Winter Reading List

I rang in the new year with a huge cold and spent the last week of 2009 and the first week I should have been at work sick at home.  In addition to quilting, I did a bunch of reading.

Two for the Road: Our Love Affair with American Food by  Jane & Michael Stern reported on how they started traveling and writing about diners, BBQ shacks, and mom & pop restaurants all over the USA.  A truly gluttonous way of living, I somewhat envy their adventures, but found their reports of eating twelve meals a day terrifying:

We could eat just about anyone under the table, so the first few breakfast of the day were no problem at all.  We awoke ravenous, and with health appetites like ours, it was nothing to polish off multiple plates of sourdough French toast in northern California or monster pancakes in Billings, Montana.

Yeah, intense stuff.  The Sterns file reports weekly with NPR’s Splendid Table (a podcasted show I love to listen to on my way to work) and I’m often drooling when hearing about some of the places they visit.  They published Roadfood, the book and the website (where you can sign up for a fully integrated Google Map experience).  Something I’ll definitely get prior to a potential roadtrip to California this summer.

I also read Cooking Dirty by Jason Sheehan, a Kitchen Confidential-esque memoir about life on the line.  It was good, but I couldn’t get behind the self-indulgent, self-destructive, 4-leaf clover up the you-know-where antics of the author.  FYI – a much better take on “the life” comes from Bill Buford, who’s book Heat is completely fantastic.  He provides a mature perspective on the cooking world, getting to learn the ropes at a Mario Batali restaurant in NYC, then traveling to Italy to learn the art of being a butcher (oh, and throw in a sidetrip to England to hang out with Marco Pierre White – awesome).  Heat is by far the best imbedded reporting-style book on cooking that I’ve ever read (and reread, and then listened to the book on tape, maybe 3 times).

Next on the reading list is Mark Kurlansky‘s translation of Emile Zola’s The Belly of Paris.  While I had tried to read the text in its original French online (now that it is a classic and beyond copyright), I just couldn’t keep my eyes on the screen that long.  So far, this book is so detailed and the descriptions of the markets and stalls in Les Hales so vivid, it makes me want to travel to Paris so badly!

(Oh, and Kurlansky put together a great book on American food culture of the 1940’s in Food of a Younger Land – I got through about 50 pages before VPL demanded it back, jerks!)

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