at Lucky Peach and crushing on someone in Cherry Bombe. It's also fun to see the bylines and faces of so many friends and colleagues in each of their issues.

Lucky Peach  Cherry Bombe

Luisa Weiss, blogger at The Wednesday Chef and author of My Berlin Kitchen:
For summer holidays, I have Jane Grigson's Good Things with me for re-reading (I'm having a renewed love affair with Grigson) and I brought Ava Chin's Eating Wildly along too.

Cara Nicoletti, our in-house meat guru, blogger at Yummy Books, butcher at The Meat Hook, and author of the forthcoming cookbook Voracious:

Phyllis Grant, Food52 contributor, blogger at dash and bellahandstand enthusiast:
The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink. Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire. Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen. Nora Ephron's Heartburn. And the last one: Frank O'Hara'a Lunch Poems.

What are you packing in your suitcases and backpacks -- or toting with you on the subway? We want to hear all about what you're reading in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Maria Siriano
    Maria Siriano
  • aargersi
  • Rachel Phipps
    Rachel Phipps
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



Maria S. August 26, 2014
I recommend The Book of Salt by Monique Truong, which is a fictional novel about a Vietnamese cook who works for Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas in 1930s Paris.
aargersi August 26, 2014
Not food related - I just finished The Son by Phillip Meyer - it's amazing. Food related - The Last Chinese Chef - read it last summer, still thinking about the description of the crab broth soaked tofu bites. Also recently read The Dovekeepers, lots of food in the book, it helps to get your mind where they are, though the story isn't about food.
Rachel P. August 26, 2014
Too heavy to carry anywhere, but Nigella Lawson's How To Eat & Feast. I think we all forget she is a writer before a cook, and they are beautiful to read.

I also spent the whole of Sunday reading Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries II