Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto


by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide


REVIEW by Laura Sheffield Dutson

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes
Da Capo Press, October 2011
Paperback: 305 pages
ISBN: 9780738215181

I gathered my people around it: read passages to my husband (“Cooking takes place in the garden. When that’s not complete, the gardening takes place in the kitchen”), gave my sister an idea for her dinner party dessert (Persimmon Bars with Lemon Glaze), emailed my friend a link to Yelp! for restaurant recommendations, and told my brother all about fried butter, which you can now purchase at almost any state fair.

The annual compilation, Best Food Writing, edited by Holly Hughes, is in its twelfth year. This year’s edition dishes out a variety of flavors, including literary essays, journalistic exposé, blog posts, critical reviews, histories, memoirs, and magazine feature stories. The diversity includes an essay tracing the development of a recipe using a whole calf’s head (“Mock Turtle Soup”), to a portrait of an eccentric Texas State Fair concessionaire who started the fry-anything craze (“I Believe I Can Fry”), to a love note to handwritten recipes (“The Case for Handwriting”), to a piece, quite simply, on toast (“On Toast”).

Within the pieces, authors have sprinkled bits of food wisdom that I copied into my notebook for future reference. And when I finished, I had a list of well-over ten cookbooks that were icons of foodie authority. The Silver Palate Cookbook holds a prominent spot on my wish list, inspired by Ann Hood’s piece, “The Golden Silver Palate.”

I recommend starting with “How to Become an Intuitive Cook,” especially if you’re looking to become a natural chef, as I am, and note how Daniel Duane becomes “the guy whose every green vegetable turned out tasty, tender, and electrifyingly vivid in color.” Or if you’re looking for a bit of inspired French cuisine, try “The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef,” where Gabrielle Hamilton writes:

This is the crepe. This is the cider. This is how we live and eat. This man with bits of straw stuck to his thick blue Breton sweater, leaning up against the bar for a ballon of vin rouge ordinaire with a splash of water in it at eight-thirty in the morning, is the farmer whose milk we have been drinking, whose leeks we have been braising. These are the knotty, wormy, quite small apples from which the cider is made.

Not all the pieces are as succulent—“We Shall Not be Moved” feels like a glorified chapter in a history of food textbook and “Reconsider the Oyster” is a bit disingenuous as it exposes the unsavory experiences the author has when eating raw oysters.

The charm returns in another favorite, “Fruits of Desire,” in which Mike Madison writes about seductive melons, their “buxom shapes, the sensuous surfaces, the alluring fragrance, the promise of sweetness,” and how his farmer’s market stand becomes the gathering place for Afghani people who learn that he grows the rare kharbouza melon from Afghanistan. In his piece, he tells us:

One evening at the market a young Afghani student comes to my stand, “I bought a kharbouza melon from you last week,” he says. “I took it home to Fremont for my grandfather. Every summer he gets together with a bunch of other old Afghani men and they recite the Koran, the whole thing. It takes three days. It was the third day, and they had just reached the very last words when I walked in and said, ‘Grandfather, I’ve brought you a kharbouza melon.’ All the old men jumped up and shouted, ‘It’s a miracle! God has heard us!’ And then they cut the melon and shared it among themselves, and they sat on the floor reminiscing about home.”

It is a miracle. Not only the God-sent kharbouza, but also the way this book becomes a dinner table in itself, a place to sit and savor the fresh flavors and voices that float like the steam from a pot on the stove in my kitchen, where I sit now, ready to get up and make my own sweet potato tart (“Purple Reign”) or Phanouropita Cake—a traditional Greek dessert made to the saint Phanaouros as an offering for needed revelation (“Saints, Cakes, and Redemption”). This book should be enjoyed slowly, like the ripe blackberries on its cover.

December 20, 2011