We eat food, dream food and if really devoted, we read food. We’ve rounded up 8 great food books to get your teeth into. Food reading is the next best thing to eating, so get stuck in.
1. One More Croissant For The Road
Can Felicity Cloake do no wrong? This light-hearted food memoir-meets-travelogue, One More Croissant For The Road, from ‘the nation’s taster in chief’ takes us on an extremely enviable journey of her very own Tour de France. In 2018, Felicity set off on a 2,300km cycling trip across France to track down the best French fare, from Tartiflette to Provencal fish soup. She was accompanied by friends for the first third but it was just her and her bike Eddie plus two full panniers on the rest of her journey that included mountain pit-stops and rock oyster beds.
One thing to note if you do decide to embark on a similar trip is the precarious French trading times. “Their opening hours are just completely mad. We’re very used to getting stuff when we want it. In France, it’s very much getting stuff when they want to give it to you.”
2. Taverna: Recipes from a Cypriot Kitchen
Georgina Hayden’s latest book, Taverna, is a celebration of the Greek-Cypriot food of her heritage. This is a real summer read, bringing to life the island’s fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours with recipes and stories that make you want to take off to sunnier shores.
3. How to Eat a Peach: Menus, Stories and Places
If you want to fall in love with food again, this is the book to read. How to Each a Peach is, at its core, a collection of delicious, fail-safe recipes and menus, as well as a gorgeous exploration of how these recipes and menus came to be (from her food-inspired trips abroad to the beloved book of recipes she’d flick through as a teenager). Diana shows us why food is so important and reminds us that even best-selling chefs have food-related insecurities. Beautifully photographed and written, it’s fair to say How to Eat a Peach is an unrivalled modern classic.
4. Kitchen Confidential
“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure”.
So says Anthony Bourdain in his seminal Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. 20 years after hitting the shelves, it’s found itself back atop bestseller lists following the chef’s untimely death last year.
A weathered veteran of some of New York City’s toughest kitchens (including many years spent as the executive chef at Les Halles in Manhattan) he exposes secrets both personal and professional, sweeping between his own brash narrative and industry commentary. The refreshing honesty of his everyman tone that details not only his experiences working in the kitchen, but his individual struggles with addiction – disturbingly so commonplace in this sector – make this so much more than another food book.
5. La Grotta Ices
La Grotta Ices is the type of recipe book that reads like a novel. Kitty Travers’ writing is witty, playful, accessible and thoughtful. While it might be a cookbook dedicated solely to ice cream, it’s also a terrific ode to flavour.
Recipes are as kitsch as they are surprising. Think: Cucumber & sour cream (recipe here), Sea salt, rosemary & pine nut, Papaya, green chilli & lime, as well as lots more ice cream, granita and sorbet recipes that come peppered with personal anecdotes and sound advice. Kitty is clearly someone who’s spent years creating ice cream. She also happens to sell her concoctions in London if you want a hit of the real thing.
6. 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line
Disclaimer: this book is heartbreaking. A coming-of-age true story about the making of world-renowned chef, Eric Ripert. This is his memoir from a challenging childhood in the south of France to the traumatic restaurant apprenticeships that led eventually to his culinary success.
Winner of four James Beard Awards, co-owner and chef of a world-renowned restaurant, and recipient of countless Michelin stars, Ripert is the epitome of culinary perfection. But it wasn’t always like that. Moving through the South of France, the Andorra mountains and the kitchens of Paris, he finds himself in America. 32 Yolks is a moving tale of how the kitchen is where Ripert is most at home.
7. First Bite: How We Learn to Eat
Bee Wilson dives into the sometimes problematic realm of food habits. First Bite exudes intelligence and is so well researched that you can’t help but analyse your own food habits and wonder where they all came from. Unlike a lot of habit-shaming, food-shaming, everything-shaming literature that can be found in the world of food, Wilson uses tidbits, case studies, and personal studies to look at how food can be both revitalising and poisonous, delicious and ugly. Most importantly, she says, food is and should be a true, guilt-free pleasure.
8. Potlikker Papers, A Food History of the Modern South
John T. Edge
In an era awash with the appropriation of US southern food (from KFC’s Colonel Sanders to bougie-brunch chicken and waffles) it’s never been more important to give voice to the stories behind this previously unheard-of cuisine. Pioneer of this movement is John T. Edge of the Southern Foodways Alliance.
Our introduction to the SFA was via Gravy, the James Beard award winning podcast which “shares the stories of the American South through the foods that we eat.” Like the podcast and quarterly print publication by the same name, Edge’s The Potlikker Papers details a modern portion of this evolution. Beginning with the cooks of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of 1955 through to today, where innovative immigrants fuse southern food with their own traditions.
The Potlikker Papers puts a spotlight on the diverse cultures and communities that make up the American South. And brings forth the sometimes difficult stories marked by the scars of this mythical region’s deeply troubled past. It does a brilliant job of painting the full picture rather than romanticising the past.