When I’m not working on podcasts, I’m reading books on food history, science, personal narratives and contemporary issues. This is a working list of great food literature that will inform and engage!

 

CULINARY HISTORIES AND CULTURAL INFLUENCE

An Edible History of Humanity
by Tom Standage

Throughout history, food has done more than simply provide sustenance. It has acted as a tool of social transformation, political organization, geopolitical competition, industrial development, military conflict and economic expansion. An Edible History of Humanity is an account of how food has helped to shape and transform societies around the world, from the emergence of farming in China by 7,500 BCE to today's use of sugar cane and corn to make ethanol.

Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and Rise of Civilizations
by Evan D. G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas

Using the colorful diaries of a sixteenth-century merchant as a narrative guide, Empires of Food vividly chronicles the fate of people and societies for the past 12,000 years through the foods they grew, hunted, traded, and ate—and offers fascinating, and devastating, insights into what to expect in years to come.

A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression
by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe

From the author of the acclaimed 97 Orchard and her husband, a culinary historian, an in-depth exploration of the greatest food crisis the nation has ever faced—the Great Depression—and how it transformed America’s culinary culture. James Beard Foundation Book Winner

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the
Old South

by Michael W. Twitty

A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom. 2018 James Beard Book of the Year

Latin Food Culture
by Zilkia Janer

Latino cuisine has always been a part of American foodways, but the recent growth of a diverse Latino population in the form of documented and undocumented immigrants, refugees, and exiles has given rise to a pan-Latino food phenomenon. These various food cultures in the United States are expertly overviewed here together in depth for the first time

Story of Tea: A Cultural and Drinking Guide
by Mary Lou Heiss

Whether it's a delicate green tea or a bracing Assam black, a cup of tea is a complex brew of art and industry, tradition and revolution, East and West. In this sweeping tour through the world of tea, veteran tea traders Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss chronicle tea's influence across the globe and provide a complete reference for choosing, drinking, and enjoying this beverage.

Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food
by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

A chronicle of the eight top revolutions in the history of food traces the origins of cooking, from the inception of herding and agriculture, to the industrialization and globalization of food, citing the integral connection between food and the cultures it comes from.

we are what we eat.jpg

We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans
by Donna R. Gabaccia

A chronicle of the eight top revolutions in the history of food traces the origins of cooking, from the inception of herding and agriculture, to the industrialization and globalization of food, citing the integral connection between food and the cultures it comes from.

What the World Eats
by Faith D’Aluisio; Photographed by Peter Menzel

A chronicle of the eight top revolutions in the history of food traces the origins of cooking, from the inception of herding and agriculture, to the industrialization and globalization of food, citing the integral connection between food and the cultures it comes from.

Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South
by John T. Edge

A people’s history that reveals how Southerners shaped American culinary identity and how race relations impacted Southern food culture over six revolutionary decades. The Potlikker Papers tells the story of that dynamism—and reveals how Southern food has become a shared culinary language for the nation.

Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South
by Marcie Cohen Ferris

From the colonial era to the present, Marcie Cohen Ferris examines the expressive power of food throughout southern Jewish history. She demonstrates with delight and detail how southern Jews reinvented culinary traditions as they adapted to the customs, landscape, and racial codes of the American South.

Curry: Tale of Cooks and Conquerors
by Lizzie Collingham

Curry serves up a delectable history of Indian cuisine, ranging from the imperial kitchen of the Mughal invader Babur to the smoky cookhouse of the British Raj.
In this fascinating volume, the first authoritative history of Indian food, Lizzie Collingham reveals that almost every well-known Indian dish is the product of a long history of invasion and the fusion of different food traditions.

 

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN FOOD SCIENCE AND HEALTH


Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
by Simran Sethi

Award-winning journalist Simran Sethi explores the history and cultural importance of our most beloved tastes, paying homage to the ingredients that give us daily pleasure, while providing a thoughtful wake-up call to the homogenization that is threatening the diversity of our food supply.

Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat
by John McQuaid

A fascinating and deeply researched investigation into the mysteries of flavor—from the first bite taken by our ancestors to scientific advances in taste and the current “foodie” revolution.

The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor
by Mark Schatzker

In The Dorito Effect, Mark Schatzker shows us how our approach to the nation’s number one public health crisis has gotten it wrong. The epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are not tied to the overabundance of fat or carbs or any other specific nutrient. Instead, we have been led astray by the growing divide between flavor—the tastes we crave—and the underlying nutrition.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan

What should we have for dinner? Ten years ago, Michael Pollan confronted us with this seemingly simple question and, with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, his brilliant and eye-opening exploration of our food choices, demonstrated that how we answer it today may determine not only our health but our survival as a species. In the years since, Pollan’s revolutionary examination has changed the way Americans think about food. James Beard Award Winner

*I also recommend Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual and The Omnivore’s Dilemma Young Readers Edition

Folks, This Ain’t Normal
by Joel Salatin

From farmer Joel Salatin's point of view, life in the 21st century just ain't normal. In FOLKS, THIS AIN'T NORMAL, he discusses how far removed we are from the simple, sustainable joy that comes from living close to the land and the people we love. Salatin has many thoughts on what normal is and shares practical and philosophical ideas for changing our lives in small ways that have big impact.
*I also recommend touring Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia!

 

PERSONAL FOOD NARRATIVES


On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta
by Jen Lin-Liu

A food writer travels the Silk Road, immersing herself in a moveable feast of foods and cultures and discovering some surprising truths about commitment, independence, and love.

*I also highly recommend by the same author, Serve the People: A Stir-Fry Journey

The Language of Baklava: A Memoir
by Diana Abu-Jaber

From the acclaimed author of Crescent, called “radiant, wise, and passionate” by the Chicago Tribune, here is a vibrant, humorous memoir of growing up with a gregarious Jordanian father who loved to cook. Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with her Arab-American cousins to goat stew feasts under a Bedouin tent in the desert.

*One of my favorite books that connects food, family and identity.

The Mango Season
by Amulya Malladi

From the acclaimed author of A Breath of Fresh Air, this beautiful novel takes us to modern India during the height of the summer’s mango season. Heat, passion, and controversy explode as a woman is forced to decide between romance and tradition.

A Year in Provence
by Peter Mayle

In this witty and warm-hearted account, Peter Mayle tells what it is like to realize a long-cherished dream and actually move into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January's frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rhône Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing through the middle of town, and delights in the glorious regional cuisine.

*A must read if you’re planning a trip to Provence!

Garlic and Sapphire: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
by Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, knows a thing or two about food. She also knows that as the most important food critic in the country, you need to be anonymous when reviewing some of the most high-profile establishments in the biggest restaurant town in the world—a charge she took very seriously, taking on the guise of a series of eccentric personalities.

All book summaries are from and linked to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted with an asterisks (*).