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 Carrie Vasios

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers:
Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily

by Jessica Theroux
Welcome Books, September 2010
Hardcover 296 pp., 150 color photographs
ISBN: 978-1599620893

I think that all of us yearn for that mythical Italian grandmother. You know, the woman who tells you that you’re too thin and cooks you long simmered ragùs and always has a tray of warm cookies in the oven. These old, wrinkled women seem to hold the secrets of the world in the folds of their housecoats. Somehow they’ve lived a lifetime and are never too tired to out-cook the younger generation. I’m blessed enough to have an Italian grandmother of my own, so I’ve learned that these women know the recipe for everything from the perfect marriage to the perfectly cooked egg.

I’m not the only one who believes in their power. In her cookbook Cooking with Italian Grandmothers, chef and culinary curator Jessica Theroux documents her year spent cooking, living, and learning with twelve bona fide Italian grandmothers. Theroux starts in Milan with Mamma Maria, the mother of her childhood au pair. Mamma Maria teaches Theroux about Lombardian cooking, that it’s OK to eat cookies for breakfast, and how to stay calm in the kitchen. Theroux provides us with the recipes she learned for authentic osso bucco and risotto alla Milanese. She shares Mamma Maria’s secret for polenta with warm cream and gorgonzola (you can always add a bit of warm milk if it’s looking too dry) and braised involtini (make them the day before and just reheat them for guests!) And Mamma Maria is just the beginning.

In addition to imparting age-old wisdom and creating snapshots of Italian daily life, this cookbook leads its readers on a culinary tour of the country. Theroux’s journey took her from Milan to Sardinia and back again, giving us wonderfully varied recipes. The women who share their recipes in this book all cook regionally and Theroux notes that some haven’t ever traveled outside their home province. We get recipes for rabbit dishes that are only eaten in Tuscany, and instructions for making filej, a pasta you’ll only find in the sparse towns of Calabria. Two of my favorite recipes are for panelle with olive tapenade and spaghetti with burst tomatoes. The flavors of these dishes brought me straight to Sicily and were surprisingly easy to make.

By the end of her tour, Theroux learned a lot about herself and how she wants to live her life. Readers will learn a lot about how to cook delicious, regional Italian food. As Irene, a grandmother from Piedmont, says, “To understand something, you must look at its roots.” Theroux gives us the cheat sheet, and it’s almost as good as having gone on the journey ourselves.

February 3, 2011