Favorite Food/Cooking Books NOT Cookbooks?

johnliu_gwMarch 17, 2014

I thought we could have a thread about food and cooking books we like that are NOT cookbooks. "Food writing", food history, and the like.

To get us started, here are a few, a bit random and diverse.

"The Making Of A Chef", Michael Ruhlman. Early in his career as a food writer, Ruhlman moved his family to New York and went through the associate of arts course at the Culinary Institute of Anerica.

"The Food Of France", Waverly Root. A classic study of the traditional regional cuisine of France, as it was in a bygone era.

"Larousse Gastronomique". This is a one-volume food encyclopedia, kind of like the Encyclopedia Britannica of (Western emphasis) cuisine. There are some recipes but they are most illustrative than essential.

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Anything by M.F.K. Fisher.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:40PM
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John, I have "Larousse", it's very helpful with definitions for me.

Somewhere packed in a box to be taken to the "new house" with some of my cookbooks is "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" by Harold McGee. I've read it in bits and pieces, off and on, and it's interesting but I never seem to have enough time to actually READ it. The theory of why ruminants became so prevalent is interesting.

My library is trying to get me a copy of Joel Salatin's "Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World". and of course, there is "Omnivore's Dilemma".


This post was edited by annie1992 on Mon, Mar 17, 14 at 23:20

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 11:15PM
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-College textbook - "Understanding Food" Principles and Preparation - by Amy Brown, 2nd Edition

-I agree, MMK Fisher - "How to Cook a Wolf"

-"The Inquisitive Cook" Discover How a Pinch of Curiosity Can Improve Your Cooking - by Anne Gardiner and Sue Wilson. They once had a web site, not sure if it's still up and running.

-Another Harold McGee fan. "On Food and Cooking", "Keys to Good Cooking a Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes", and "The Curious Cook"

-Peter Barham "The Science of Cooking" - This is the one where I learned about dropping your cake (in pan, fresh from the oven) from a height of about 30cm on a hard surface, to send a shock wave through the bubble walls (of the baked cake) to open cell structure of the cake.

-Anything from Michael Pollan - "The Omnivore's Dilemma", "In Defense of Food" - An Eater's Manifesto, "Cooked" A Natural History of Transformation

-"Baking 9-1-1" by Sarah Phillips (check out her web site by the same name - www.baking911.com)

-Just finished reading "Rich Food Poor Food" and "Naked Calories" by Jason Calton, PhD, and Mira Calton, CN - about optimal nutrition and food choices.

-I just love Rebecca Wood - http://www.rebeccawood.com/. I've all but worn out "The Splendid Grain" and "The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia".

There are many more......


    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:21AM
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I've just started the last segment in Cooked, by Michael Pollan. I noticed Grainlady mentioned him, and yes, I like pretty much anything by him.

I read a biography of Escoffier that was quite interesting. It was a little book, fairly old. I found it at the library several years ago, and I don't remember who wrote it. It might have been an autobiography.

52 Loaves by William Alexander, which is about his search for the perfect recipe for bread. It's amusing and interesting. The section about bread in Michael Pollan's book, Cooked, sort of reminded me of that book.

I have one of the Larousse books too, and enjoy perusing it at times, too.

It's hard for me to think of a cooking related book I haven't enjoyed.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 9:45AM
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I have always enjoyed reading about the social history of cooking and dining and could provide an overly long list on that topic. Two recent reads were:

Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West - One Meal at a Time by Stephen Fried

Repast: Dining Out at the Dawn of the New American Century 1900-1910 by Michael Levy & Lisa Stoffer

And a few older favorites:

Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food by Lizzie Collingham

Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York by William Grimes

Dining by Rail - The History and Recipes of America's Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine by James D. Porterfield

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:12AM
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Has anyone read anything by ATK's Jack Bishop? I'm going to the library this week and see they have a few by him. I was especially interested in "Vegetables Every Day".

