Food is the centre of my life. Being hypoglycaemic, I have to eat proper meals with timed snacks so I don’t function like a turd. Basically, when my blood sugar level goes down, all my years of social conditioning from infancy to adulthood disintegrate and I turn into a rabid animal. I can’t listen, I can’t hear, I feel nauseous, I hate people standing too close to me, and it takes a lot of control and awareness that I’m still part of society to not bite them.
It’s not nice when it happens, but it’s really easy to control if I can just have a snack. This means that my day is planned around food and I have to carry nuts with me in order to talk to people.
So food is always on my mind and I’m always eating and on top of that, I also love reading about food. No, let me try that again. I LOVE reading about food, especially food memoirs.
They show you the kitchen as the nucleus for human life. It’s stimulating to read about what people are cooking and eating and what’s going on in their lives. I want to know what they’re thinking about while they’re cooking, why they chose to make veal medallions and green beans on a snowy night all alone in the house. I want to know how hungry they are after having sex with a new lover and what they’re going to do with the onion and lardons in the fridge. Tell me about how much you love baked beans and the first time you tried them. Let me hear about how you got chestnuts with your mom in the farmers market on Christmas Eve. I want to know how your memories are filled with eating, what someone fed you when you found out your father was going to die, how colourful the oranges were on the streets of Rome in February 2005, how good that bowl of French onion soup was when you got off the boat on that cold, rainy day.
Food makes people’s lives tangible, relatable and close. In the end, we are all doing the same thing, filling up our stomachs in order to survive.
So here are 5 books on food writing that I go back to again and again. The more I read them, the more inspired I am to live, eat and write about life:
1. Alone in the Kitchen with an Egglant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone (2007) – ed. Jenni Ferrari-Adler
– a collection of essays about cooking for one including essays by MFK Fisher, Colin Harrison, Nora Ephron, and Laurie Colwin. What do these people eat when they are alone? Here you can get a sense of all these different voices and different styles in food writing.
2. How to Cook a Wolf (1942) by MFK Fisher
– This is written like a how-to manual for keeping a joyful kitchen during WWII. But it’s quite subversive and modern and today it’s like reading a DIY book on dissident home cooking against a homegenized food culture. Very modern for America in 1942.
– Colwin’s essays on home cuisine are loved by many readers and convey a sense of a well-loved time spent with yourself. You get the feeling of the author’s home and writing life and how food and her writing practice went hand in hand. It’s straightforward cooking and straightforward writing and you come away enthusiastic for some basic ingredients that you want to try in your own kitchen.
4. Cooking for Mr. Latte (2004) by Amanda Hesser
– The former NY Times food critic chronicles her courtship with Tad Friend, staff writer for The New Yorker alongside recipes of the meals they shared. Don’t be fooled by the stylized chick-lit cover, this is good writing and moments of humour and depth are woven into the chapters. It also makes you feel like you can recreate sensuality in your own life with these recipes.
5. Lunch in Paris (2010) by Elizabeth Bard
– Another story about the successful love affair between an American writer and a French grad student with fun and easy recipes. I loved this one in particular since I could identify with her struggles and joys as an ex-pat in Europe. I’m excited to find out that she has another book, Picnic in Provence, scheduled to come out in April 2015.