Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Food Memoirs: What are you reading?

Every writing teacher I ever had told me, “In order to be a good writer, you have to read, read, read”.
So it follows then that in order to be a good food writer I should “read, read, read” about food.

And I have. In addition to all the food magazines that clutter my house, in the last year or so, I’ve read almost nothing but food-related books. Even my fiction reading has been ever so slightly food related.

Some have been memoirs of famous restaurant reviewers, others have chronicled the trials and tribulations of making it in the culinary world as a chef, after that was a delightful history of the American food scene and still others are personal essays about eating, preparing and enjoying food in all its glory.

My food book faves?

  • Ruth Reichl’s trilogy of memoirs take the reader from her early years in her mother’s wacky kitchen to her days as a reviewer for the New York Times.
  • Gael Greene, who was the original reviewer for “New York” magazine wrote Insatiable. Greene holds no punches in all her personal life and this one could easily fit under the category of soft porn.
  • And then there are Michael Ruhlman’s books that explore the lives of chefs. Ruhlman is an amazing writer. He makes you realize that becoming a chef takes plenty of blood, sweat and tears.
    Anything by Anthony Bourdain is a must read.
  • And Heat by Bill Buford takes you into Mario Batali’s kitchen as well as being an apprentice to a Tuscan butcher.

Ah, but there are so many to discuss. And so many more to read. More on that later.

Rita Connelly
Rita Connelly

  1. I enjoy reading about different cultures and the South Pole is about as different as you can get. There, even the littlest things regarding food preparation are major events.

    I recently finished the book “Ice Bound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole” by Dr. Jerri Nielsen.

    Dr. Nielsen is the doctor who went to the South Pole to support a scientific research station for a year back in 1999 and found out that she had breast cancer. There was no way for her to get back to civilization to get treatment until months later when the temperatures rose enough for the planes to fly in.

    In her fascinating book, she touches on the central role food had in keeping everyone’s spirits high and food preparation was a major part of it. They smoked fish, barbecued whole sides of beef, made “slushies”, and grew their own fresh vegetables in a greenhouse.

    Planning meals was always a chore because they had to thaw out food days in advance and vegetables were kept “warm” in a refrigerator so they would not freeze in the 100 degrees below zero temperatures.

    Amazingly, she survived and is still alive today — getting $15-25,000 on the lecture circuit.

    Here is a video interview with Diane Sawyer where she shows home movies of her adventure. http://www.keynotespeakers.com/video.asp?id=1903

  2. I haven’t had that much time to read lately but a few months ago I read Arugula Nation. It’s 403 pages about the gourmet food movement. I found it fascinating. The book was written in meticulous detail. Unfortunately I had to take it back to the library because it was was on reserve and I only made it to page 327 so when I find more time I will finish the book.
    There was a lot of history about how food writing came to be more respected than a woman just writing on how to serve lunch for your friends.
    And it revealed some dirty little secrets about Craig Claiborne and others.
    If you’re into food and the food movement, it’s a good read.

  3. I love reading food memoirs, so much in fact that I’ve taken to writing some, too.

    Ruth Reichl is one of my favorite food writers. Her stories leap off the page and into the heart. I can’t wait for the tv series!

  4. Did a little research. I heard it was going to be a movie based on “Garlic and Sapphires”.
    I guess that makes sense since her review work could probably make an interesting movie. My reviewing?
    That would be more like a very short subject, maybe even a animated one.

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