I read a lot of books about food. I love them. Here’s some of the ones I’ve read this year that are set outside of the United States.
Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook—and eat—a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother, to a string of foster homes, to the house from which she launched her own cooking adventure, Martin’s heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal—and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.
From Papantla in Mexico-“the city that perfumed the world”-to the Indian Ocean islands, Vanilla traces the story of the vanilla plant and its secretive trade. From the golden cups of Aztec emperors to the ice-cream dishes of U.S. presidents, Vanilla has mystified and tantalized man for centuries. The only orchid that produces an agriculturally valuable crop, vanilla can mask unpleasant tastes and smells, but also makes pleasant tastes stronger, smoother, and longer lasting. Because it has over four hundred separate flavor components, choosing premium vanilla beans is as complex as judging the aroma and taste of fine wine. Vanilla finds its way into over half of all dessert products sold worldwide, as well as the finest perfumes, well-known brands of rum and vodka, and even Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations.
African, Caribbean, and southern food are all known and loved as vibrant and flavor-packed cuisines. In Afro-Vegan, renowned chef and food justice activist Bryant Terry reworks and remixes the favorite staples, ingredients, and classic dishes of the African Diaspora to present wholly new, creative culinary combinations that will amaze vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike.
This is the only cookbook I’ve ever seen that comes with book recommendations for some of the recipes.
To most people, a banana is a banana: a simple yellow fruit. Americans eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined. In others parts of the world, bananas are what keep millions of people alive. But for all its ubiquity, the banana is surprisingly mysterious; nobody knows how bananas evolved or exactly where they originated. Rich cultural lore surrounds the fruit: In ancient translations of the Bible, the ‘apple’ consumed by Eve is actually a banana (it makes sense, doesn’t it?). Entire Central American nations have been said to rise and fall over the banana.
If you think McDonald’s is the most ubiquitous restaurant experience in America, consider that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Wendys combined. New York Times reporter and Chinese-American (or American-born Chinese). In her search, Jennifer 8 Lee traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food.
Gretchen Lin, adrift at the age of thirty, leaves her floundering marriage in San Francisco to move back to her childhood home in Singapore and immediately finds herself face-to-face with the twin headaches she’s avoided her entire adult life: her mother’s drinking problem and the machinations of her father’s artisanal soy sauce business.
Where to Start
I loved Banana! I still drop random banana facts into conversation and now I only buy organic bananas. Actually, all these books were really good. Try them all!
This is a good time to announce that I am taking over the Foodies Read Challenge in 2016. If you like reading about food, this is a great place to get more recommendations and to link up your reviews. Stay tuned for more information in November.