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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


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I read Julie and Julia earlier this year and didn't much care for it either, for many of the same reasons you describe. I like the reviews! I can't wait to pick some of these up at the library!

Hmm, judging from this post, I would think that would be right up your alley! :)

My favorite foodie book by far has been "On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town" by Susan Loomis. She and her husband move to France, buy and old house in a little French town and raise their son their. Good food and recipes as well as great stories. Enjoy!

I love talking about books, and food. :) What a great topic!

I just read "My Life in France" by Julia Child and I loved it.
Other good reads: "Heat", "Pig Perfect" (especially if you really like bacon. Or ham. Mmmmm.), "Hidden Kitchens" "Mattanza" "The Man Who Ate Everything" was really entertaining and interesting. I love all the Road Food books, so although I have not read the new one by Jane and Michael Stern, "Two For the Road", I would like to.

It's not strictly a food book, but it's an amazing book in general and does talk about food quite a bit, "All Over But the Shoutin'" by Rick Bragg. Man, everyone should read that book at least once in their life. Now I kind of feel like re reading it.

The most famous food writer of all - MFK Fisher, wrote many many books about food - you could start with "The Art of Eating" and see if you like her. (She kind of bores me, I'm afraid to admit.)

Lastly, I am sure you have read all of these, and none of them are straight up food books, but I remember them to this day for the descriptions of the food in them: "Memories of A Catholic Girlhood", "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn", and "Farmer Boy"

Some friends and I tried to get a reservation at the French Laundry a few years ago, and the person who answered the phone had so much negative attitude (he scoffed at my friend at the mere suggestion that calling a month ahead was adequate time to secure a reservation) that we immediately struck the French Laundry off our list of "must eat" restaurants. Another friend of mine had a similar experience. I would love to visit and try their food, but not if they're going to look down their noses at me the whole time I'd rather pass.

I subscribe to "Gourmet" magazine, of which Ruth Reichl is currently the editor-in-chief, and I usually enjoy her editorials, so I imagine I'd like her food writing. I read "Kitchen Confidential" and had the same initial reaction, but lately I've also been watching snippets of Bourdain on the "No Reservations" TV series, and I've come to the conclusion that he's not actually as arrogant as he sounds -- a lot of it is affectation, at this point anyway. The thing that saved "Kitchen Confidential" for me was that even as he was describing some of the dirty details of his life as a chef, I rarely got the impression that he was bragging about them -- most of the time, despite his tone, I got the feeling he was making a back-handed kind of confession. Still, I don't usually recommend the book to people. Too much moral ick.

I couldn't finish 'Julie & Julia' because all the whining was wasting my time. I think Anthony Bourdain makes a better (nay, excellent) reality TV judge (see: Top Chef). And have you read Calvin Trillin's 'About Alice'? Somewhere in there he quotes a woman who wrote him a letter that said sometimes she looks at her boyfriend and thinks, "But will he love me like Calvin loves Alice?"

I have some suggestions for you, but I also suggest you check out and They are both food blogs. I like Smitten Kitchen better, but they're both great.

I will get to the book suggestions later; Erik just told me that dinner is ready.

I've watched Anthony Bourdain's show on the Travel Channel and his writing must be a good reflection of who he is... I find him ridiculously arrogant and snooty. But I can't help but like him for some reason.

I love reading food books and I too read Julie and Julia and Kitchen Confidential in the past six months.

I liked Kitchen Confidential but I agree that the gritty was too gritty and I didn't like the "what can I do about it" attitude he had towards the misogynistic behavior of the men in the kitchen. If I ever wanted to work in a restaurant kitchen, I don't now if all kitchens are like the ones described in the book, because while I don't consider myself to be prissy, the constant dirty language and anti-woman attitude would be too much for me to take. Also, after about halfway through the book I felt like every chapter was the same -- he's down and out, drunk/on drugs, and has just started working in a new restaurant. (Also, I ate at Les Halles on my last trip to NYC and was really disappointed and I really, really wanted to like it.)

I also agree w/your take on Julie and Julia. She seemed spoiled to me and I think it was mean of her to out her father for having an affair in a book about food. I think if it was a book about how her father's affair affected her life, that would be different, but it seems like you shouldn't go around publishing your darkest family secrets unless absolutely necessary. I also just thought she had a bad attitude about life in general.

I'll have to check out the other books, now!

Oh, oh! I forgot. You have to read 'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved it. It's borderline food book but mainly about a woman trying to find herself. She's a bit self indulgent, and definitely self-obsessed but ultimately endearing.

As a gal who reads voraciously and enjoys cooking, I appreciate these recommendations! In return, I suggest a novel you might like, if you haven't already discovered it: Leif Enger's Peace Like a River.

My Life in France by Julia Child and her nephew is a must! I read it the same summer I read Julie and Julia and it inspired me to checkout Julia's first cookbook and make a real roasted chicken.

I also recommend "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver

Anybody interested in reading Julie and Julia, I have a copy that I'll gladly pass on for the price of postage.

OK, now I have more time. So I totally agree with your assessment of "Julie and Julia," though I would have given it even a lower rating than that. I was just happy I didn't buy it, and merely borrowed it from my mother-in-law.

