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|August 6 -12, 2009
• With love, from Texas
Louisville’s Waterloo Ice House serves Lone Star slow cooking
by Clay Fong
• The Dessert Diva
A local chef shares her sweet secrets
by Danette Randall
Try these delicious summer beach reads
by Dianna Marder
Foodies, people pleasantly preoccupied with all things food-related, stick to their obsessions, even on vacation.
The perfect foodie beach rental has a well-equipped kitchen, access to markets selling fresh fruit, produce, and fish, and proximity to restaurants where accomplished city chefs have established outposts.
Likewise, the perfect foodie beach bag contains prime kitchen lit: books on food history, essays on sustainability, food-centric fiction (call it foodtion), and sentimental food memoirs, or foodoirs.
Foodoirs are celebrity confessionals or tell-alls. In more sentimental varieties of the foodoir, the author embarks on an emotional journey, returning to his or her ancestor’s roots (and perhaps, by extension, root vegetables). Many have recipes, too.
Foodtion, on the other hand, might include mysteries, but romance novels are more numerous. Usually, a protagonist learns the hard way that the surest path to happiness is through his/her lover’s taste buds. Feminist versions end with the protagonist remaining single but enriched.
Alternatively, the protagonist may journey to France or Italy (Spain/Morocco/Indonesia/ Argentina, where will it end?) in search of new and enticing ingredients (double entendre intended.)
I can vouch for the fact that such fairy tales can come true: In the fall of 2007, I rented a house in Umbria with some foodie friends.
We had a series of cooking lessons. My friend, Dana, fell in love with the instructor, a former Sardinian sheepherder — and she’s still in Umbria with him. Really.
Here are our recommended foodie beach reads for 2009.
1. An Edible History of Humanity, by Tom Standage (Walker & Co.). The author of the best-selling A History of the World in 6 Glasses turns to food, examining how changes that were either caused, enabled, or influenced by food helped transform societies around the world.
2. Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter (Penguin Press). The author was raised in the country but yearns for city life. Wondering if she can raise her own chickens anywhere near museums, bars and convenience stores, Carpenter struggles to strike a sustainable balance in her life.
3. The Food of a Younger Land, by Mark Kurlansky (Riverhead Books). The best-selling author of Cod and (separately) Salt takes a page from the lost files of the Works Progress Administration to see what folks ate during the Great Depression.
4. The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It, by Robyn O’Brien (Broadway Books). From soy to corn, peanuts to probiotics, this book explores how to tell which foods are true villains and which have been unfairly vilified.
5. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, by Richard Wrangham (Basic Books). The scientist/author suggests cooking is what sets humans apart from animals, and explains how the chemical changes in food caused by heat helped the human brain evolve.
6. Watching What We Eat: The Evolution of Television Cooking Shows, by Kathleen Collins (Continuum Books). An entertaining look at the history and evolution of television cooking shows. It examines how the shows shifted over time, involving more men and children and mirroring societal changes.
7. What We Eat When We Eat Alone, by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin (Gibbs Smith Books). Confessions of solo diners — some sad, others funny, still more that are downright helpful.
8. Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table, edited by Amanda Hesser (W.W. Norton & Co.). During her tenure as the New York Times Magazine’s food editor, Hesser showcased the food-inspired recollections of some of the country’s leading writers. This collection of 26 of the best of those stories features the work of poet Billy Collins and novelists Ann Patchett and Kiran Desai.
1. Entertaining Disasters: A Novel with Recipes, by Nancy Spiller (Counterpoint). Spiller’s fictional heroine is a food writer, identified only as FW, who fakes her way through dinner parties. Her Extreme Unction Raspberry-glazed Cheesecake sounds good.
2. The Lost Recipe for Happiness, by Barbara O’Neal (Bantam Books). Young Elena Alvarez, who is haunted by an accident of which she was the lone survivor, arrives in Colorado (with faithful canine companion Alvin and a batch of grandmom’s recipes) to look for a restaurant job and a romance.
3. Tomato Rhapsody: A Fable of Love, Lust and Forbidden Fruit, by Adam Schell (Delacorte Press). A contrived saga set in Tuscany and written in a style ripe with wordplay and bawdy humor.
1. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, by Molly Wizenberg (Simon & Schuster). An Oklahoma native, Wizenberg wises up on a trip to Paris; later she meets and marries a reader of her real-life blog, Orangette. The two make wonderful Pistachio Cake with Honeyed Apricots together.
2. Bittersweet: Lessons From My Mother’s Kitchen, by Matt McAllester (Dial Press). A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter survives war-torn Beirut, Baghdad, Kabul and Kosovo but struggles to find an emotional connection to the mother he lost to mental illness decades earlier. She lives on in her recipes.
3. Hungry Monkey, by Matthew Amster-Burton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing). When a restaurant critic becomes a stay-at-home dad, he discovers alternatives to purees and kids’ meals.
4. Let Me Eat Cake, by Leslie F. Miller (Simon & Schuster). This eight-tiered tome explains how cake began as a Norse word in 1230, evolved as a holy trinity of flour, sugar and eggs, and emerged as this author’s absolute obsession.
If you’re still not sated, pick up Holly Hughes’ annual collection of Best Food Writing (DaCapo Press). The 2009 version won’t be out until October, but the 2008 edition contains essays by Michael Pollan, Calvin Trillin, and The Inquirer’s own Rick Nichols.
—MCT, The Philadelphia Inquirer
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