Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Bookworm in the Perfect Pantry

I love reading, though I don't do it as much as I'd like to these days. And I love reading and learning about food; there's so much to learn out there!! From new foods to techniques to exotic experiences to the memories they provoke, there's so much to share. With all of your five senses, so much to take it all in.

When I found Lydia's delicious ongoing project over at The Perfect Pantry, I was smitten. She asks readers, or Bookworms, to provide a list of 5 food-related non-cookbooks for her collective library. The list is a fabulous compilation of must-reads, and I'm lucky enough to be her guest bookworm this week.

Oh, the glee!!

Here's a breakdown of why I chose these five.

Pomegranate Soup, by Marsha Mehran - This was a beautiful book about 3 Iranian sisters who, after escaping the Iranian revolution, find themselves in a small town in Ireland. Food was influential in their survival, brought them to Ireland, and is their constant source of salvation through everything they endure. Food becomes a character; it takes the nurturing role of the parents they lost. Many of the more delicious recipes are interspersed throughout the chapters.

Toast, by Nigel Slater - I had never heard of Nigel Slater when I found this book in a book store in London, so I didn't actually get it until a few years later. When I finally picked it up, I could not put it down. It was simultaneously thoughtful and hilarious. My husband, who is Irish, could relate to many of the references (e.g., food, desserts, candies), so I consulted with him on unfamiliar topics. However, the book would have been a marvelous read without his insight. It was a very easy read, too, because some of the chapters were just a few pages; a perfect "between naps" book ;-)

Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain - He's gruff, rude, hilarious, charming, and a brilliant guide to the seedy underbelly of the commercial kitchen. Yes, it's been around for years, but it's a great read if you never got around to it. He puts the romance of the kitchen in perspective by describing the shady characters who run the high-end kitchen, make the delicious bread, and open the doomed restaurants. He also provides some great information (e.g., avoid fish on Mondays and opt to eat during the week instead of weekends). And I learned that though the thought of being a chef would be enticing (not for me, but perhaps my husband), I learned that there's nothing that would convince me that this would be a good career path. It's brutal!

Eating Between the Lines: The Supermarket Shopper's Guide to the Truth Behind Food Labels, by Kimberly Lord Stewart - I'm trying to scrutinize the food in our refrigerator and pantry a lot more these days. To that end, I got this book after hearing an interview with Kimberly Lord Steward on Good Food. I haven't finished it, but keep in mind that it's very readable and she designed it so the reader can skip around without adhering to chapter order. It has so much information on food that is, in my opinion, hard to find in general, even moreso as part of one comprehensive resource. Among many other topics, she breaks down the meaning of organic, addresses how to read a food label, and defines the mercury issues with fish.

Hungry Planet, by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio - I said it before and I'll say it again: This book is beautiful. It's more a book about the photography, but there's so much to learn about it. You can't help but analyze and compare the quantity and quality of food in different cultures around the world. Time's preview to whet your palate.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I'm so glad you're this week's Bookworm! Pomegranate Soup is new to me, and it's gone right to the top of my reading list. And Hungry Planet has been a frequent reference -- and a book I've given as a gift to quite a few people. Thanks so much.