What's Cooking: Books About Food and Food People

Calvin Trillin
"Calvin Trillin, guided by an insatiable appetite, embarks on a hilarious odyssey in search of 'something decent to eat.' Across time zones and cultures, and often with his wife, Alice, at his side, Trillin shares his triumphs in the art of culinary discovery, including Dungeness crabs in California, barbecued mutton in Kentucky, potato latkes in London, blaff d'oursins in Martinique, and a $33 picnic on a no-frills flight to Miami. His eating companions include Fats Goldberg, the New York pizza baron and reformed blimp; William Edgett Smith, the man with the Naughahyde palate; and his six-year-old daughter, Sarah, who refuses to enter a Chinese restaurant unless she is carrying a bagel ('just in case'). And though Alice 'has a weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day,' on the road she proves to be a serious eater-despite 'seemingly uncontrollable attacks of moderation.'"
Jenni Ferrari-Adler, editor
"In this unique collection, twenty-six writers and foodies invite readers into their kitchens to reflect on the secret meals they make for themselves when no one else is looking: the indulgent truffled egg sandwich, the comforting bowl of black beans, the bracing anchovy fillet on buttered toast. From Italy to New York to Cape Cod to Thailand, from M. F. K. Fisher to Steve Almond to Nora Ephron, the experiences collected in this book are as diverse, moving, hilarious, and uplifting as the meals they describe. Haruki Murakami finds solace in spaghetti. Ephron mends a broken heart with mashed potatoes in bed.

"Ann Patchett trades the gourmet food she cooks for others for endless snacks involving saltines. Marcella Hazan, responsible for bringing sophisticated Italian cuisine into American homes, craves a simple grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich. Courtney Eldridge, divorced from a fancy chef, reconnects with the salsa she learned to cook from her cash-strapped mother. Rosa Jurjevics reflects on the influence of her mother, Laurie Colwin, as she stocks her home with salty treats. Almost all of the essays include recipes, making this book the perfect companion for a happy, lonely-or just hungry-evening home alone."

Molly O'Neill, editor

"Here are classic accounts of iconic American foods: Thoreau on the delights of watermelon; Melville, with a mouth-watering chapter on clam chowder; Mencken on the hot dog; M.F.K. Fisher in praise of the oyster; Ellison on the irresistible appeal of baked yams; Styron on Southern fried chicken. American writers abroad describe the revelations they find in foreign restaurants; travelers to America discover native delicacies. Great chefs and noted critics discuss their culinary philosophies and offer advice on the finer points of technique; home cooks recount disasters and triumphs."

Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays

"In this deliciously entertaining slice of Southern life (and death), inveterate hostess Gayden Metcalfe explains everything you need to know to host an authentic Southern funeral, such as: Can you be properly buried without tomato aspic? Who prepares tastier funeral fare, the Episcopal ladies or the Methodist ladies? And what does one do when a family gets three sheets to the wind and eats the entire feast the night before a funeral?"

Elisabeth Rozin

"Imagine, Elisabeth Rozin asks, what Italian cooking would be without tomatoes, Irish food without potatoes, Indian curry without the fiery capsicum pepper or Hungarian fare without paprika, and French or Viennese cuisine without chocolate and vanilla? Yet it's been only five hundred years since these foods were found in the New World and brought back to the Old. Each food has a story: how it was discovered, how it was greeted in its adopted countries then integrated into the Old World cuisine, how it returned here in dishes that immigrants brought with them, and how it has become a part of mainstream American cooking. And Elisabeth Rozin's 175 recipes -- interlaced with her intriguing sidebars -- tell the story."

Ruth Reichl

"Reichl knows that "to be a good restaurant critic, you have to be anonymous," but when she signs up to be the most important restaurant critic in the country, at The New York Times , her picture is posted in every four-star, low-star, and no-star kitchen in town. Managers offer cash bonuses for advance notice of her visits. They roll out the red carpet whether she likes it or not. What's a critic in search of the truth to do? Reichl dons a frumpy blond wig and an off-season beige Armani suit. Then on the advice of a friend, an acting coach with a Pygmalion complex, she begins assembling her new character's backstory.

"She takes to the assignment with astonishing ardor-and thus Molly Hollis, the retired high school teacher from Birmingham, Michigan, nouveau riche from her husband's real estate speculation, is born. And duly ignored, mishandled, and condescended to by the high-power staff at Le Cirque. The result: Reichl's famous double review, first as she ate there as Molly and then as she was coddled and pampered on her visit there as Ruth, The New York Times food critic."

Bill Buford

"Writer Buford's memoir of his headlong plunge into the life of a professional cook. Expanding on his award-winning New Yorker article, Buford gives us a chronicle of his experience as 'slave' to Mario Batali in the kitchen of Batali's three-star New York restaurant, Babbo. He describes three frenetic years of trials and errors, disappointments and triumphs, as he worked his way up the Babbo ladder from "kitchen bitch" to line cook, his relationship with the larger-than-life Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters, and his immersion in the arts of butchery in Northern Italy, of preparing game in London, and making handmade pasta at an Italian hillside trattoria."

