Judy Ink - the food blog of Judy Schultz
Top Ten Cookbooks for Reading
Wednesday, 25 May 2011 09:18

   Apart from my kitchen, a book-lined office is probably my favourite room in our house. Here I keep my collection of books about food: references, food history, cookbooks. Picking favourites from these shelves is a mug's game because they change from day to day. Depends on the weather, on my mood, on what's happening, what I'm writing about, and who's coming for dinner

   Here are ten food books that have occasionally travelled with me (not all at once, I'd need a trunk).

   Even when I don't have a kitchen, they evoke all the things I love about food and cooking. 

1. Mangoes and Curry Leaves, by Alford and Duguid. 
This inventive pair of Canadians have written so well about China, India, Southeast Asia. They've done other books, equally gorgeous, but this is my current favourite, part travel book, part food book. Great photography, many wonderful essays, lots of good eating and reading here. 

2. David Rocco's Dolce Vita. I think I might actually be a better cook than this guy (I watch him on the Food Network and on an Italian channel) but he's a charmer and his cookbook is simply gorgeous! Lovely stuff from one of my favourite destinations, and easy, fun reading when I can't sleep for the third night in a row.

3. A Considerable Town, by MFK Fisher. I especially love chapter 11, The Good Old Beuvau. Fisher's prose may seem a tad fussy these days, but she was a superb stylist, a great dame, and she knew how to evoke life and love through food.

4. Menus from an Orchard Table, by Heidi Noble. A celebration of the food and wine of the Okanagan Valley, and I enjoy every delicious word.

5. Prairie Feast, by Amy Jo Ehman. If you cherish the Canadian prairies as I do, you will also cherish this small book for its evocative portraits of people, places and food. The book deserved wider publicity and distribution than it got. 

6. The Kitchen Diaries, by Nigel Slater. This is the author of another of my favourite books, Toast, (his autobiography/memoir of growing up with appetite). His cookbook is a whimsical, freestyle record of a year in his English kitchen with photographs that don't look retouched. You'll be hungry. He also has a television show but sadly, it doesn't run on Food networks in North America.

7. Piano Piano Pieno, by Susan McKenna Grant. In Italian, it means "slowly, slowly, full," and it's simply one of the best food books anywhere. Far more than a cookbook, it speaks of history, passion, the love of the land. Written by a Canadian who followed her dreams and moved to a farm in Tuscany. I love this book. 

8. The Olive and the Caper, by Susanna Hoffman. Greece was a happy surprise for me, a place I went because other people I loved wanted to go. Now it's one of those wonderful memories we cherish long after the party's over, and this book, evocatively written by an anthropologist who lives part-time on Santorini, is a treasure. It features lots of black and white art and a sassy layout that is only occasionally distracting. Definitely a keeper.

9. Honey from a Weed, by Patience Gray. Subtitled "Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia," this is a classic, first published in 1986. It wears well, and is one of the books I most often turn to for good writing about food. It's a romantic look at a hard-scrabble life lived for art.

10. At My French Table, Jane Webster. Jane is an Australian woman who followed her dream to live in France, taking husband and kids along, opening a b&b plus cooking school in Normandy. A tall order, but she did it. The book is an account of the ups and downs of her enterprise, and her recipe for French onion soup is one of the best I've tried. Lots of colourful shots to help the text along. I like the writing, and although I do have one small quibble with one photo, the book is a joy to pick up and read. 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 July 2011 01:19