I'm looking forward to grabbing a lounge chair in the shade at the pool this weekend, cracking open a book and traveling for a few hours to somewhere I've never been. That book will be "American Wino," the last one on this list of five books I think would make great summer reads for food and wine lovers.
These books aren't cookbooks or food policy books. All of my picks this year are food/travel memoirs, stories of others who have gone someplace new and immersed themselves in the culture. The first four are books I read over the past year that I can recommend, and the final, as I mentioned, is first on my personal list of books to read this summer.
"Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World Through the Lens of a Wine Glass" by Cathy Huyghe. Part memoir, part travelogue, part wine tasting journal (a perfect trifecta for my taste), Cathy Huyghe tells the stories of winemakers and their wines from her travels around the world. Some regions you may be familiar with like Rioja or Napa (but you probably won't be familiar with the winemakers), and some regions you may be astounded by like Syria and Lebanon. You'll learn some political history and some winemaking history in each story, ending with relatable tasting notes of one bottle from each winemaker. I loved the storytelling in this book.
"Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman" by Alice Steinbach. This travel memoir is less food and drink heavy than the others on this list, but it's so well written and inspirational that I had to include it. Steinbach, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, took time away from her job to spend a year living in Paris, London and several locations in Italy. In each location, she meets people whom she spends time with, often sharing meals with them. The book may inspire the solo traveler in you, and while you're living out your wanderlust, encourage you to find a few people to share a table and a bottle of wine with. It certainly inspired me.
"Fed, White and Blue: Finding America with my Fork" by Simon Manjumdar. Another book that will fuel your wanderlust, "Fed, White and Blue" is Manjumdar's story of determining whether he wanted to become an American citizen by looking for America's take on food. Manjumdar heads to some well-known food cities and some out-of-the-way small food destinations to make his decision, and gives readers some insight into an America they may not know.
You can read more of my thoughts about "Fed, White and Blue" in the review I wrote earlier this year.
"A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France" by Georgeanne Brennan. I soak up food and travel memoirs about Provence, and each one I read convinces me it has to be on the top of my live-there-for-a-while list. James Beard Award-winning author Brennan realized her dream of living in Provence with her family. The book is filled with story after story of how food brings together her family and her community. It's the tale of one meal after another, with recipes and inspiration for cooking simple foods for friends and family.
"American Wino: A Tale of Reds, Whites, and One Man's Blues" by Dan Dunn. This is the book I plan to pick up the first time I get the chance to grab a lounge chair at the pool and spend a couple hours reading. From the Amazon description: "Former Playboy magazine nightlife columnist Dan Dunn has a made a career out of drinking. Yet this man’s man — a connoisseur of beer and whiskey — knew next to nothing about one of the major drinks enjoyed the world over: wine. When a fateful tasting experience coincided with a serious existential crisis, Dunn decided to hit the road on a journey of discovery. To quench his thirst for knowledge (and be able to throw down with the experts), he would educate himself about the industry glass by glass, from winery to winery, in nearly every region in the United States." I'm looking forward to living vicariously through Dunn and visiting wine regions throughout the U.S., perhaps with a glass of New Jersey wine in hand.
If you'd like some more suggestions for food and drink-related books to read this summer, check out my lists from previous years.
- "Poor Man's Feast" by Elissa Altman and 4 other books I read in 2015
- “Delicious!” by Ruth Reichl and 4 other books I read in 2014