Michael Pollan

"Pollan suggests that if we would pay more for better, well-grown food, but buy less of it, we'll benefit ourselves, our communities, and the environment at large. Taking a clear-eyed look at what science does and does not know about the links between diet and health, he proposes a new way to think about the question of what to eat that is informed by ecology and tradition rather than by the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach. In Defense of Food reminds us that, despite the daunting dietary landscape Americans confront in the modern supermarket, the solutions to the current omnivore's dilemma can be found all around us.

"In looking toward traditional diets the world over, as well as the foods our families--and regions--historically enjoyed, we can recover a more balanced, reasonable, and pleasurable approach to food. Michael Pollan's bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we might start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives and enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy."

Also available on audio and in large print.

Julie Powell

Julie Powell is 30 years old, living in a rundown apartment in Queens, and working at a soul-sucking secretarial job that's going nowhere. She needs something to break the monotony of her life. So, she invents a deranged assignment: She will take her mother's dog-eared copy of Julia Child's 1961 classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and will cook all 524 recipes...in the span of just one year.

Anthony Bourdain
"When Chef Anthony Bourdain wrote "Don't Eat Before You Read This" in The New Yorker, he spared no one's appetite, revealing what goes on behind the kitchen door. In Kitchen Confidential, he expanded the appetizer into a deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet that lays out his twenty-five years of sex, drugs, and haute cuisine.

"From his first oyster in Gironda to the kitchen of the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, from the restaurants of Tokyo to the drug dealers of the East Village, from the mobsters to the rats, Bourdain's brilliantly written and wonderfully read, wild-but-true tales make the belly ache with laughter."

Gillian Clark

"... an empowering memoir that traces Gillian Clark's rise from a beginner to a top chef. But managing a kitchen also taught her about parenting. With a wealth of experience and wisdom, and a healthy dash of humor, Gillian now shares her life's recipes, from the solutions she cooked up for parenting challenges to her favorite culinary creations. In the prime of her life, Gillian Clark abandoned the corporate world to pursue her passion---making mouthwatering food with fresh, homegrown ingredients. When she became a single parent with two young daughters, though, Gillian had to reconsider her dreams. Moving to the country and running a small, artisanal farm were put on the back burner---supporting her family had to come first. But Gillian's drive to make delicious food was relentless. She finished her culinary degree, survived the tedious prep work of her first cooking job and the difficulty of training during the day and raising two girls at night, and confronted the challenges of working her way up from the bottom in a profession where only the strongest survive. Beating intense odds, Gillian is now head chef and proprietor of the successful and popular Colorado Kitchen, which is ranked among the top 100 restaurants in Washington, D.C."

Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham

Good cooking depends on two things: common sense and good taste.

"In England, no food writer's star shines brighter than Simon Hopkinson's, whose breakthrough Roast Chicken and Other Stories was voted the most useful cookbook ever by a panel of chefs, food writers, and consumers. At last, American cooks can enjoy endearing stories from the highly acclaimed food writer and his simple yet elegant recipes. In this richly satisfying culinary narrative, Hopkinson shares his unique philosophy on the limitless possibilities of cooking.

"With its friendly tone backed by the author's impeccable expertise, this cookbook can help anyone -- from the novice cook to the experienced chef -- prepare down-right delicious cuisine . . . and enjoy every minute of it! Irresistible recipes in this book include: Eggs Florentine Chocolate Tart Poached Salmon with Beurre Blanc And, of course, the book's namesake recipe, Roast Chicken.  Winner of both the 1994 Andre Simon and 1995 Glenfiddich awards (the gastronomic world's equivalent to an Oscar), this acclaimed book will inspire anyone who enjoys sharing the ideas of a truly creative cook and delights in getting the best out of good ingredients."

Phoebe Damrosch

"Provocative and highly entertaining, Service Included is the behind-the-scenes memoir from the first female captain at one of New York Citys most prestigious restaurants."

Michael Pollan

"As the cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast food outlet confronts us with a bewildering and treacherous landscape, what's at stake becomes not only our own and our children's health, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth. Pollan follows each of the food chains--industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves--from the source to the final meal, always emphasizing our co-evolutionary relationship with the handful of plant and animal species we depend on. The surprising answers Pollan offers have profound political, economic, psychological, and even moral implications for all of us."

Kathleen Flinn

"A delightful true story of food, Paris, and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream In 2003, Kathleen Flinn, a thirty-six-year-old American living and working in London, returned from vacation to find that her corporate job had been eliminated. Ignoring her mother's advice that she get another job immediately or never get hired anywhere ever again; Flinn instead cleared out her savings and moved to Paris to pursue a dream--a diploma from the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.

"The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry is the touching and remarkably funny account of Flinn's transformation as she moves through the school's intense program and falls deeply in love along the way. Flinn interweaves more than two dozen recipes with a unique look inside Le Cordon Bleu amid battles with demanding chefs, competitive classmates, and her wretchedly inadequate French. Flinn offers a vibrant portrait of Paris, one in which the sights and sounds of the city's street markets and purveyors come alive in rich detail. The ultimate wish fulfillment book, her story is a true testament to pursuing a dream."

Also available on audio.