Breaking Bread: Good culinary reads go far beyond cookbooks
Heading to the beach this summer? Or maybe you’re planning a stay-cation on a lawn chair in the backyard.
Either way, a new crop of books makes for perfect summer reading for the food enthusiast, starting with “Ingredienti: Marcella’s Guide to the Market” (Simon Schuster, $20).
The book is the last work of acclaimed Italian cooking teacher and author Marcella Hazan, who died in 2013.
Her husband and longtime writing partner, Victor Hazan, took the 89-year-old’s handwritten notes and transformed them into her final work — a guide to selecting the best ingredients.
The book is literally a shopper’s guide for selecting everything from produce to pantry items, and Hazan’s voice is clearly recognizable.
Consider her thoughts on butter, one of the three ingredients in her classic tomato sauce: “If I may voice a feeling of mild annoyance, I wish recipe writers would stop specifying unsalted butter. If it isn’t to be used in baking, whether it is salted or not is none of their business. It’s up to the cook to decide.”
The book will have you hearing Hazan in your head every time you select an artichoke or purchase an eggplant.
“The Memory of Lemon” (Berkley Trade Paperback, $16) is cookbook author Judith Fertig’s second novel, a follow-up to her 2015 fiction debut, “The Cake Therapist.”
Returning is Fertig’s heroine, pastry chef Claire “Neely” Davis, who has the gift of selecting the correct flavor to match her customers’ emotions. This time, Davis struggles to find the perfect wedding cake for a customer while uncovering issues from her own past.
J. Ryan Stradal’s acclaimed 2015 coming-of-age novel, “Kitchen of the Great Midwest,” is out in paperback (Penguin, $16), making it even easier to fit into a beach bag.
You probably won’t tote it for long, though: The poignant tale is difficult to put down.
The book tells the story of food-obsessed Eva Thorvald through the culinary traditions of her native Minnesota (think lutefisk, walleye and venison) and the people who shaped her life.
For nonfiction reading, there is “Finding the Flavors We Lost” (Ecco, $26.99) by Patric Kuh.
Through a series of essays, Kuh explores how artisans are reclaiming American food — from cheese and bread to bourbon and beer — and rescuing it from its bland industrialized products.
Finally, this year is the 10th anniversary of food writer Michael Pollan’s seminal work, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” (Penguin paperback, $18).
The book helped to start the ongoing national conversation about what we eat and the questioning of America’s industrialized food system.
If you didn’t read it the first time around, pick up a copy.
But be forewarned: The book might forever change the way you think about food.
— Lisa Abraham writes about food for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @DispatchKitchen.