Booklist: Summer Food Reading
I’m a bit of a book addict. I have them stacked everywhere in my house waiting to be read–on shelves, the floor, bedside tables, and sofas. The guest room is lined with bookshelves that are groaning with tomes. (I should probably check the floor supports.) But nothing captures my obsession more than books about food. They can be recipe books, history books, picture books, gardening books, memoirs–you name it. If it’s somehow related to food, I’ll covet it. I once bought a book called The Year of Meats just because I liked the title and cover and it was cheap. Have I read it yet?
Sadly, no.That doesn’t stop me, though! I hope that one day I’ll have time to read all these great books. In the meantime, I drive my husband crazy by having one fiction, one nonfiction, and one e-book going at all times. I even have upstairs books and downstairs books. So I thought I’d give you a rundown of what’s in my most recent teetering pile of summer food reading (in no particular order):
- Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera, by Delores Custer. I was the developmental editor on this book, which just won the IACP Food and Beverage Reference/Technical book award for 2011! It’s a very technical textbook for people who want to learn all the secrets of styling beautiful food photos.
- Similarly, Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling, by Helene Dujardin, is all about images. It’s more targeted to food bloggers and talks a lot about using natural light and learning all the in and outs of your camera.
- A History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage. I bought this recently for $5. from a Sacramento Public Library sale at the FoodTalk cookbook exchange. Standage tells how six drinks: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola have influenced the world and the course of history. I claimed to be buying it for my husband, but I’d like to read it too.
- Love in a Dish…And Other Culinary Delights, by MFK Fisher. This is a very slim collection of essays collected by Fisher’s biographer, Anne Zimmerman. She describes the book as an instructional manual on how to live, eat, and love. Fisher writes, “…there can be no enduring family happiness, no real marriage, if a man and woman [or anybody!] cannot open themselves generously and without suspicion one to the other over a shared bowl of soup as well as a shared caress.” Very thought provoking.
- Peach Farmer’s Daughter, was written by local author Brenda Nakamoto and published by the small Sacramento outfit Roan Press. Essays interspersed with poetry and historical photos recall Nakamoto’s childhood growing up on a peach farm in Yolo County.
- Another local author, Hank Shaw, published his first book this summer. Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast expands on his blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, on which he writes abut hunting, fishing, and foraging for food and how he prepares it. When I saw his recipe for Dandelion Wine, I suddenly remembered picking all the yellow dandelions from our big backyard so that my mother could ferment them in a plastic jug and make wine. I don’t think I ever got to taste it, but it’s an enduring memory. Maybe I’ll have to make my own, using Hank’s recipe.
- Then I bought The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants, by Samuel Thayer. Color photographs clearly show what each plant should look like and the differences in similar–sometimes poisonous–plants. Since I spend a week every August in Bodega Bay just as the wild fennel is towering alongside the roads, I thought I’d try some foraging hikes there.
- Last on the list (but certainly not in the acquisitions pile), is From Seed to Skillet: A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting, and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthful Food to Share with People You Love, by Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger. As the copy editor on this book last year, I really enjoyed reading it and looked forward to its publication. The chapters on setting up organic gardens, using pest control, and harvesting are very straightforward. I want to try his recipe for Gullah Cornbread with Sweet Potatoes soon.
Will I read all of these books front to back? It’s unlikely. But I’ll spend many happy hours flipping through them and enjoying passages or recipes that catch my eye. And one of the reasons that I love books so much is that they’re full of endless possibilities and ideas. Who knows what I’ll be eating and reading and writing about after I read any one of these interesting books!