Starved of the latest delicious crop of food books? Whether you’re on a journey of self-food discovery, on the hunt for food waste hacks or fancy a dip into rural Britain’s diverse world of modern farming, here are six great books for food lovers to get you started.
Too Good to Waste: How to Eat Everything by Victoria Glass
There’s certainly no shortage of beautiful and innovative cookbooks, but Glass’ Too Good to Waste is doing something truly different. Addressing the amount of household food needlessly thrown away (Jamie Oliver has stated that 50% gets thrown away every week), its recipes use ingredients that might otherwise end up in your bin. Veggie stems, wilting salad, soured milk and stale bread all feature, not as an afterthought, but as the hero in this collection of tempting and tasty recipes. Featuring alluring dishes such as ‘broad bean pod fritters’, Glass is informative and friendly, without ever feeling preachy.
Great if you’re interested in: zero-waste cooking, sustainability, unusual recipes.
Land of Plenty: A Journey Through the Fields and Foods of Modern Britain by Charlie Pye-Smith
Interested in how your food gets to you in Britain? Then Land of Plenty is a must-read. On a mission to find the heart of British agriculture, writer and broadcaster Pye-Smith sets off in a Dormobile camper to visit farmers in virtually every corner of Britain. From beef farmers in the Scottish borders to soft fruit producers in Essex, he discovers the immense challenges farmers (aka the managers of our landscape) face today. Pye-Smith encounters a diverse range of enterprises – from long-term family farms and those new to the industry to large estates using robotics.
This accessible introduction to farming is a nuanced account of the countryside that is neither romantic or damning but refreshingly balanced. Its closing message is hard to forget, shining a light on our collective responsibility for the resilience of our farmers and security of our food: “Living in a land of plenty should be a reality, not just an aspiration, and we consumers have as much of a part to play as our farmers.”
Great if you’re interested in: knowing how your food is made, meeting people, travelling the British isles.
Knife: The Cult, Craft and Culture of the Cook’s Knife by Tim Hayward
Along with most things food-related, fascination with our kitchen knives has had something of a recent revolution. Slightly disturbingly referred to as ‘knife porn’, Instagram feeds are increasingly swarmed with beautiful photos of artisan knives. Knife is a fascinating study of this essential culinary tool and its affect on and relationship with food history. Hayward explores everything from the ‘anatomy of a knife’ to comparing Western and Japanese knives. Drawing on the social and cultural significances as well as his relationship with his own knife roll, his journey is both technical and incredibly personal. With beautiful (dare we say pornographic?) photographs of every knife under the sun, you’ll be researching your next knife purchase before you’ve even put the book down.
Great if you’re interested in: socio-cultural history, slightly geeky non-fiction, excellent photography and, er…knives.
The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating by Anthony Warner
Fed up of fad diets? This one’s called The Angry Chef for a reason. Warner has it in for every nutrition expert who claims “they can cure deadly disease with carrot juice and enemas”. Having studied biochemistry and worked in the food manufacturing industry, Warner’s anger at the rejection of mainstream science and proliferation of popular food myths set him off so much, he started a blog with the same name in 2016. Still angry, his book demystifies and debunks food fads and the pseudoscience that goes with them, backed up with research, analysis and some cutting humour along the way.
Great if you’re interested in: accessible food science, a researched view on healthy eating, a good ol’ rant.
The Running Hare: The Secret Life of Farmland by John Lewis-Stempel
“I have had a gut’s-ful of chemical farming”, says environmentalist Lewis-Stempel with a hint of anger at modern agriculture’s dismantling of ploughland. The Running Hare is nature writing that tells the story of Britain’s disappearing wildlife as the author adopts his own take on traditional methods to restore its fertility. A homage to the south Herefordshire countryside – written in diary form and full of spontaneous prose – its political dimension leaves plenty of room for a colourful education as agricultural history mingles with childhood memories and rural legend.
Great if you’re interested in: countryside idyll, prose-full food history, questioning modern agriculture.
The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher
Ever feel like to escaping to a world where guilt around what we should and shouldn’t eat doesn’t exist? MFK Fisher’s superb memoir is it. We follow Fisher around mid-century America and Europe as she (gastronomically) comes of age, learning to eat, drink and most importantly live with unashamed gusto. Describing the food and people she encounters in exquisite prose, this is a book of joyous discovery, where the pleasures of dining alone, ordering well and finding nourishment along the way are liberating to author and reader alike. For a book to simply remind us of the joy of eating, this is a perfect and very attractive little package.
Great if you’re interested in: travel, superb gastronomical memoirs, inimitable contemporary food writing.