Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Next best thing to cooking and eating good food is ...

... reading about cooking and eating good food.

My reading for pleasure includes a good portion of food and cooking writing. Not cookbooks, although I peruse those, too, and have a collection of nearly 100 cookbooks. We're talking books about food and cooking as culture. Here are a few examples, including my most recent and current readings:

* "My Life in France", Julia Child's story told with her great-nephew Alex Prud'homme. I just finished this warm and enlightening book in which the mother of good American cooking tells how she immersed herself in French culture, including its cuisine, and came up with her permanently relevant "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and masterful PBS television series, "The French Chef". (Special thanks to friend and colleague Diane Luber for lending me her copy of "My Life in France".)

* "Heat", by Bill Buford. This is my current reading, a revealing tale of Buford's year or more around super chef Mario Batali and his Babbo restaurant, including Buford on the trail of the Mario mystique in Italy and elsewhere. The book title's subtext tells it all: "An amateur's adventure as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta-maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany." (A second nod of thanks to Diane Luber.)

* "Down and Out in Paris and London", by George Orwell. I haven't read this, but it was recommended by Chef Tony Marano, one of my professors at the California Culinary Academy. Especially compelling, it seems, are the tales from Paris breadlines and the lives of workers in restaurant kitchens.

* "Beef: And Other Bovine Matters", by John Torode. This offering showed up attached to a recipe for seared beef tenderloin with thyme in my daily New Recipes feed. The book description shows it leans heavily on recipes but also appears to contain a good deal of the history of beef, breeds, butchering and other background. Torode was born in Australia and now runs restaurants in London.

* Just about anything by M.F.K. Fisher. Here's a list of her works. Most compelling titles: "How to Cook a Wolf", her only novel "Not Now but Now" and "The Story of Wine in California".

* Anthony Bourdain is overexposed, methinks, but he is a talented writer. Try "A Cook's Tour", in which Bourdain sets out to find the perfect meal and travels the world.

This list is sadly incomplete, like a tomato sauce with only tomatoes. There are many more, and I will add to the list in this blog as time allows.

(Photo credits: George Orwell -- top right -- from M.F.K. Fisher -- lower left -- from her official Website)

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