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Eat Drink Vote by Marion Nestle

Looking forward to this one, especially with the press ramp up food issues have been getting over the last couple years.


Buy the bookAn Everlasting Meal:
Cooking with Economy and Grace
by Tamar Adler

The members of 18 Reasons Food Lit voted to read this one ages ago. But we were hanging on, hoping that the author would attend our meeting the next time she visited San Francisco. Finally we gave up and read it this month.

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Pollan-CookedCooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

A long time favorite of mine, I am excited to read his latest release!

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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Mary Roach has a fantastic ability to make the disgusting and truly repulsive both hilarious and fascinating. I loved her books Stiff and Packing for Mars. Now she's written one about food!  

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Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang

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Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant by Amanda Cohen, Ryan Dunlavey and Grady Hendrix 

Yes, I know, I know. IT'S A COOKBOOK!#$%!! And we don't read cookbooks for 18 Reasons' Food Lit Book Club!

But, actually, it's a graphic novel. So that counts.

I really enjoyed Dirt Candy, because of its visual component, but also because Cohen seems always to be representing the minority view of her subject, whether it is
restaurateurs and diners, historic French cuisine versus the rest of the world or vegetables for dinner.

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Lemon: A Global History by Toby Sonneman

Toby Sonneman is passionate about lemons. When faced with debilitating migraine headaches she stopped eating different foods one-by-one, in hope of discovering the cause. After dramatically restricting her diet, lemons were the ingredient she longed for the most. So Sonneman vowed never to take them for granted again.

But past the introduction this book isn’t about its author at all, which is a refreshing change and may partially explain why Lemon was so popular with my Food Lit club. After reading more than 42 other food lit books over the past three-ish years, we have realized that while memoir and creative non-fiction can include elements of each other, a single book cannot be both at the same time. Either the personal narrative competes with that of other people and events, making the author’s self reflection appear superfluous and heavy-handed, or the details of those same people and events get in the way of the author’s own story, which bogs down the pace and continuity of her monograph.

Instead, Toby Sonneman has written an engaging and well illustrated history of the lemons themselves. An “ancient natural cross-breed” of citron and mandarin, two of the three naturally occurring wild citrus species that originated around twenty million years ago, lemons first came to the western world with Muslim Arabs as they traveled from India and Persia, “filling gardens and courtyards in Spain, Sicily and North Africa”. The lemon was not the first citrus to gain popularity in the Mediterranean however, that title goes to the citron, which was (and still is) considered sacred to Jews, who discovered it in Babylonia and then introduced it to Palestine, where the armies of Alexander the Great brought it with them to Europe.

Sonneman further traces the development of the fruit into modern times, giving detailed reports about its cultivation and culinary traditions in Sicily, throughout Europe and on into the United States. The book is sprinkled with vignettes of the men responsible for much of the written history on citrus that the author draws from and it is fascinating to learn the background of how we know so much of what we know. She also covers the nutritional benefits of lemons - how they solved a centuries old problem causing the death of more than 2/3 of the sailors on many voyages until 1795 and then became a health drink and beauty aid in the twentieth century.

Lemon is a quick and fun read. It is also one of the best sort of books that inspire further investigation: Sonneman’s vivid descriptions of paradisal gardens along the lemon’s historical trail have enticed me to visit Sicily’s Lemon Riviera, Granada’s Alhambra Palace and eventually tackle a trip to the middle east in search of citrus trees. For starters, I’ll be be researching a variety of new and old Middle Eastern cookbooks and checking my local library for Giovanni Batista Ferrari’s Hesperides.


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Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen by Charlotte Druckman

Author Charlotte Druckman interviewed over 70 female chefs
from around the United States for this book, and that is no small feat in itself. She has also done a great job of organizing those interviews into a cohesive narrative, teasing out frequently reiterated issues and concerns and actually offering a surprising yet realistic resolution (I, for one,  didn't see it coming) to the problem she addresses head on: what can be done to get and keep more women chefs in professional kitchens?

I'll leave her suggestion for you to find at the end of the book, but I think she is on the right track, widespread cultural change seems to reach the largest audience when the youngest members of society get on board first.  That is what it will take to bring about a world, or even a country, where both genders' contributions to professional life and family life are equally valued, whether or not they are chefs.

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Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Saumeulsson

Marcus Saumuelsson lives with the deference and respect of a nice Swedish boy and he works with the dedication of a driven Swedish man, or at least that is the feeling I get. Having not known many Swedes in my life or visited their country yet, I cannot say for sure.

Throughout his memoir he is sweet in his respect for of his parents, family and daughter, strong in his desire to succeed and surprising in his candor. Compared to most other chefs' coming of age memoirs, this one brings far more than stories of frenetic bosses and bad behavior. The authors introduce Swedish, Ethiopian and African-American cultural history, keep an eye on the development of dining and celebrity chefs in the nineties and naughties and offer hard-won encouragement for a having a good work ethic.

A joy to read, "Yes, Chef" is one of my favorite books of 2012.

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Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey

Madhur Jaffrey is not only an award winning actress, but also the author of 29 cookbooks, which she has been publishing since the year I was born (that's 1973, if you must know).  Jaffrey is often recognized for introducing Indian cooking to Americans and this fascinating insight into her childhood helps explain why she is so well suited for that role.

Growing up in a family associasted with both the British Raj and and traditional Hindu culture, Climbing the Mango Trees tells of Jaffrey's struggle to exist simultaneously within these differnt worlds. It is also a great introduction to the politics of mid-twentieth century India, especially leading up to, during and immediately after the country's partition into modern India and Pakistan, which occured in 1947.

In spite of personal struggles faced by Jaffrey and her family, her Indian childhood sparkles with the joy of ripe fruit and magical spices, along with the kindness of family. All together they shape the woman she becomes, bringing grace, beauty and patience to her voice as a writer, actor and teacher.

today's dinner is

Salad Niçoise

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Salad Niçoise
today's food lit is

Eat Drink Vote

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Eat Drink Vote
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