What are your favorite memoirs by food writers, chefs, or anyone else, for that matter?

I've enjoyed Jaffrey, Slater, Child, Reichl, Hamilton & Colwin, to name a few. Recommendations? I'm looking for thoughtful works by people who've had interesting lives, i.e., I'm looking to learn something rather than just to be entertained. Thanks so much! ;o)



Foodelf February 2, 2013
As Always, Julia - traces the correspondence between Julia and her friend Avis. Anything by Laurie Colwin, The Opinionated Palate, by Barbara Kafka. I also find that Nigel Slater's books are so full of his life, views and ideas - very charming.
KellyinToronto February 2, 2013
The writings of MFK Fisher is a must. As it's been mentioned so many times here, she set the standard of what food writing can be. Her stories still makes me cry.

For somthing a litte off the beaten path - Serve the People: a Stir-Fried Journey Through Today's China by Jen Lin-Liu and Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste by Anyn Halliday are great, quick reads that makes you laugh out loud.

For a change of pace - The Settler's Cookbook by Yasmine Alibhai is a great read, but one of my favorite books of all time, not just becasue she's Canadian, is the little known but beautifully written Tea and Pomegranates by Nazeen Sheikh. It recalls her childhood and early adulthood in Kashmir, with a number of unusual (and apparently rarely written down) Mughal recipes.
healthierkitchen January 31, 2013
though her book doesn't come out until March, look out for Elissa Altman's Poor Man's Feast. She is a terrific writer with an interesting point of view. In the meantime, check out her blog of the same name.
boulangere January 31, 2013
I started Bill Buford's Heat a few years ago; about halfway through when he'd just about convinced me of his dedication to the Mario Batali way of cooking and pronounced himself having done something with, I believe, pork as, "I was now an expert," I literally clapped the book shut and threw it in the trash. I don't know a single true chef who describes him- or herself as an expert at anything. Bill Buford is no George Plimpton. Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones, and Butter is a masterpiece. What an odd life she has had. I don't plan to see the movie. Kathleen Flinn's book The Sharper the Knife, The Less You Cry made me scream every time she mentioned preparing puff pastry by first proofing the yeast; it is better read as a cautionary tale of renting and cooking in tiny apartments in Paris. Nigel Slater's books are as riveting as period-piece novels, and I just started Marcus Samuelsson's Yes, Chef. What an interesting life he's had.
ChefJune January 30, 2013
just thought of another whose writing on food and life I find interesting: James Villas. And Craig Claiborne's memoir, "A Feast Made for Laughter" is really wonderful for both reading and cooking.
cratecooking January 30, 2013
MFK Fisher! So much to choose from. Start with The Art of Eating, as it includes five of her best works, "Serve it Forth," "Consider the Oyster," "How to Cook a Wolf," "The Gastronomical Me" and "An Alphabet for Gourmets.
FutureChef January 30, 2013
Tasting Table just recommended the memoir, Fresh off the boat. Definitely something different. Again, if you have to narrow it down to three, I would say Life on the Line, Yes Chef, and Eating with my mouth full. (I liked Nigel Slater's toast too, but his cookbooks/gardening books are even better.)
cookbookchick January 29, 2013
The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. Wonderfully evocative, laugh-out-loud funny, and some great recipes, too.
FutureChef January 30, 2013
Love his recipes!
cookinginvictoria January 28, 2013
I must add one more engrossing memoir to this thread that I haven't seen mentioned yet: French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon, which depicts a North American young family's fascinating food education when they move to France.
ChefJune January 28, 2013
If you haven't read MFK Fisher, you must. She's in a class by herself. My most fave otherwise is Julia Child's "My Life in France."

