Serious Reads: Four Food Books We're Loving
Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet, by Sarah Elton
We don't need another book discussing whether climate change will affect agriculture. Thankfully, this isn't one of those books. Instead, Sarah Elton takes a more forward-thinking approach by analyzing what we—farmers, eaters, and policymakers—can do to mitigate the impact that impending climate change will have on agriculture. In Consumed, she measures the timeline of food's future by soil, seeds, and culture. All of these pillars of food production and consumption must adapt to ensure food for the world's population. The book is less pessimistic than most in this genre, and though Elton's vision for change is radical, her specific strategies and extensive research give her platform real credibility.
The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, by John F. Mariani
John Mariani is a prolific food author, having penned several books about American and Italian cuisines, as well as countless restaurant reviews for Esquire Magazine, Bloomberg News, and others. The new edition of his 1983 classic The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink is truly one-of-a-kind. The book is exactly what it claims to be: an encyclopedia, with hundreds of entries defining foods from gingerbread to whiskey. This new release also includes entries for dozens of food celebrities and several new recipes added to the longstanding collection of American staples. While this isn't a book you'd sit and read cover-to-cover, it's a great reference and source of fun party facts. Where else can you learn how and when angel food cake entered the American culinary lexicon?
Kitchen Things, by Richard Snodgrass
Do you love coffee table books? How about aging kitchen implements? Most of us might not think of perusing a book full of information about old can openers, cheese graters, and potato mashers. But Richard Snodgrass does a great job bringing these ubiquitous objects to life in Kitchen Things: An Album of Vintage Utensils and Farm-Kitchen Recipes. He photographed old kitchen tools from his own and friends' collections, and annotated the pictures with notes about the tools' uses and time period. Plus, every couple of chapters contains a selection of vintage recipe cards. If you're wondering how salt shakers or wooden spoons have evolved over the years, definitely check out Snodgrass's lovely ode to cooking tools.
Smart Casual, by Alison Pearlman
Serious Eaters know better than most that great food comes in many shapes, sizes, and prices. Which is why Smart Casual: The Transformation of Gourmet Restaurant Style in America may appeal to those interested in how so-called "foodie culture" has dressed down over the past several years. Alison Pearlman's study of the evolution of 'gourmet' dining in America uses academic scholarship, interviews with high-profile chefs, and participant observation at some of the country's most lauded restaurants to examine how and why foodie culture has shifted towards more casual dining and dishes. Pearlman points to "nobrow" culture and increased purchasing power of the middle class, among others, as key factors in this transition. This book is well-researched without being lofty; a quick read that's packed with cultural analysis.