Striving Bean

Read These Books


My Life In France

My husband observed the other day, “You read a lot about food.”  It’s true. Food politics and cookbooks are  fascinating to me.  I love to fill my brain with little nuggets of food wisdom (and also “ooh” and “ah” over photos of dishes I will never make).

A lovely way to spend a Sunday is to browse a bookstore or a library to your heart’s content.  Here’s my Saturday night list to prepare you for Sunday morning. These are my personal recommendations for Food and Cooking books that are worth your time. Although 2 young children tend to take much of my attention, by some strange miracle I’ve managed to read them all.

What to Eat – Marion Nestle
Marion Nestle (no relationship to the Nestle food company) has a litany of higher education degrees that will make your head spin.  But despite all of her book smarts, she really knows how to explain food to the masses. Learn about meat irradiation, if organic means more nutritious, country-of-origin labels.  A great resource to answer many of your questions about food.

My Life in France – by Julia Child
The Julia portion movie “Julie and Julia” is based on this book. The chapter on Julia Child’s research on how to make an authentic French “Bouillabaisse” hits home how tenacious a researcher Julia was.  The kinds of questions she researches: What kind of fish is this?  And why does it go by several names in French?  Which is the right name? How would that be translated into English?  What’s a good substitute for the American cook since this fish is available only in this part of the world?
This is one of those “read it, then see the movie” books.

Jaime’s Food Revolution – By Jamie Oliver
The companion recipe book to my television obsession as of late, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution“.  I can’t say enough good things about his TV show.  Advanced foodies won’t need this book, but it’s pretty, I like his show, so it’s in my collection.  Be sure to sign Jamie Oliver’s Petition to save cooking skills and improve school food.

Fast Food Nation (The Dark Side of the All-American Meal)By Eric Schlosser
The chapter “Why the Fries Taste So Good” is worth the price of admission.  Did you know that most of the flavor and aroma for fast food comes from factories off of the New Jersey turnpike?  Journalist Eric Schlosser will teach you things that will make you want to cover your eyes and mouth.  If you like fast food – be brave and read this.

Mindless Eating (Why We Eat More than We Think) - By Brian Wansink
Brian Wansink has been called the “Sherlock Holmes of Food”. I love the way he picks apart “eat this” persuasion tactics like flowery language on a menu, wine labels, or “free” popcorn.  You’ll feel like a real smarty when you can rattle off why that chain restaurant gave its cheapest ingredients dish the extra-special-graphic-design-treatment on its menu.

What are your favorite food and cooking books?

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Lovely book photo is courtesy of Emiline220

16 thoughts on “Read These Books

  1. Sarah

    Along the same theme as What to Eat, etc, if you can get a copy of “Last Chance to Eat” by Gina Mallet, Food Fight by Kelly Brownell, Chew On This by Charles Wilson and Fat Land by Greg Critser they’re amazing!

  2. Cheftometrist

    Recently read “My Life in France” and *loved* it. I think it is insightful on some many aspects of life, including food of course. It is also delightful to vicariously experience Julia Child’s discovery of delicious things.

  3. Richard

    Just a list…

    Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods
    by Gary Paul Nabhan

    Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice (Yale Agrarian Studies Series)
    by Alissa Hamilton

    The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
    by Michael Pollan

    by Mark Kurlansky

    by Mark Kurlansky

    The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food
    by Jennifer 8 Lee

    Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale And Why We Bought It

    Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time
    by Greg Mortenson (not really about tea per se, but an inspirational book!)

  4. Cristyn

    I also enjoyed Julia Child’s book. I found it amazing that she didn’t even learn to cook until she was about 38! There’s still hope :)

    I’m enjoying reading and cooking my way through Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” right now.

  5. BT

    I loved Fast Food Nation, as well as a bunch of the others that your commenters have mentioned.

    One not mentioned yet that you might enjoy is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s about their family’s year of living as locavores in Virginia.

    1. strivingbean

      Hi BT – yes, that is a good one too (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). I’m about 1/2 way through that. I set it down for a while, now I think it’s time to pick it up again!

  6. Jane

    Totally late…

    I guess I should check this more often, but here’s my submission to the list.

    The Turmeric Trail: Recipes & Memories from an Indian Childhood, Raghavan Iyer

    660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer

    1. strivingbean

      I think I’ve heard of “The Turmeric Trail”? Was the author on the Splendid Table several months ago talking about making naan? Another great book to add to my list!

  7. Liz - Meal Makeover Mom

    Adding to Richard’s list, I highly suggest The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, also by Mark Kurlansky. It’s an amazing story about how oysters fueled the rise of New York.
    If you have kids, check out Chew on This, the teen/tween version of Fast Food Nation.

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