I'm about to kick off for a vacation and unplug my computer, which means when I'm not swimming or cooking, I will be reading books. I like a trashy beach novel as much as anyone, but I most often reach for books about food and cooking when I travel.
To help you pack your bags, Faith and I (two of the seven grown women on the planet who have not read Eat, Pray, Love) put together a list of some great food books for vacation reading.
I'll limit myself to ten, otherwise we'll be here all day:
• Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. A family's memoir of moving to southern Appalachia and eating entirely off their own land and that of their neighbors for a year.
• Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life by Kim Severson. A moving tribute to a handful of cooks, from her mother to Alice Waters, whom Severson credits with pulling her out of a messy time of her life.
• My Life in France by Julia Child. The classic tale of Child's time in France, in love with her husband, food, and life. This is a book I can read over and over again.
• Consider the Oyster by MFK Fisher. The "poet of the appetites" weaves her prose in, out and around the bivalve of love.
• The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones. A touching guide to eating and cooking well for one person.
• Far Flung and Well Fed by R.W. Apple, Jr. A collection of 50 pieces by the late, great R.W. Apple, Jr., part travel essays and part odes to great meals eaten.
• On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. If you want to understand the science behind what happens in your oven and on your stove-top, you will not be able to put this book down. A great cover-to-cover read, or a reference volume on a kitchen shelf.
• Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. A short, sweet volume of comforting and uplifting missives on cooking at home.
• What to Eat by Marion Nestle. With an academic's precision and and activist's fervor, Nestle leads a tour of the average supermarket, explaining the hidden meaning behind a market's layout and dissecting every label's claims. It's depressing, but also energizing.
• The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Here Pollan takes readers on a fascinating and important journey through the food chain. This is one of those books that might change the way you eat, for the better.
Faith has these to add:
• Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite by John Thorne. A great read for home cooks. Idiosyncratic, opinionated, not a whiff of pretension.
• Best Food Writing 2009 edited by Holly Hughes. Always a rich read. This edition includes Calvin Trillin, Tamsin Day-Lewis, and Kim Severson, among many others.
• Alimentum. A wonderful journal of literary writing themed around food, it includes poetry, fiction, and literary nonfiction.
For an even longer list, check out the Online Education Database's list of 50 Fabulous Food Novels (well, it's really 44 novels and six non-fiction works.)
Use the comment section below to add your picks for summer food reading.
(Image: "Summer Reading" by Jennifer Young, used with the permission of the artist.)