I've said it before and I'm saying it again- I came to Brooklyn for the food. The industry, the urban farming, the artisanal, hipster, organic, fair-trade, sustainably raised, grass-fed everythang! So it only seemed appropriate (and ridiculously fun) to put together a summer reading list equally dedicated to all things food.
Thanks to a long and windy bus commute from Crown Heights to Greenpoint everyday, my daily reading allotment has been infinitely lengthened and the amount of my paycheck that gets spent on pretty, nice smelling books at McNally Jackson equally so. Oops.
Here have been some of my absolute favorites so far-
1. Cooked by Michael Pollan - (Well, duh, Sana) I know that Michael Pollan has exploded and basically become a household name and defined 'food rules' for a large number of urban, upper class Americans at this point, but I don't think that that's reason to dismiss what is, in my opinion, some bloody fine journalism. Cooked is all-encompassing, and incredible and a revelation, but also oddly comforting. I intend on spending next week re-reading it and copying down my favorite bits because DAMN that was good! And hell yes I want to spent my saturdays on stews and soffritos and homemade mead thank-you-very-much!
2. Eating Animals by Jonathan Foer - I first read this a few months before I began my longest stint of veganism and then came back to it now at what i would call my stable omnivorous phase and i still find myself deeply affecting by it. Jonathan Foer is a wonderful writer, and he makes his journey into eating animals (or not!) an equally wonderful read.
3. Alice Waters & Chez Panisse by Thomas Mcnamel - I didn't know much about Alice Waters and Chez Panisse before I read this book, and even now, whilst I am as much a fan as your next Cali inhabiting food lover with ethical sensibilities- I'm not a Alice Waters diehard by any means. Even yet, this book was engaging, well written and told the almost accidental story of one of the pioneers of California cuisine lightly and casually.
4. Serve the People by Jen Lin-Liu - I went to China once when I was 14. I went with my vegetarian cousins, and we went on a cruise down the Yangtze River and I have stronger memories of overcooked cruise ship spaghetti than I do of eating real Chinese food. After reading Jen's book, I realize what an absolute tragedy this is. Without any reason, I now find myself lusting after hand-pulled noodles and red braised pork belly and vinegar marinated cucumbers. Jen's writing is delicious and in my ill-equipped opinion- the perfect ode to her motherland.
5. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver - Despite working at a farm, shopping at the farmers market and generally being surrounding by people vigorously extolling the values of seasonal, local food, the message didn't really hit home until I read this. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle might just be my favorite book of all time. No joke.
6. Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton - I read this before I began waitressing and it made me want to open a kitchen so desperately I thought I'd found my calling. Since then, life and restaurant experience have taught me that there are few people out there cut out for the restaurant world, and even fewer cut out to be a part of that world and then spew rhetoric on it enough to fill up a full-size, seriously good novel. I may not fall into either camp. That being said, I loved the candor, grittiness and tastiness of this book and would happily re-read it. Just not when I'm hungry.
7. Chocolate by Mort Rosenblum - I am a chocolate diehard like very few people that I know. Those pretentious flavor notes on the back of fancy dark chocolate? I'm all about that shit. When I open my Bhuleshwar chocolate factory, I'll let everyone know, don't worry. Currently, Mast Brothers' Brooklyn Blend and Dandelion Chocolates' Venezuelan bar are in fierce competition for my whole-hearted affection. That being said- Rosenblum's book is the ultimate chocolate education. 'Nuff said.
8. My Empire of Dirt by Manny Howard - Howard has an emotional, slightly rambly, and always brutally honest style of writing that I was both irritated by as well as very drawn in by. I think as a farmer, or as a food lover, it's easy to romanticize farms and small-scale agriculture. Manny Howard gives us the other side of things- the cautionary tale of dead birds and a strained marriage and the true cost of a tomato. The book left me a little bit deflated, but eventually also a little bit renewed in the knowledge that I haven't yet fucked up as severely, and at least I now know what not to do. Thanks Manny!
9. The Third Plate by Dan Barber - Just started reading this and about 6 chapters in, I already know that this is going to be one of my favorite books of all time. More on this when I actually finish it- for now, I can't wait to visit Stone Barns and Blue Hills and geek out on all things agricultural and foodie and dear goodness this TED talk by him is also pretty incredible!
Next up on my reading list:
1. The Ethical Butcher by Berlin Reed Nicholas
2. Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya von Bremzen
4. The United States of Aragula by David Kamp
5. Meat Racket by Christopher Leonard
6. Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr
7. The Art of the Restauranteur by Nicholas Lander
8. Russ & Daughters by Mark Russ Federman
What food/agriculture/generally delicious books have y'all been reading lately? I'd love to hear and I'd especially love to hear if any of y'all have read any of the books on my list above- thoughts, opinions, must-reads? HIT ME!