The interplay of taste and memory is fascinating. For some of the books from my childhood, I can remember what I snacked on while reading, but very few details about the book. Inkspell was enjoyed with a flaky scone and the Harry Potter books were accompanied by many a chocolate bar.
Reading writing about food when done well is like enjoying a spectral meal that is simultaneously satisfying and frustrating. Food writing can be inspirational because it focuses on the enjoyment of a necessary aspect of living. We all need to eat to survive, but do we savor our food? Do we get any meaning out of the experience?
Good food writing makes you slow down and consider that while not all meals are life-changing, some can have a profound effect.
Here are a few books that will make you crave a good meal:
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
A girl grows up confronted by loss, professional set-backs, and poverty, but is sustained by her remarkable palate. Each chapter is told from a different point of view by a person who has had some impact on Eva’s life and features a dish or ingredient that culminates in a final, fantastic meal.
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichel
Former writer at Gourmet writes a memoir about her time as a food critic for The New York Times. Reichel describes not only the food on her plate, but the restaurants, the people she dines with, and her state of mind while she enjoys the food. This allows the reader to be a true voyeur as she enjoys or hates meals at exclusive restaurants. Every chapter concludes with a recipe or restaurant review.
My Life in France by Julia Child
Julia Child is so charming! Her passion for food and cooking comes through in the writing, making this book delightful to read. I’ve never seen her cooking show, but I feel she could have convinced me to attempt anything in the kitchen. This is also the story of how she fell in love with France and her descriptions of life there are lovely. An uplifting, sunny-mood-turning, book!
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
When a chef is kidnapped by a fierce female pirate, he has to figure out how to cook a five-star meal in a ramshackle galley and how to avoid walking the plank. This book is like a bouillabaisse and contains a little bit of everything, adventure, romance, swashbuckling, and good food.