Serious Reads: 4 Food Books We're Loving

Serious Reads

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

1. The Road to Burgundy, by Ray Walker

Many city dwellers have dreamt of uprooting their hectic lives for the slow paced rhythms of the countryside. Ray Walker, once studying to be a big-time banker, followed his passion when he moved from San Francisco to Burgundy to start a vineyard. His growing interest in French wines had brought him on a couple of exploratory visits to Champagne and Burgundy; eventually he and his family moved to Paris so he could work on vineyards full-time. In The Road to Burgundy: The Unlikely Story of an American Making Wine and a New Life in France, he details his experience navigating a foreign language, a new city, and the industry's grape brokers as he finds his way as a winemaker.

2. Nutritionism, by Gyorgy Scrinis

Gyorgy Scrinis takes a hard look at the history of "nutritionism," commonly described as an emphasis on the value of individual nutrients and vitamins without an understanding of the holistic effects of those compounds on our bodies. In Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice, he challenges Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and dozens of historical figures in their approaches to dietary recommendations. While a bit dense for those new to the topic, Nutritionism is a great analysis of how Americans have defined health throughout history, and provides novel alternatives for talking and thinking about nutrition.

3. To Eat, by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd

Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd have written several books on gardening together. This is their most recent and last co-authored book, as Wayne passed away in 2010. In To Eat: A Country Life, Wayne pays beautiful homage to his partner. The book is chaptered by the varieties of vegetables, fruits, and animals that the two grew together, and goes into detail on how to nurture and cook those foods. It has lovely illustrations and interesting recipes, and provides a wealth of knowledge for burgeoning gardeners. The book's epitaph provides Joe's moving but hopeful view on a life without Wayne. A touching and lovely guide to gardening and lifelong partnership.

4. Righteous Porkchop, by Nicolette Hahn Niman

There have been many books written about industrialized meat production. Some advocate vegetarianism; others insist on the efficacy and necessity of high-capacity meat farms. Nicolette Hahn Niman—who, yes, married into that Niman family—takes a different approach in Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. She tells her story of working as a lawyer and advocate with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a campaign against factory farming, and gets into the nitty-gritty of legal and political obstacles to meat production reform. Niman shows the realities of meat production around the country and, while against the idea of factory farming, keeps a refreshingly open mind to the experiences and stories of her interviewees.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website.