In 2009, I started what was to become a yearly tradition for me right around Memorial Day weekend. I recommended five books for food lovers that made great reading for the pool, beach or hammock. These books weren’t cookbooks or food policy books; they’re mostly food memoirs or food history-type books that are enjoyable to read and just might inspire you to get in the kitchen and share good food and drink with friends and family.
Usually the list consists of books I’ve read and maybe one on my to-be-read list, but now I find myself — only two days before the holiday weekend known as the unofficial start of summer — without having read a single book over the past year that’s appropriate for this year’s list. It’s not that I haven’t read any books; I’ve read several. But life has taken in me on a path that has had me reading this year for learning, not so much for pleasure.
So this year’s list is from my to-be-read list – books that I really want to read and hope to do this summer. The realization that I haven’t read any books for this list makes me determined to carve out some pleasure reading time this summer.
- "Relish: My Life in the Kitchen" by Lucy Kinsley. This is a foodie graphic novel. Kinsley “traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe — many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy's original inventions.”
- "Paris in Love" by Eloisa James. I have yet to get to France, but I’ve read so many food and travel memoirs about various regions in the country, that I feel like I’ve been there and I want to go back. In James’ memoir, she recounts how she moved her family to Paris for a year, and she navigates all aspects of life in a foreign language including her “mother-in-law’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen.”
- "Eating for Britain" by Simon Majumdar. I know that general assumption about British food is that it’s bland, but I have a hard time believing that an entire country only eats boiled ham and potatoes. In this book “Majumdar travels the country to find out what British food — from Arbroath Smokies to Welsh rarebit to chicken tikka masala — reveals about British identity.” Until I get to England to find this out for myself, I may as well read about it, right?
- "It’s Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer" by Bill Heavy. Heavy is an accomplished hunter and fisher, but he decided to give foraging and gardening a try, too. The description of the book says he was led to squirrel murder and cover up over his elaborate garden. (I’ve never been driven to squirrel murder, but I’ve absolutely entertained the idea.) The book is supposed to be funny and a really good story.
- "The Man Who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten. A collection of essays written by a food critic for “Vogue” and other publications. I like the idea of adding a collection of essays to this list because they can be quick reads. If you only have an hour by the pool each week, you can read an essay each time and not be concerned about remembering where you left off. This collection won the Julia Child Book Award and was James Beard Book Award Finalist, so I’m going to assume it’s some pretty good writing.
And, please take a look at my recommendations from the past four years. Altogether, I’ve recommended 25 books for food lovers to read in the summer.