If you’re someone that likes to cook and eat good food, chances are your other leisure activities will reflect that as well. Maybe you visit new cities with the intention of visiting a new restaurant, or your idea of a fun weekend outing is going to a chocolate tasting. One of my favorite things to do is read food novels and memoirs. Sometimes recipes are sprinkled into the chapters, but the focus is on the experience of cooking and learning about food. Food and cooking can evoke a whole range of emotions, so there’s guaranteed to be a book out there that appeals to any type of food-enthusiast. There’s dozens of food novels and memoirs that have been published in the past few decades, but here are a few of my favorites.
If you’re someone who loves scandal and wants to learn about the life of a restaurant chef, you’ll love reading…
Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton.
Gabrielle Hamilton’s life will shock, impress, and amaze you when you read of her decidedly non-direct rise to stardom in the New York restaurant scene. If nothing else, you’ll realize that there’s more than one path to success.
Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain
Learn all about the seedy behind-the-scenes of the 1980s restaurant industry in Anthony Bourdain’s first book. He’s since become a mega-celebrity in the culinary world, but Kitchen Confidential will always remain his most well-known work.
If you love reading about home-cooked memories and traditions, try…
A Homemade Life and Delancey, by Molly Wizenberg
Molly Wizenberg’s first book, A Homemade Life, describes her childhood food as well as her time spent studying in France. Her second, Delancey, still has the same wonderful writing style but tells the story of starting the restaurant Delancey with her husband. Unlike some older food memoirs, the recipes are wonderful and well tested. The recipes for her “Winning Hearts and Minds Cake” and black pepper vanilla ice cream are worth the price of the book alone.
My Berlin Kitchen, by Luisa Weiss (Who also happens to be a Tufts alum!)
In this food memoir, Luisa Weiss explains growing up in America and Germany with an Italian mother and American father. In between stories of cooking for German holidays, you’ll learn all about Luisa’s unexpected love story.
If you saw Meryl Streep’s rendition of Julia Child in Julie and Julia and want more, read…
Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell
Spoiler alert: Julie Powell is not as sweet and mild as Amy Adams makes her out to be. Be prepared for a very profane, but still enjoyable account of what it really takes to work your way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days.
My Life in France, by Alex Prud’homme and Julia Child
Written in the last months of Julia Child’s life, this autobiography explains the timeline and fond memories of Julia’s career with food, and in greater detail than is shown in the film.
If you’re getting ready to study abroad and are already planning your cheese tour of Europe, you just might want to get some research done ahead of time with…
The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz
Cookbook author and pastry chef David Lebovitz does a fantastic job describing French cuisine and French home cooking in many of his vignettes within this book, but the real gems are his hilarious stories when the language barrier make for some unexpected situations in stores and restaurants.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
If there ever has been a justification for eating gelato twice a day while traveling through Italy, it’s in this book. It will make you want to book a flight to Naples and spend your mornings leisurely sipping cappuccinos and your days eating pizza.
If what you love most about cooking is how it shapes families, for better or worse, check if your library has…
Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Not Becoming My Mother, and Garlic and Sapphires, by Ruth Reichl
Former New York Times Restaurant Critic and Editor of Gourmet Magazine Ruth Reichl spares nothing with her memoirs. She manages to make all of her stories as enjoyable as the other, whether you’re reading about her disguises while reviewing restaurants or living in a Berkeley co-op.
The School of Essential Ingredients and The Lost Art of Mixing, by Erica Bauermeister
There’s nothing jarring about these two novels that revolve around a restaurant and its cooking classes. People from all walks of life unite over cake, thanksgiving dinner, and homemade tortillas, while poignant vignettes tease out their life stories.
Cover photo source.