I do recommend you check out M.F.K. Fisher's writing (Mary Frances Kennedy). She is probably the quintessential food writer, and was writing about food probably before Amanda Hesser was born. Check out "The Art of Eating" or "Consider the Oyster" as maybe her most famous books. Along with her, you could also consider anything by Brillat-Savarin, whose most famous is probably "The Physiology of Taste . . ."

Another famous food writer, who I'm not entirely sure you'll like, is Jeffrey Steingarten. His most famous book is probably "The Man Who Ate Everything." He is an attorney who turned into Vogue's food writer, and consequently he is a lot full of himself, but he is incredibly educated about food and does all kinds of food experiments by himself. He even constructed his own grill that reached upwards of 800 degrees in order to see whether he could get the proper burnt crust on pizza. So he may be up your alley.

If you're more into the history of food, I suggest reading "Salt: A World History" by Mark Kurlansky. It's very interesting, but is more of a "world history written around the subject of salt." Check out the reviews on Amazon, or check it out from the library (I am big on libraries right now).

Since you said you like Hesser's writing, I would suggest picking up a copy of "The Cook and the Gardener," which is another combo fiction/cookbook. I don't like it as well as "Cooking for Mr. Latte," but the recipes were equally good and I do like Hesser's voice. I wish she'd write something else.

Since we're talking about cooking, let me also recommend that you pick up "Everyday Food: Great Food Fast" which is a publication from Martha Stewart. I bought it in the springtime and have used it innumerable times to get dinner on the table quickly. To say that I think it is an excellent cookbook would be an understatement, and the recipes are very quick and delicious.

If you want more recommendations, just ask! :)

I think I totally got into the food books also after reading "The Soul of a Chef" that was on the table next to Bryan's couch in PH. I enjoyed "Kitchen Confidential" in a guilty way... maybe it's a guy thing.

Recently I read "Plenty," a book about one couple's year of eating food that only came from a 100-mile radius of their home. My mom buys groceries from farmer's markets in Taiwan (not because it's chic, but because that's what everybody does), and the freshness of that vs. what you get at Kroger is astounding.

Join (and add me!!) :-)

I picked up "Under the Tuscan Sun" at the library awhile back. Never saw the movie, so I didn't know what to expect (saw the movie later, and it was quite different from the book). Aside from the living-with-a-man-who-is-not-your-husband issue, the book was a pretty pleasurable read. Her descriptions of the work on the house and land made me empathize with her "culture shock" over the differences in concept of time and work ethic. But my favorite parts of the book were her vivid descriptions of the plants, landscape, culture, and especially the food. So sensual...I felt I could smell and taste everything she described. She also includes some recipes. I'd give it three stars.

I really liked this post, but that's not why I'm commenting. I would like a picture of your new haircut, please. Thank you!

Also, we need to talk this weekend.

Kiss the Billa for me!

Arwen, I highly, highly recommmend "The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfection of our Nature" by Leon Kass. It's not a novel, but it's gripping and enjoyable, as well as edifying.
I also recommend "French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure" by Mireille Guiliano. It's advertised as a diet book (well, not "diet" exactly, but a book that helps you to lead a healthier lifestyle), but it's a fun read, and Guiliano's advise is helpful for everyone, not just those who are trying to lose weight. She includes captivating anecdotes of her early life in France as well as her adult life in NYC working for Veuve-Clicquot.
If you like food movies as well, the Danish film "Babette's Feast" is a must-see. The German film "Mostly Martha," though not nearly as good as "Babette," is also worth watching (although I wouldn't recommend its recent American remake).

Thanks Arwen (and some of the commenters as well) for giving me some titles to add to my to-read list!

These aren't actually food books, they're fiction, but they do talk about food a lot! This is my absolute favorite trilogy right now (I'm just finishing #3 for the first time, but I've read 1 and 2 multiple times already!): Secrets, Unforgotten, and Echoes, by Kristen Heitzmann. I've shared the books with so many people, they're getting dog-eared!

I liked the Julie/Julia blog but couldn't stomach (HA!) the book. It was edited into mush.

I like Anthony Bourdain despite himself.

I suggest "Like Water for Chocolate" by Laura Esquivel.

I read a review of a book in this genre by an Indian writer; the title had something in it about "spice". When I google it all I come up with is "The Mistress of Spices". I never read it (whatever I thought it was) but was intrigued.

Rosamund Pilcher's books (which I think you would just love on their own) all talk a lot about comforting pots of tea and various kinds of country home cooking (and the pleasures of a hot bath and warmed towels, but I digress).

Peter Mayles' books about his life in Provence have a lot about the cuisine and his enjoyment of it. I don't think you would find these stories offensive. You'll have to google the author to get the titles, though. Foggy memory on my part. I'd like to blame motherhood, but middle age is at least as good at the job.

"Garlic and Sapphires" was passed from my younger sister to my mom, and then to me. I took it with me to the beach in July and I had a hard time putting it down. I didn't know much about how reviewers did their jobs before. The costuming and personas for her visits--and her insights as to how differently people were treated by restaurants--were really interesting. And aren't recipes in books fun?

I had to laugh at your post because I read almost all those books in a similar order in the two months I was on bed rest! I just love a good food book! I am looking forward to reading a few others that commenters have mentioned!

Yeah, I second the Fisher.

This is great info to know.

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