Alrighty, team. Here's what I've been reading (devouring?) - and loving - this week. I am such a sucker for stories, both true and untrue, about food: this book is a must-share. If you're looking to up your appreciation for food, cooking and culture, I would absolutely recommend checking it out. Read on, won't you?
When I first cracked open Best Food Writing 2014, I half expected to see a selection of haute cuisine food reviews and half expected to see a series of monologues on food as a pillar of American culture.
What I didn’t expect was to be sucked into a diverse world of alimentary story-telling: narratives and recounts and quasi-scientific studies and essays that read like Sunday Times Op Eds.
The food reviews and the food-as-culture elements are absolutely present, mouthwatering descriptions of meals shared and restaurants critiqued for their avant-garde approaches to standard fare. I’m drooling just thinking about it. What is so fascinating, though, is that this book is not a single-perspective view of the things we eat (or even a focus on the necessity of being a foodie) but a broad view of our entire food situation. Haute cuisine is scattered between stories of families on food stamps, tales of home cooking gone awry and generations passing down culinary traditions, Economics 101-like essays on the wage discrepancies for food workers of color and treatises on the future of sustainable agriculture.
I will admit: I am a food literature aficionado. I read restaurant reviews for fun, even of places I know I will never visit or for menu items I have no intention of seeking out. There is something so poetic – and so hedonistically wonderful – about a well written description of a dish. It’s also the reason I voraciously read cookbooks… on the subway, in complete absence of any cooking implements to actually make anything. Stories about food, recounts of meals, even the functional aspect of ingredients or a technical description of how foods are made are so intriguing to me: finding a book like this (which, incidentally, is published annually), is like a handy collection of all of my favorite things to read about. If you’re a food-book lover, this is absolutely worth checking out.
Fun bonus: sometimes just reading about food can take off the edge of hunger, especially between meals. A funny thing happens in the brain when we indulge in luxurious text about food: the same centers that light up when we eat are activated, which means the pleasure we experience is real. (I love recommending this to my clients working with identifying real hunger from emotional hunger. Sometimes a good book can do the trick when your body asks for joy… sometimes we can find the same nourishment from words rather than the foodstuff itself. It sure beats going to the cookie stash and feeling like you’ve broken a promise to yourself.)
This book captures the most timely and well-crafted food thoughts of the last year – essays, articles, short stories, reviews - and presents them as a unified whole. A little like setting a table for a multicourse meal, Best Food Writing presents the full smorgasbord of food tastes, one bite at a time, which together form a beautiful edible medley of all the pieces of our food culture. After all, how we eat is not just about what we put on our forks or where it comes from. There are the people, the methods, the traditions, the environment to consider… and I’ve never seen the whole picture so succinctly painted in one volume, nor felt so ridiculously satisfied from something inedible.
Check it out here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Best Food Writing 2014 to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.