Another one I'm looking for is "What to Eat" by Marion Nestle.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:59AM
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Grainlady - you didn't mention Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It's the one you suggested to me. So that' my addition. It's definitely old school cooking with tons of tidbits on nutrition, no pictures though, just as well, lol.
I also picked up Larousse right after Christmas for $9.99 - great, great pictures!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 12:07PM
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I picked up a college textbook on nutrition at a garage sale. I've only managed to pick away at it so far, but it is very interesting.

There is so much fad, pseudo-science and B.S. floating around in the diet/nutrition area. I decided I wanted to try learning about this stuff in a more systematic, ground up manner. I'm not saying that a 10 year old college textbook is the cutting edge of knowledge, but it seems like a base of established information that should at least be considered when reading about the latest theory.

It has already been rather informative. For example, when I was doing my month of

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 12:57PM
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Ditto on MFK Fisher, especially 'How to Cook a Wolf'--that item, along with four other books, is available in an anthology called 'The Art of Eating'. The other four are 'Consider the Oyster' , 'Serve it Forth', 'The Gastronomical Me' and 'An Alphabet for Gourmets'. How to Cook a Wolf, by the way, is NOT about cooking a wolf, but how to keep the wolf from the door during times of penury. That anthology is available from Amazon for about $18 new, and used copies are available for 5 dollars or so. Worth it.

I'm in the middle of 'Heat', about a guy (Bill Buford) who decides it might be fun to apprentice himself to people like Mario Battali and others. So far, a very good read.

But my favorite food-inspired writing is by A.J. Liebling, 'Between Meals: an Appetite for Paris'. He was a young man in his twenties when his father sent him over to Paris for a year in the nineteen-twenties--same era of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Stein--but he didn't run in those circles. Liebling wrote this reminiscence about a year before he died, and it's an absolutely enchanting memoir of life, food and love. The last chapter, 'Passable', concerns a love affair during that year, and to hear an aging author reminisce on that time--achingly beautiful and unforgettable.

'Between Meals' is available as a paperback for about $12, but the best deal out there is the Library of America collection of some of Liebling's lighter stuff. (He was also the New Yorker's war correspondent during WWII--also worthwhile reading.). The volume at the link, for $27, includes a lot of other great stuff by AJL, including 'The Sweet Science' (which Sports Illustrated said was the best book ever written about any sport) and 'The Earl of Louisiana', about Governor Earl Long (the Paul Newman movie 'Blaze' took a lot from that book) --well worth the investment. In Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook, he listed as his influences Julia Child and Liebling's 'Between Meals'. Check it out.

Here is a link that might be useful: A J liebling Library of America volume

This post was edited by arley on Tue, Mar 18, 14 at 19:36

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:17PM
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Oh yes. I encountered Liebling as a college student. Some family friend of my college girlfriend had loaned us his house in San Francisco. It was a few steps downhill from Coit Tower - you see it in most postcards of that landmark. Every room was furnished with antiques and all had a stunning view of San Francisco Bay. For a college kid living a low rent life in Berkeley, it was like being transported into a different world. By an armchair was a copy of "Liebling Abroad", a collection which includes an excerpt from "Between Meals". I read the whole book in that armchair by the Bay. I think I own almost every Liebling book, multiple copies - although not "The a Telephone Booth Indian" I believe. A newspaperman at heart, he said he could write faster than anyone who could write better and write better than anyone who could write faster.

This post was edited by johnliu on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 7:49

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 12:19AM
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Ruth Reichl's books are delightful--sorry, I can't remember any of the titles right now.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 6:04AM
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Oh, yes, I've read a couple of Reichl's books, and enjoyed both of them. What an interesting, and at a time, tragic life she's had.

I just checked my library's catalogue, and they don't have Between Meals. Bummer.

Maybe Half Price Books will have it. Maybe.

Edited to addâ¦
Speaking of Half Price Books, I saw a copy of Jack Bishop's Everyday Vegetarian there recently, and almost bought it, but the line was extremely long, so I decided to wait till another day. I have his Vegetarian Italian cookbook, and love it. I received it in one of our swaps years ago.


