Serious Reads

Reviews of food-themed memoirs, beach reads, and histories.

Serious Reads: Four Food Books We're Loving

The Prophets of Smoked Meat, by Daniel Vaughn

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Daniel Vaughn is the Barbecue Editor at Texas Monthly, a job you probably didn't know existed until right now but would like to apply for immediately. With such a title, it comes as no surprise that his first book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat is a 400-page encyclopedia of 186 Texas barbecue joints. With eating companion and photographer Nicholas McWhirter, Vaughn traveled across the state to size up all the styles and specialties he could find. With that many dishes to try, these guys aren't afraid to give a bad review. Soggy onion rings? Baked meat? Mediocre sauce? No thanks. Their tough take on local favorites made their list of favorite pit-masters even more impressive. If you're a barbecue lover in the area or enjoy drooling over photos and descriptions of far-away meaty delicacies, this is the book for you.



Eat, Drink, Vote, by Marion Nestle

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Marion Nestle has written several touchstone texts on food policy, including Food Politics and Safe Food. Those books are jam-packed with facts and figures, intended for academics, policymakers, or wonks like me. Her most recent book, Eat Drink Vote, is a more introductory take on the hefty subject material. In this 'illustrated guide to food politics,' she uses dozens of political cartoons to tackle complex issues with humor. From subsidies to school nutrition programs to obesity, this wide-ranging book is accessible, funny, and a great resource for those interested in brushing up on their food facts without investing hours in a heavy read.



The Breakfast Bible, by Seb Emina and Malcolm Eggs

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Breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day, it's often the most contentious. Whether they heap their plates with all five food groups or abstain altogether, food-lovers have strong opinions about the first meal of the day. And so do Seb Emina and Malcolm Eggs. In The Breakfast Bible, the two pseudonym-ed British authors pay tribute to their favorite meal. They focus on the 'magic nine' elements of a full English breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, black pudding, bread, potatoes and beans, if you're wondering), and also discuss breakfast staples from around the world. The book is written with a healthy dose of wry humor—the final chapter contains an astrology chart identifying each sign's key breakfast food—and includes plenty of recipes, from blood pudding to toast.



Picture Cook, by Katie Shelly

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I totally loved the stripped-down graphics that Katie Shelly illustrated for Picture Cook: See. Make. Eat. The cookbook contains few words and conveys the meaning of each recipe with simple cartoons. It starts out with basic techniques, showing in a few simple steps how to dice, mince, and chop. It slowly evolves from easy recipes like avocado toast to more complex ones like pho. I particularly enjoyed how Shelly presented basic dishes that could be adapted to different flavor palates, such as hummus and raita. The book contains enough staple recipes for a beginner cook, while still suggesting advanced variations for the more experienced.

About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter @leahjdouglas.

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