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Topic: Non-Cookbook Foodie Books?

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Subject: Non-Cookbook Foodie Books?
Date Posted: 8/14/2009 3:34 PM ET
Member Since: 8/1/2009
Posts: 301
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I loved MIchael Ruhlman's series -- Making of a Chef, Soul of a Chef, Reach of a Chef -- and am looking for more books like this.  Any suggestions?

Things I've read and enjoyed -- Waiter Rant, The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry, Fortune Cookie Chronicles, Garlic and Sapphires.  Frank Bruni's new book is on my WL :)  I didn't really enjoy the Per Se waitress book (I think it was called Service Included?).

Date Posted: 8/14/2009 3:49 PM ET
Member Since: 4/30/2007
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Have you read any of Anthony Bourdaine's books?  I liked Kitchen Confidential, and I am currently reading The Nasty Bits.  They're both kind of a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a chef.  He's a bit...coarse, and if you don't like profanity, then you probably wouldn't like his books- but I find them facinating.  I just read a chapter last night that actually included Michael Ruhlman, in fact.  I had never heard of him before, but will have to check out the books you mentioned, so thanks for that!

If you liked Garlic & Sapphires, you might also like Ruth Reichl's other books, Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples.  I've read Tender at the Bone and liked it, and Comfort Me With Apples is on my TBR, but I expect it's as good as the others.  It's kind of a backward way of reading though- like you, I read Garlic & Sapphires first, but it actually comes chronologically last.  Tender is first, then Comfort, then Garlic.

I read Julie and Julia a couple of months ago, before I even knew that it was being made into a  movie, and I enjoyed it.

Somewhat foodie- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver is fantastic.  It made me think about food in an entirely different way, and gave me a new enthusiasm for home gardening, though of course not anywhere near the scale that she did it.

Hope this helps!

Date Posted: 8/14/2009 11:58 PM ET
Member Since: 8/1/2009
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I'm kind of scared to read Bourdain -- I'm not sure I'll ever want to eat out again after reading Kitchen Confidential!  I added it to my TBR...we'll see ;)

I very very very very very very highly recommend Michael Ruhlman's chef series.  I blame him 100% for my fantasy of quitting my job and going to cooking school.

Date Posted: 8/15/2009 6:02 PM ET
Member Since: 1/8/2007
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I have been reading Don't Try This At Home- Culinary Catastrophes From The World's Greatest Chefs. I got it here on PBS. There are true stories from forty-one famous chefs. Some are really funny and others give a glimpse of the real tensions in restaurant kitchens. I would recomment it. I have a copy of Kitchen Confidential but  haven't read it yet. I just skimmed the pages and saw the part about don't order the Monday Fish specials! I also read Julie and Julia but I had a hard time getting through it. I just didn't find Julie to be very likeable.

Have you read From Here You Can't See Paris? I am almost finished with it and enjoyed the look at French rural food culture and also the inside view of the restaurant. It made me want to go to some fancy restaurant and have a dish with truffles.

Date Posted: 8/25/2009 10:40 AM ET
Member Since: 6/12/2009
Posts: 81
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I personally enjoyed Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser.  Also, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg and The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz just came out recently and were both pretty good.

I second the suggestion of Ruth Reichl's other books, and Anthony Bourdain is good but crude.  My Life in France by Julia Child is the other side of the Julie/Julia movie story.  I also recommend Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier.  Some good recipes and musing about food.  If you like Ruth Reichl, you may also like Eating My Words: An Appetite for Life by Mimi Sheraton.

If you want to try more of the food movement type books, you should look for anything by Michael Pollan, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, Food Matters by Mark Bittman, Real Food by Nina Planck, or The End of Food by Paul Roberts.  Be prepared to consider changing your eating habits after reading these, though.

Can you tell food memoir/non-fiction is one of my favorite genres?  :)

Date Posted: 9/7/2009 1:26 PM ET
Member Since: 2/25/2007
Posts: 13,991
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There's one called "Heat," maybe 2-3 years old, somewhat similar to heart/soul etc of a chef, except this author goes to Italy to learn more about Italian cooking. It's really excellent.

Another is called "In Search of the Green Fairy,". And one of my alltime favorites, "I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Thing," by Jeffrey Steingarten.

I loved Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, but I think some of his newer books have just gone way over-the-top. KC should be a must-read for anyone who eats out; you WILL be grossed out at some things, but it's stuff that's really good to know.

The Per Se waitress book was terribly disappointing and a total waste, IMHO.

If you like Pat Conroy, his "cookbook" is really much more text than recipes, and it's incredibly good food wqriting. Even if you don;t read his novels, his essays? or short pieces on food are fabulous.

Some bookstores put these kinds of books in a section called "Food Literature," to differ from the recipe books.

Date Posted: 9/20/2009 2:26 AM ET
Member Since: 9/18/2008
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I have to second the recommendation for Jeffrey Steingarten's I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing.  His other book The Man Who Ate Everything is also a fun read.

I've read rave reviews about Laurie Colwin's two books (Home Cooking and More Home Cooking) but they're on my TBR pile and I haven't gotten tot hem yet.