This post was edited by sally2 on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 8:38

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:35AM
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Sally, if you go to addall.com and do a search for 'Between Meals' you'll find several used copies in the 5 to 7 dollar range, and that's including shipping. Addall is a great search engine that searches several dozen online bookstores for you.

I'm trying to link the search results; dunno if it will work.

Here is a link that might be useful: addall search

This post was edited by arley on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 14:18

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 2:16PM
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Thanks, Arley, that's very helpful. I'm still going to check out Half Price Books, simply because I have a gift certificate for them that's been burning a hole in my purse.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 9:24AM
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Mark Kurlansky's 'Salt, 'Cod', and 'the Big Oyster'. (have not read 'Birdseye')

Ruth Reichl's, 'Tender at the Bone', 'Comfort me with Apples', 'Garlic and Sapphires'.

For the cook/gardener, Deborah Madison's 'Vegetable Literacy', and 'The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone'...(a cookbook for some, but i read it for knowledge/fun, not recipes)

My bedside table, Masanobu Fukuoka, 'The One-Straw Revolution'. (read and re-read)

Want to pull out MFK Fisher and read again...(all of them)

Michael Ruhlman. Keep meaning to look into that...'Ratio', '20 techniques', etc...

Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet
Good stuff and some on-line

so much, too much to list!

Here is a link that might be useful: Annie Proulx

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 2:52PM
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My TBR list has grown astronomically thanks to this thread. I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead this afternoon, and although it is compelling, I was thinking that living entirely on juice for a month or more is probably not sensible. It is hard to find sources for practical advice on nutrition, IMHO. I do love Jane Brody and also agree with Michael Pollan's advice to 'Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.'

Starting with the basics is a very good place to start, I am sure and I find that reading a book that is also entertaining (not a HS textbook!) makes learning easier for me.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 5:29PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I really enjoyed Ruth R.'s Garlic and Sapphires.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 8:44PM
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For every time I pull out one of my other cookbooks, I've pulled out Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone at least 10 or 15 times - at least. It's not new, though. I did hear her interviewed recently, as she has a new book out about cooking from the garden. I can't wait to see that one.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 10:13AM
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A library near me is having a discussion of two fiction books for their book club called Thoughtful Eater.

Here is a link that might be useful: book club picks

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:26PM
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Oops, one fiction, one non-fiction.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:30PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

The Lutece Cookbook by Andre Soltner is my favorite just for reading (cook) book. I know you asked for foodie non cooking books but this one has a lot of chapter prefaces that are great.
I have only made a couple of the recipes but they are insignificant to the cooking information.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:38PM
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No Anthony Bourdain fans here? We really enjoyed all his books.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 6:14PM
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It's funny, John, you must have conjured it up, but I was at Staples buying paper for my printer and in the 80% off book bin I found Harold McGee. "Keys to Good Cooking". In one of my rare sensible moments I convinved myself that I didn't need another book not even one for less than $5.00. Now I'm sorry, and I'm going to stop back tomorrow and see if it's still there...


    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 6:15PM
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When I was teaching high school English, my favorite analogy for my best teaching days was throwing a rock into a pond and watching the water splash.
I have nothing to add to this thread except that I am loving it.
A friend just loaned me a book that I may post later. but for now, I'm just loving the splashes.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:33PM
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"---No Anthony Bourdain fans here? We really enjoyed all his books.---"

I have not read his books because I don't like him as a person. But I like his restaurants (in NYC).

I eat there (Les Halles) once or twice a week for lunch.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 12:06AM
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I read Kitchen Confidential. It was good, but I found the two Ruth Reichl books I read much more interesting. I don't know whether to like or dislike Bourdain as a person, because I don't know him, other than having read one of his books, but he does come across as arrogant. He's funny, though. I tried to like his show, The Taste, when it was first on last year, but it seemed way too much about the judges and not enough about the contestants or their cooking. That being said, I didn't make it past the opening rounds. I guess I've wondered way off topic now. Sorry.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 9:31AM
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