You know how some people are obsessed with stamp collections or fantasy football teams? Well, we're obsessed with cookbooks. Here, we'll talk about them.
Today: This person's story about a croissant in Paris is more interesting than yours.
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Every single person has a story to tell about food -- likely countless. Lots of vegetarians can write about the first time they ate bacon again, lots of people can talk about their grandma’s cooking, but few can tell these stories in a way that makes them simultaneously singular and relatable. Whether the subject is animal agriculture or getting dinner on the table or a croissant in Paris, these food narratives make us laugh, think, and/or head to the kitchen.
Reading Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin makes you wish Laurie Colwin -- the self-described “refined slob” -- was your friend, the one that hovered over you while you cooked. Her writing is timely and relatable, her recipes are not wholly foolproof, and that’s why we -- and many others -- often ask, “What would Laurie Colwin do?”
Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach: As Nicholas Day put it, Jenny Rosenstrach’s book is “a realistic but not humiliating appraisal of your time-limited capabilities, a balance between aspiration and actually getting to eat, a voice that manages to confide without you wanting to tell it to stop confiding already.”
Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch: Kermit Lynch brings his wine expertise, opinions, and humor along the French wine route to find its very essence. The result is this landmark book that MFK Fisher said was “one of the pleasantest and truest books about wine I’ve ever read.” While it was originally written over 25 years ago (an anniversary edition came out in 2013), it is an essential primer on French regions, varietals, and winemakers.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: Yes, this is an assiduously researched investigation on animal agriculture, but it’s framed within a deeply personal story that draws you in -- and keeps making you think.
Above: Amanda Hesser and Molly Wizenberg
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg: We are avid readers of Molly's blog, Orangette, so needless to say we were thrilled when she came out with her first book (and her second). Molly’s debut takes the pieces we love about the blog -- homey recipes and personal narrative -- and ties them into a story about her family. It pulls us simultaneously to the kitchen to cook and to the couch to keep reading.
Fried Chicken by John T. Edge: Writing about food so that your mouth waters constantly is no easy feat. In Fried Chicken, you'll be torn between wanting to go out for fried chicken and never wanting to put the book down -- as the story Edge tells of how fried chicken plays a role in American culture is a really good one.
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton: People have griped that there aren’t any headnotes or an introduction in Prune. But you get a whole book of headnotes, and then some, in Hamilton’s first book, Blood, Bones & Butter. It’s a brutally honest story about growing up, cooking, and family from a seriously gifted storyteller and chef.
An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler: A reminder of how humble cooking can be -- and that the tail end of one meal can be the start of another. As Merrill Stubbs put it: "Tamar has a great talent for using a handful of ingredients to chart a fluid course of delicious meals, with no clear beginning and no clear end." In Tamar's world, leftovers are just the beginning.
Heat by Bill Buford: As the subtitle says, Heat chronicles Bill Buford's adventures as a kitchen slave, line cook, pasta-maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany. The ride is as raucous as that sounds, with appearances by and honest insight on Mario Batali and Marco Pierre White.