I love books of short stories and essays. They are just the right thing to nibble at night, before I fall asleep. This is the latest book of tidbits by my bedside, and it's a treat. Eat, Memory (originally published in 2008, and reprinted this year) is a collection of food essays written by modern authors — not just food writers, but novelists and essayists as well. These essays were originally printed in The New York Times Magazine, in a column begun by Amanda Hesser. She wanted to explore the things that food evokes in our memories, the "emotional component of the way we eat."
So her "Eat, Memory" column invited well-known writers to submit essays about key moments in their lives that involved food. As Hesser says, the results were "un-rosy but riveting." Food is often a key to the most poignant, difficult, and sad moments in our lives, as well as the most joyful. This collection, in its very digestible essays (none are more than a few pages long, with wide-spaced lines and comfortably sized type) tells the stories of some of those moments for writers like Ann Patchett, R.W. Apple, Billy Collins, and James Salter. We hear from chefs, too; Julia Child has a piece as does Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune.
The essays are divided into five sections: Illusion, Discoveries, Struggles, Loss, and Coming Home. Each has about five essays in it, and each of these are just the right length for reading at the table, over a dish of pasta, or in bed before the light goes out. Yes, these essays are mostly available at the Times, but it's a pleasure to have them collected in one portable book.
The book is slim, but not too slim, and the pages are recycled newsprint, easy on the eyes. It's a light softback book, and easy to read in bed. I am savoring each essay so far, and highly recommend it.
• Buy the book: Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser, $10.63 at Amazon
More Books for Gift-Giving
• Early Stocking Stuffer: Cookie Craft Christmas
• For the Pasta Lover: Pasta Sfoglia
• For the Toddler's Parents: Gastrokid
• For the Ambitious Baker: Baking Artisan Pastries & Breads
• For the Passionate Cook: New American Table
More 2009 Book Reviews
• The New Portuguese Table by David Leite
• Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen
• Clean Food by Terry Walters
• On Food & Cooking by Harold McGee
• Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts Francini
• The Perfect Fruit by Chip Brantley
• Heard it Through the Grapevine by Matt Skinner
• Big Food by Elissa Altman
• Edible Schoolyard by Alice Waters
• The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
• Milk by Anne Mendelson
• The New Steak by Cree LeFavour
• A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
• Fresh Food From Small Places by R. J. Ruppenthal
• Eat Feed Autumn Winter by Anne Bramley
• Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo
(Image: W.W. Norton)