Other wonderful memoirs are Kim Severson's "Spoon Fed: How 8 Cooks Saved My Life," Bill Buford's "Heat," Kathleen Flinn's "The Sharper the Knife the Less You Cry."
cookbookchick January 27, 2013
Marlena di Blasi's "A Thousand Days in Venice" is a good read, as are her subsequent books. Read that one first, though, as her memoirs of her life in Italy married to an Italian man are sequential. Food and cooking are central to her stories. She has also written some cookbooks.
bugbitten January 27, 2013
I'd like to put in a word for a recent memoir, MEDITERRANEAN SUMMER, by David Shalleck, forward by Mario Batali. David details a season of acquiring product and preparing meals aboard the sailing yacht of an Italian billionaire family. It's a wonderful read.
healthierkitchen January 27, 2013
Also, a non-food one is Patti Smith's autobiography. Shw wrote it (no ghostwriter) and it is beautifully written as well as an interested snapshot of a time of her life.
dymnyno January 26, 2013
I think you might like the books of Angelo Pellegrini. I have The Unprejudiced Palate (his first),Immigrants Return, Lean Years, Happy Years and American Dream. If you can't find them, I can lend them to you.
ChezHenry January 26, 2013
The Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White. I couldn't put it down.
pierino January 26, 2013
"So I nutted him..."
pierino January 27, 2013
And to clarify "nutting"; it's English slang for head butting someone apparently it's how MPW liked to deal with disobedient customers.
cookinginvictoria January 26, 2013
What a great thread. I love so many of the books mentioned here, and others are on my to-read list. Here are a few more books to consider:
Born Round by Frank Bruni: This excellent memoir by the former NY Times food critic, recounts his relationship with food and his struggles with overeating.
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg: Similar in narrative style to Amanda's book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, Wizenberg's wonderful memoir/collection of essays is about her grieving after the death of her father, her finding her love of her life, and her relationship with food and cooking. I love the recipes in this book, especially the Winning Hearts and Minds Chocolate Cake, which Molly baked and served at her own wedding.
Heat by Bill Buford: How a frustrated home cook becomes a line cook at Babbo, under the intimidating tutelage of Mario Batali. The author also goes to Italy to learn the art of butchery and how to make authentic pasta. Heat is about the pleasures and sacrifices of what it takes to get real food onto our tables and gives an eye-opening, hilarious account of what it's like to work in the crazy world of a fast-paced high-end restaurant.
Sadassa_Ulna January 26, 2013
Your question makes me want to go to the library! I don't have many suggestions that were published recently. In no particular order, the following are books I recommend; some are memoirs, some autobiographies (and some are compelling non-fiction of a biographical nature): Red Azalea by Anchee Min, Second Nature by Michael Pollan, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, Almost A Woman by Esmeralda Santiago, Chronicles - Volume 1 by Bob Dylan, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden, Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, and if I remember any more I will post them!
And here are some humorous and entertaining ones: The Year of Eating Dangerously by Tom Parker-Bowles, Bossypants by Tina Fey, nearly all of David Sedaris' books are autobiographical... OK off to the library.
Nancy H. January 26, 2013
I just have to add one more comment: The question asked was specifically about "memoirs" yet many of the answers simply refer to books about food--as LucyS mentions in referencing the Omnivore's Dilemma. Marion Nestle's books, for instance, are most definitely not memoirs by any stretch nor is Barry Estabrook's book about tomatoes. Both admirable writers but I'm curious how readers actually define memoir--is it any book about food in which recipes do not dominate and the "I" figures in? Or is it something more specific? Just askin'.
healthierkitchen January 27, 2013
It was I who added Marion Nestle and Barry Estabrook and did so not because I think they're memoirs, but because I thought Antoniajames might like them. I guess I was stretching a bit outside her question.
LucyS January 26, 2013
I don't see mentioned here The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (not so much a memoir but a really good, fascinating read about where food comes from) and A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle.
amysarah January 26, 2013
Ditto any/all MFK Fischer, Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin; also Calvin Trillin's Alice Let's Eat; and Apricots on the Nile by Colette Rossant (about growing up in Egypt as a WWII refugee, living with her Egyptian-Jewish grandparents)...
ATL January 26, 2013
Whoops! I meant Home Cooking and More
Home Cooking!
ATL January 26, 2013
Laurie Colwin's Home Kitchen and More Home Kitchen.
healthierkitchen January 25, 2013
I love so many that have been mentioned, but to add a few:
While I certainly enjoyed Cooking for Mr. Latte, I really love Amanda Hesser's the Cook and the Gardener which is a lovely account of her time cooking for Anne Willan and her relationship with the gardener on the property as well as the changing of the seasons. I liked Kim Severson's Spoon Fed as well as Kristin Kimball's The Dirty Life. If youi want to get more in to food politics, I recommend anything by Marion Nestle, whose What to Eat I read some years ago. I believe her new book is called Calories. Barry Estabrook's Tomatoland was eye-opening about the conditions for migrant tomato pickers in Central Florida. Tracie McMillan also deals with migrant workers, though in California, in The American Way of Eating, in which she goes undercover picking fruit and vegetables in several different fields, as well as in the produce department at Walmart and as in the kitchen at Applebee's.
Nancy H. January 25, 2013
Elizabeth David: She never wrote a proper memoir but her writing about food, even her recipes, are so full of evocative description of a long ago France that it's easy to sense her life story--and her devotion to good food beautifully prepared.
