Book Reviews

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide

Best Food Writing 2014

 

edited by Holly Hughes
Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2014
400 pages
ISBN: 978-0738217918

Review by Chloe Graffeo

Living in a stylish loft in Williamsburg robs you of three-fourths of your paycheck each month for rent. It is furnished with reclaimed vintage furniture, original hardwood floors and Claude Monet prints tacked to the walls. To celebrate the end of a workweek you invited over a few of your closest city friends. You scrolled through your favorite food blogs during the week instead of, well, working, and your menu is set. A gourmet cheese board with candied pecans, quince paste and honey. Roasted rosemary sweet potato frites with a pine nut mayonnaise and baked quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip to accompany the fennel-infused verjus cocktails.

These types of food choice can signal class, geographic location, artistic tendency, culture and whether or not a group is concerned with health, decadence, or both. And this year’s Best Food Writing 2014 is sliced into eight pieces that aim at directing your thoughts towards the meaning and content of the foods we choose to eat. Food, this collection reminds us, does much more than nourish our bodies.

To begin, let us just stop to think about what all this is about. All the hub-ub about food blogs and food critics and in general foodies all stems from one practice: cooking. We grow food and buy food and read food blogs so that we can then sauté and boil and broil and bake; so that we can concoct a scrumptious supper or a humble loaf of bread. Kim O’Donnel in her essay “Cooking as the Cornerstone of a Sustainable Food System,” writes about mindful cooking. She grew up in the seventies with a mom who did what everyone else was doing at that time. “She opened cans, unsealed jars and unzipped seasoning envelopes.” It was not until she left home and lived in an apartment of her own that she taught herself to truly cook. Seventeen years and a culinary degree later she is in the kitchen introducing her mom to the magic of a salad spinner. O’Donnel writes about the importance of sharpening your knife every time you cook and comparison shopping for lentils in the bulk-food sections of grocery stores as if those seemingly arbitrary steps were crucial to cooking.

And you know what? I believe they are. I think you should always do something with intention and to the best of your ability otherwise what is the point? And once you have mastered the process yourself it’s your duty to pass the knowledge on. O’Donnel says, “ I still believe deep in my bones that cooking, which marries the practical with the magical, can be the greatest teacher of all, and that it’s never too late to learn.” The magic she speaks of comes from being faced with raw ingredients and knowing you have the capability to transform them into something that can be enjoyed, broken down and utilized by our bodies to keep us alive. Cooking for others is a love-language in itself for it shows the immense pleasure you take in nourishing their bodies and keeping them happily sustained. O’Donnel’s piece is a look at food and a call to action. Cooking takes a stand against the factory-farmed food-products you get from McDonalds and turns a three (or four or five) times a day ritual into one of purpose, intention, and affection.

After that realization overcame me, I needed a break, a snack break. A cup of Earl Gray and handful of salted cashews later, I returned to the book. I proceeded to read and encounter more of the food worlds, inner and outer, that these authors explore. “Meals from a Hunter” by Steve Hoffman is a memory of food and sport, “Forget The Clock, Remember Your Food” by Joe Yonan is a cheeky, no nonsense piece about food, judgment, practice and experience when cooking. Alas, J. Kenji López-Alt attacks food and science relentlessly, discovering how to create the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. (I will be testing his findings immediately and letting my chocolate-chip-cookie connoisseur of a mother taste the test.) I then got to “Bread And Women” by Adam Gopnik and my secret love for the mystery of bread making fermented and rose.

Gopnik writes about his newfound desire to bake bread and the help he seeks out in his bread-baking mother. It took me a while to get through this essay, only because his words kept leading me to daydream of a kitchen stacked with loaves of sourdough and pumpernickel. He describes his mother’s talent for filling her house with dark, crusty pain poilâne, croissants with meticulously folded in butter pats and bagels that poses both plasticity and firmness when your teeth make their mark. Gopnik’s doughy escapade to Ontario revealed more than just the forgiving nature of bread dough to its baker but the forgiveness it rendered in his life. It revealed a “retrospective jealousy” he found himself kneading when faced with the discovery of his wife’s tucked away bread recipe; a forgotten moment of a youthful courtship. His quest to learn the art of bread led him to wonderment for his wife and a part of her he somehow missed out on. He said, and I agree, that toast is “morning-bright, and clean of complications.” So maybe, just maybe that un-complicated slice of browned pain poilâne could be his savior. Thankfully for him, and all of us for that matter, “bread forgives us all.”

I recommend reading this book if you find yourself drifting into arbitrary thought about food multiple times a day or if you contemplate the best coconut, almond-cookie recipe in your head or repeatedly see that steaming bowl of curry you had two weeks ago. This book should be enjoyed by those who not only eat to live, but live to eat.