Serious Reads: 5 Food Books We're Loving

Serious Reads

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

1. It's Not You, It's Brie: Unwrapping America's Unique Culture of Cheese

20130304-chzbook.jpgI know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but Kirstin Jackson's new book drew me in with its adorable cartoon-cheese illustrations. Each chapter focuses on a different style of cheese, from crumbly to chewy to mixed milk. She also tells the stories of four or five different producers of each cheese type, giving the reader an inside look at how cheese is made and by whom. The book has a personal, homey feel and definitely gave me some new ideas for cheeses to try. I was particularly happy to see a shout-out to Rhode Island's Narragansett Creamery Queso Fresco. Woo!

2. Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing

201330304-cornbread_nation_6.jpgFood writer Brett Anderson edited this fabulous collection of tales of Southern food. The selections are drawn from a variety of publications, from memoirs to magazines, and take on a variety of story-telling formats. I really enjoyed learning about dishes I haven't had a chance to taste yet. The South has such a strong food culture, and Cornbread Nation, Volume 6 shines a light on this important and historical element of American culinary tradition.

3. Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (And Dark Chocolate)

20130305-paris.jpgAmy Thomas was offered her dream job working for Louis Vuitton in Paris, and she couldn't turn it down. Despite leaving her best friends, her family, and New York City behind, she packed up her broken French and love for sweets and moved across the ocean. Her memoir tracks a year spent adjusting to Parisian life, eating at every bakery she could find, and trying to build a community in a foreign land. This is a light read, but is engaging enough to keep you reading. Plus she has plenty of travel tips if you're headed to Paris with a sweet tooth!

4. Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America

20130305-tj-creme-brulee.JPGKnown most widely for his gardening, Thomas Jefferson was a huge foodie. Thomas J. Craughwell tells the story of Jefferson's travels abroad and how he and his chef brought back novel culinary traditions from France. Among the plants he brought to Monticello were figs, grapes, and pistachios. He received a great wine education as well. Throughout the book, Craughwell does a nice job paralleling the historical context with Jefferson's consumption education. This is a good book for history buffs as well as food lovers.

5. Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter

20130305-taste-memory.JPGOver the past fifty years, we've experienced a huge loss of biodiversity in the U.S. The result of this loss on food history is dramatic. David Buchanan walks us through the histories of many lost crop varieties and explores their importance in modern-day cultivation. His book is not a manifesto for a specific type of growing; rather, he finds lost foods and emphasizes the importance of biodiversity to the future of farming. A beautifully written and informative book.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.