I spend a lot of time thinking about food. I love to cook, to eat, and to feed people. Since I love to read, I also spend time reading about food. While I do read academic books about food (especially history), I also read a fair number of food memoirs. These books center the experience of food: growing, cooking and eating. Many have recipes. Food is very universal and also very personal. I enjoy learning what other people are eating, because it tells me a lot about them and their culture. Also, I love imagining eating yummy things.
What is it about? Barbara Kingsolver and her family moved from the southwest to Appalachia and decided to eat locally for a year. They had an extensive garden and keep chickens and other fowl. This is one of the books published in the early 2000’s that helped start the current food movement.
Read if: You like well-crafted prose and descriptions of gardening.
Don’t Read if: You are uncomfortable with descriptions of killing animals.
What is it about? Novella Carpenter moved to Oakland, California and started her own urban farm, including growing vegetables, keeping bees, and eventually raising rabbits and pigs. As well as learning new farming skills, Carpenter had to deal with urban living issues like getting along with the neighbors and potential soil contamination.
Read If: You like funny books about urban living.
Don’t read if: You don’t want descriptions of killing rabbits and pigs.
What is it about? Ruth Reichl moved from California to NYC to take up the mantel of New York Times Restaurant critic. To do her job, she wore disguises so that she wouldn’t be recognized by staff at the restaurants. Reichl found that each disguise altered her personality. Through all of this, she also had to navigate relationships with her family and friends.
Read if: You like to hear about what other people eat in restaurants.
Don’t Read if: The restaurant scene is not for you.
What is it about? In this graphic memoir, Lucy Knisley uses a series of vignettes to explore her relationship with food. Her mother was a professional chef, and Knisley grew up in a household with a strong appreciation for food. The stories are not strictly chronologically but thematically arranged. The art is a bit cartoony but really shows the characters’ emotions and the food. I tried the chocolate chip cookie recipe, and it turned out great.
Read if: You want to try Knisley’s family recipes.
Don’t Read If: You aren’t into comics.
What is it about? Linda Furiya grew up as part of the only Japanese family in small town Indiana during the 1960’s and 70’s. Her parents loved traditional Japanese food and went out of their way to create it, growing their own vegetables and often driving long ways get ingredients. In addition, Furiya had to deal with being clearly different form her classmates. She was often teased and worried about fitting in.
Read if: You want to know more about growing up a minority in small town.
Don’t read if: The injustice of the casual racism Furiya faced will upset you.
What is it about? Bonny Wolf grew up Jewish in the Midwest, and then later lived in New England, Texas and Washington, D.C. Here she talks about food experiences from her life cooking for her family. She also talks to friends and family about what they cook. The book includes recipes for bundt cake made with pudding mix, real Texas barbecue, chopped liver, zucchini bread, and much more.
Read if: You love learning about other people’s everyday cooking
Don’t read if: You don’t want to know about Jell-o salads and recipes made with cake mix and pudding mix.
Glory is graduate student who studies ecology, history, and community planing. She also spends too much time reading, and loves science fiction and fantasy.
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