Saturday, May 24, 2008

What I've Been Reading ...

... catching up ... on this list of what I've read this year.
  • The Last Chinese Cook by Nicole Mones***** ... Maggie, a recently widowed food writer, discovers that her husband may have betrayed her and left a daughter in China. Sam, a young half-Chinese chef strives to please his three uncles by winning a prestigious cooking competition in China. They encounter each other in China and wind up becoming friends. The story is interesting and, more importantly to me, we see what food means in Chinese life and history ... and what it can mean in each person's life. One of my favorite books read this year.

  • 12 Kitchens by Jake Tilson***** -- artist Jake Tilson tells a biographical tale of his life as seen in the 12 kitchens he has cooked in and eaten from. I had not heard of Tilson before on any level and found that he writes engagingly of food and its connection with his life ... which can by extension be related to ours as well if we stop and think about the kitchens of our own lives. Includes recipes which look very practical and Tilson did the book art which I found just as engaging as his writing.

  • Mouth Wide Open by John Thorne***** - John Thorne fans already know that this book will be chock-full of contemplations about ingredients, specific dishes, and the way we eat. As in his previous books and his long-running quarterly newsletter, Thorne's ruminations hit us where we live and make us take a fresh look at the familiar, whether it is a specific foodstuff or a habit of our lives with food. You'll want to read this with a pen and paper by your side as I eventually did, to make note of the many food books and sours that Thorne references on the way. I have received permission to podcast this book and am doing so a bit at a time; links can be found here.

  • A Love Affair with Southern Cooking: Recipes and Recollections by Jean Anderson**** - Anderson is a well known food author and this comprehensive compendium of Southern recipes and stories will merely add to her fame. Similar in layout and style to her iconic American century cookbook, this intersperses Anderson's personal recollections with those who have a lifelong attachment to Southern cooking, both famous and unknown. Along the way, Anderson gives a time line for important developments ... such as when did the Moon Pie come along ... and indepth looks at such subjects as Martha White flour, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and Moon Pies (naturally!).

  • Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes by Maya Angelou***** - This book is rightly subtitled with the "lifetime of memories" being the main focus. There are recipes, that is true, but the recipes are the illustrations to the vivid and deep memories that Maya Angelou shares with us. From her childhood to finding herself as an artist and within society, Angelou gives us much to treasure in a clear voice that calls forth our own feelings to match hers. And I'm pretty sure that the recipes are good too ...
Find reviews of non-food books here.

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