I have been writing for Eatdrink for 10 years, but have written less about food than I have about books. Authors have allowed me to eat their words to satisfy my cravings, quench my thirst, and tickle my taste buds. To quote Paul Theroux, a favourite author of mine who does not usually write about food: “No one got fat reading about food – he just got hungry.” I am certain the pages of Eatdrink have done just that for its readers for the past decade. Offered below as a 10-course reading menu are 10 titles that have stuck in my mind over the years, to be relished by anyone with an interest in food and books. So when you have an appetite to feed your mind, take your pick from this menu. Hopefully you won’t choose just one; reading all 10 would be a great way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Eatdrink.
The Billionaire’s Vinegar
The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine
by Benjamin Wallace
Champagne is often the drink of choice when beginning a meal with an aperitif. For our reading menu we can go one better, by starting off with the most expensive bottle of wine in the world. The Billionaire’s Vinegar opened my eyes to the idea that a single bottle of wine (in this case, a 1787 Chateau Lafite Bordeaux, supposedly once owned by Thomas Jefferson, that fetched $156,000 at a Christie’s auction in 1985) can be responsible for an enthralling page-turner reminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes mystery.
Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States
A Dinner Party Approach to International Relations
by Chris Fair
If an amuse bouche is meant to kick start your taste buds, then this book will do just that for your reading. You won’t find Julia Child or Bobby Flay in these pages, but watch out for Fidel Castro and Kim Il Sung alongside recipes from their respective countries. Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States brings world politics to the table with equal parts dinner party etiquette, evil dictator biography, and unique gourmet recipes from parts of the world not often looked to for their cuisine.
Consider the Fork
A History of How We Cook and Eat
by Bee Wilson
It seems appropriate to pause here to reflect on cutlery, given that a soup course requires its own special spoon. Even though Consider the Fork is about cooking implements rather than ingredients and exotic flavours, it is a completely enjoyable book for those who love mandolines, meat thermometers, rolling pins, muffin tins, pizza stones, pastry molds, lemon zesters, and melon ballers, and want to be entertained by stories about how these tools have influenced the food we eat and cook.
The Sushi Economy
Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy
by Sasha Issenberg
If you’ve ever wondered how raw fish became such a trendy meal, you first have to give a nod to the Japanese for sharing their taste for uncooked seafood and making it is easy for diners anywhere in the world to get their fix of glistening slivers of silky smooth fish pressed over rice and adorned with wasabi and pickled ginger. Then you can turn to The Sushi Economy to learn about sushi’s rise to fame as a world-wide commodity in the ultimate local-versus-global-food debate.
The Third Plate
Field Notes on the Future of Food
by Dan Barber
A rash of books could tie for second place as an entrée for me, but The Third Plate is worthy of being the sole main course of this reading menu. This book, from a renowned chef at the forefront of sustainable and conscientious cooking, is so well written that I was captivated enough to read it twice. Barber spends most of his time in the kitchen, experimenting with new approaches to food, and still found the time to write an engaging, educational book that is changing how we view food.
The Fruit Hunters
A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession
by Adam Gollner
We are at a point in the reading menu for cleansing our palettes. Just as sorbet leaves your mouth refreshed for the upcoming courses, so too can your mind be revived. The Fruit Hunters suits the bill for this purpose and is an intriguing and invigorating read. Gollner introduces all sorts of fruits that do not show up at the average supermarket, such as a charichuela that tastes like lemonade-infused cotton candy, not to mention the staggering 20,000 different varieties of apples in the world.
From Farmers’ Fields to Rooftop Gardens
by Sarah Elton
There is no better way to prepare a salad than with the freshest ingredients from the closest sources possible. And there is no better way to reap that knowledge than to read books like Locavore, which flaunt the sustainability movement in our country. This book praises the entrepreneurial farmers who are changing the industrialized food system and countering metropolitan sprawl with innovative ways of implementing urban agriculture, like rooftop gardens to stock fresh produce for nearby restaurants.
The Telling Room
A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese
by Michael Paternitti
Anyone who loves cheese will have no trouble being engrossed by this book about a type of cheese made from the fresh milk of Churra sheep that graze on the Spanish countryside. The love, betrayal and revenge from the subtitle of The Telling Room are added bonuses to the intriguing story about the rise and fall of Paramo de Guzman cheese. Paternitti travels to Guzman many times to understand how the location, the methods and the people are key ingredients to this cheese’s award-winning flavours.
Food: A Love Story
by Jim Gaffigan
Desserts are the epitome of decadence. Even after filling your stomach with a plentiful feast, there is always room for something sweet and rich (or how about funny?) to end the meal. As a stand-up comedian, Gaffigan may not know how to cook much of anything outside of a microwave, but that does not make his opinions in Food: A Love Story any less reliable, given that his strengths are stuffing his face and leaving you with the sweet thrill of laughing out loud on nearly every page.
Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History
by Christine Sismondo
I have indulged in many books about liquor, but Mondo Cocktail is the right mix of erudite fact and amusing anecdote about twelve well-known cocktails to keep you drunk on words as you sit down after a meal with a full tummy and a stiff drink. With tangents about the characters who concocted them and the history of the ingredients involved in making them, this book will entertain you way more than a bartender guide about martinis, margaritas, and the like.
A “Decade Issue” Flashback
After he fortuitously came across an early issue of Eatdrink, an ambitious young bookseller who said he could write approached me with an intriguing proposal. Wouldn’t the magazine benefit from reviews of books that explore the culinary world? Not cookbooks per se, although maybe they would have recipes too, but stories and writing about food, drink and the issues that surround them. Yes, I responded, that is a great idea (and wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of my decisions turned out so well). Darin Cook submitted a review of The Year of Eating Dangerously for Eatdrink Issue #5, and we have not published another copy since that didn’t include his byline in it. Thanks Darin!
— Chris McDonell, Publisher