And M.F.K. Fisher's Art of Eating and With Bold Knife and Fork seem to be perennially on the recommendation lists of folks.  They're also on my TBR pile.

I also picked up the three Craig Claiborne's Favorites books here on PBS and I've enjoyed what I've read so far.  They seem to be reprints of his favorite columns for the NY Times accompanied by recipes.

I recently read Julia Child's My Life in France and found it throughly charming adn enjoyable.  It covers the period when she and her husband first arrived in France for their new posting with the US Diplomatic Corps.  She covers her time in cooking school as well as her meeting with her future Mastering the Art of French Cooking co-authors - Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.  It also follows the challenges she and her husband face in their variou postings and with the McCarthy investigations, the challenges she and her co-authors faced trying to get their book published and how she ended up on TV.  Her storytelling was very personal and made me smile.

Date Posted: 9/20/2009 1:39 PM ET
Member Since: 3/3/2009
Posts: 94
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I can recommend "In the Kitchen Alone with an Eggplant" which I liked very much. It's an anthology of essays about eating alone. Some classics, some new.

Other suggestions which I didn't love, but have some good points are "The United States of Arugla," "The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong."  and already mentioned, "Heat" by Bill Buford

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen" by Jacques Pepin is charming and sweet. 

"Perfection Salad" is a classic, but on the dense side.  At times I felt like I was reading someone's dissertation.  "Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food" is readable and interesting, but little heavy on the recitation of facts and dates, and a little light on analysis.

Elizabeth David will appeal, too, if you like MFK Fisher.

Agree that "Service Included" is a waste of time.

Last Edited on: 9/20/09 1:44 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 9/21/2009 1:13 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2006
Posts: 172
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I knew this would be a good thread. I, too, love reading these type of books. and the travelogue ones where someone moves to another country... most of those seem to include food in some form. My favorite type of cookbook are the ones that tell a story before or after the recipes. Thanks everyone! I have made note of some of the books that I hadn't heard about before....

Date Posted: 9/28/2009 5:51 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2007
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Calvin Trillan's "Tummy Trilogy" books are a riot!  There are three separate books, but they are also available as an omnibus.

Date Posted: 9/30/2009 8:26 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence and French Lessons are largely about food, and they made my mouth water . . .

I didn't read the book, but I remember a most unusual movie called "Babette's Feast" that was based on a book (or story) by Isak Dinesen.

Date Posted: 9/6/2014 7:23 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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I just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, about her family's year endeavoring to be thorough-going locavores.  I enjoyed it so much, because it was educational and highly entertaining, that I had to come in here and urge it on any Cooking Forum participants who haven' yet read it.  I got a kick out of the 'auditioning' of the six roosters, and the sex education for the "oldest turkeys in the U.S.", and those were only a couple of the humorous parts of the book.

Date Posted: 9/7/2014 10:39 AM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2008
Posts: 3,545
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My favorite MFK Fisher book is Long ago in France. It's an account of time she spent in Dijon when her husband at the time attended a university there. interesting character sketches of people they met and places they came to know. I've read the book twice and I will probably read it again if I can find it.

Mimi Sheraton was a food critic for several publications in New York. Her book The Seducer's Cookbook is a hoot. lots of fun.

Bourdain's book Kitchen Confidential has been mentioned a few times. Another book of his I enjoyed is A Cook's Tour. It is his first time to travel around the world sampling local cuisines. Of course he later developed this format into his popular shows. You can see a lot of those shows on youtube.

Date Posted: 9/18/2014 9:32 AM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2008
Posts: 3,545
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Waiting by Debra Ginzburg. A memoir of her 20 year career as a waitress. I'm about a third of the way through the book now and it is interesting so far. I think there are probably many people who have waited at some time in their lives. I did it for about a year after I graduated from college. I had a friend at the time who discovered that he was very good at it and eventually decided to make a career of it.

Date Posted: 10/13/2014 10:59 AM ET
Member Since: 8/26/2010
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Take a look at Marlena de Blasi's books set in various parts so Italy and Susan Herrmann Loomis' books set in France - very enjoyable, especially if you like to travel and have an interest in the food from those countries.  

Date Posted: 10/20/2014 3:35 PM ET
Member Since: 2/25/2007
Posts: 13,991
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I have a whole bookcase of these books....A very new one is "Delancey," by the author of the hugely successful Orangette food blog.

The book is about her and her husband starting a restaurant in Portland; there are also 15-20 recipes for home cooking with each chapter, related to the specifics

"Food literature" is one term often used to describe these kinds of books, as apart from recipe-based cookbooks.

Last Edited on: 10/20/14 3:37 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/5/2015 7:26 AM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
Posts: 6,283
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I love these foodie books, and recommend the Reichl's, of course.  Hated the arrogance of Bourdain, who I really didn't even know, to the point that I didn't finish his Kitchen Confidential.  Right now I am reading Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life.  I like it quite a bit, and have learned about some older cooks I'd never heard of. 

One I read a couple of months ago that I enjoyed is: Talking with My Mouth Full Crab Cakes Bundt Cakes and Other Kitchen Stories by Bonny Wolf.  This one has more recipes than the first one. 

Last Edited on: 1/5/15 7:55 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/3/2017 12:39 PM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2008
Posts: 3,545
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