Some required memoir reading for fans of eating, cooking, and traveling.
A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table (2009)
by Molly Wizenberg
In this coming-of-age memoir, Molly Wizenberg, creator of the Orangette food blog, describes how she discovered her true calling to the culinary world while studying abroad in Paris. After the difficult death of her father, Wizenberg distracted herself by capturing her kitchen adventures in what she thought of as a silly food blog. One online follower turned into thousands, and she soon realized that what she’d cooked and eaten all her life were her keys to success.
Places you’ll read about: Oklahoma, California, Seattle, Paris
Must-try recipe: Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Crème Fraiche and Glazed Oranges
Telling quote: “To most people, I guess, turning twenty-one is all about booze. To me, turning twenty-one was all about coconut. Booze is nice, but coconut is chewable, and when push comes to shove, I will always like eating better than drinking. Everyone has their priorities.”
Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture (2013)
by Dana Goodyear
New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear explores the disturbing, strange, and often grotesque food trends that have changed American food-lovers’ eating habits. Endangered whale makes a political statement on a plate, crushed grasshopper salt rims a cocktail glass, and marijuana is used as a flavor enhancer in some of the so-called delicacies that the author uncovers. Readers should be warned that their appetites may be lost!
Places you’ll read about: Various parts of the United States, but especially San Francisco and Los Angeles
Must-try recipe: You wouldn’t really want a recipe for beef esophagus, would you?
Telling quote: “‘This is an amuse from the chef,’ a waiter said, presenting me with the dish, a composition as spare and earthy as a Japanese garden. ‘It’s smuggled-in ant eggs.’ I rolled the leaf around the tortilla and bit: peppery nasturtium, warm tortilla, and then the light pop of escamoles bursting like tiny corn kernels. A whiff of dirt, a sluice of beer, and that was it.”
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise (2005)
by Ruth Reichl
Readers will likely know the author of this memoir from her prestigious position as the former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. Here, Reichl dishes about her experiences dining in disguise, in an attempt to remain undiscovered by managers, at the high-end restaurants of New York City. Her published reviews of the restaurants are interspersed among the book, giving the reader a glimpse of her personality as both memoir author and food critic.
Places you’ll read about: New York City
Must-try recipe: Sort-of-Thai Noodles
Telling quote: “And so everyone has become a critic. I couldn’t be happier. The more people pay attention to what and how they eat, the more attuned they become to their own senses and the world around them.”
Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef(2011)
by Gabrielle Hamilton
Rebel-turned-chef Gabrielle Hamilton takes readers on a personal journey of how she broke free from her chaotic lifestyle and found stability, ultimately building a restaurant, New York City’s Prune, from scratch. Being raised by a family whose values were centered around the kitchen helped Hamilton channel her wild, often disorderly energy into crafting perfect dishes. The author’s raw honesty and witty sense of humor captivate the reader in this inspiring account.
Places you’ll read about: Rural Pennsylvania, France, Greece, Turkey, New York City
Must-try recipe: None are included in the book…but you might taste one for yourself at Prune (54 E 1st St, New York, NY).
Telling quote: “I stopped going to the farmer’s market years ago when some hipster chick in sparkly barrettes and perfectly styled ‘farmer’ clothes came screeching at me ‘DON’T TOUCH THE PEAS!’ After that, we just ordered from the farm and had it delivered to the restaurant.”
My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) (2012)
by Luisa Weiss
Weiss embarks on what’s an ideal quest for any avid cookbook collector: to cook her way through her treasured recipe books. She documents the palatable successes and unappealing failures of this kitchen project in her food blog, The Wednesday Chef. Weiss adds depth to her tale by recounting her childhood in Berlin, which she remains connected to by incorporating German cuisine into many of her main dishes.
Places you’ll read about: Berlin, New York City
Must-try recipe: Omelette Confiture (an addictive pairing of eggs with jam) and Depression Stew
Telling quote: “Distance means nothing when your kitchen smells like home.”