And then Patience Gray: Honey from a Weed is perhaps a forgotten classic but it should be cherished by anyone who loves the Mediterranean, and anyone who loves good writing. Her life, in Greece, Tuscany, Catalonia, and finally coming to rest in southernmost Puglia, was not free from scandal or difficulty but she took such evident delight in every single thing that crossed her path, everything she tasted, everything she grew and cooked and fed to her beloved Norman the sculptor--such delight that she should be a model to us all whenever we're tempted to whine our way through life.
Sorry to go on like this, but this is an important book you should all read and re-read.
Pegeen January 24, 2013
MFK Fisher. She so beautifully paved the way for food writers to come. This is kind of a non sequitur, but Jeannette Walls' remarkable autobiography "The Glass Castle" reminds me of Gabrielle Hamilton's "Blood, Bones & Butter" (loved both). Except Walls' story is not about embarking on a food career but about escaping starvation. Both are such great stories of triumph over adversity. Always looked forward to Amanda's essays in NY Times. Also Pete Wells' "Cooking with Dexter" (stories about food and his young son), especially the one where Dexter learns about animals being slaughtered for food.
aargersi January 24, 2013
Animal Vegetable Miracle is a favorite - Barbara Kingsolver. Her year as a locavore. Love. It.
susanm January 24, 2013
The only thing missing from this great list seems to be our beloved Julia's "My Life In France". I read it once a year.
susan G. January 24, 2013
The old and the new: Samuelsson's book is moving and enlightening. An oldie favorite: Memoirs and Menus, The Confessions of a Culinary Snob, Georges Spunt -- my original copy had disappeared, I replaced it with a used copy found online. And a collection of essays: At Grandmother's Table, edited by Ellen Perry Berkeley. All these suggestions should keep you in reading for a while, and the rest of us too!
cookbookchick January 24, 2013
So many good reads already mentioned! I must add that "Blood, Bones and Butter" is not only a terrific story, it is so well-written. Ms. Hamilton is such a talented gal -- like Amanda, whose "Cooking for Mr. Latte" is on my most-freqeuntly-referenced shelf. "The Lost Ravioli Recipe of Hoboken" sent me on my own quest -- to learn to make ravioli. (The book includes recipes.) I enjoyed "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," Kathleen Flinn's account of her time at Le Cordon Bleu. And do not miss Tamar Adler's "The Everlasting Meal." I want to read it again and again -- not only for her awesome way with words, but for her thought-provoking approach to food and cooking.
luvcookbooks January 24, 2013
Manhattan, When I Was Young, by Mary Cantwell
agree with Blood, Bones and Butter and Cooking for Mr. Latte
The Lost Ravioli Recipe of Hoboken by Laura Schenone, a great quest for ravioli and an understanding of family, both personal and cultural, hoping someday to go to Liguria and see the author's family's home land
Walking on Walnuts by Nancy Ring, by a former pastry chef in NYC, also about her family of origin and their lives in the kitchen
FutureChef January 24, 2013
Sorry if I'm repeating but I can't read responses. You MUST read Achatz's Life on the Line and Marcus Samuelsson's Yes, Chef. Also, I recommend Jeffrey steingarten's the man who ate everything, the sorcerer's apprentice, and Gail Simmons' eating with my mouth full. Also, I recommend Ludo LeFevre's Crave cookbook which also serves as a semi-biography. Happy reading! (P.S. whenever looking for good reads, the James Beard awards are always a good place to start as well).
drbabs January 24, 2013
Blood, bones and Butter-- I agree, a great read. Have you read Cooking for Mr.Latte by Amanda? I love that book. And not on the food topic, but I just read a review of Sonia Sotomayor's memoir, and it sounds really inspiring. http://nyti.ms/VlcaAy
em-i-lis January 26, 2013
I completely agree with all these ideas, including the Sotomayor book (Barbara, did we see the same review?) :)
I also enjoyed Comfort Me With Apples and Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl. Heartburn by Nora Ephron is fabulous. Also really liked Pepin's The Apprentice. There are some passages in Under the Tuscan Sun that still make me wheeze with laughter (parts about Italian gesticulations and traffic, for ex; my sister lives in Florence so I know Mayes' anecdotes to be totally true). :)
Panfusine January 26, 2013
Loved Cooking for Mr. Latte!
pierino January 24, 2013
Anthony Bourdain's KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL kind of set the bar for contemporary chef memoir. Gabrielle Hamilton's BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER picked up from there. David Chang's MOMOFUKU can be read as a memoir as well as a cook book. At least I read it that way. I've never seen the word f*** used more times in an actual cookbook.
Meanwhile I'm looking forward to Roy "Kogi Truck" Choi's forthcoming memoir which I think is supposed to be called something like RIDING SHOTGUN IN LA.

Voted the Best Reply!

boulangere January 23, 2013
M.F.K. Fisher. Anything and everything she wrote. Also Richard Olney.
Panfusine January 23, 2013
Ammini Ramachandran's Grains, greens and grated coconuts,
Monica Bhide's Modern spice (her anecdotal essays on lifes little morsels are wonderful to read)
sdebrango January 23, 2013
I just read Jacque Pepin, The Apprentice his life in the kitchen, insightful, interesting I learned so much about what I consider one the most accomplished chefs of our time. I loved it, and as a bonus it contains several of his favorite recipes.
sdebrango January 23, 2013
Another book I just read which I found fascinating is Eat My Words by Janet Theoohano, Reading Womens Lives through the cookbooks they wrote. Really interesting.
sdebrango January 23, 2013
Janet Theophano sorry can't edit and mispelled
Diana B. January 24, 2013
I also loved Jacques Pepin's memoir, The Apprentice. He's such a nice man and it really comes through in the book. It was especially interesting to discover that his appreciation of all kinds of food came from the privations of World War II.
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