Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Four great food books

Lying in bed the night before I moved out of the East Village apartment, I glanced over at my left hand bedside table (nightstand), and was suddenly struck by the titles piled up there. No devotional reading, light bedtime novels, or volumes of bien pensees for me. No, I had a stack of books about food.

Since I discovered the cookery book section at Strand, my book spending habits have been out of control. Since Union Square is on the way to just about everything, I convince myself at least twice weekly that Strand, just a couple of blocks south, is equally en route.

Just a leeetle look, I mumble to myself, already pushing through the doors.

Thing is, not only do they seem to stock just about everything (Strand buys thousands of books every day, so the stock is continually changing), they also have great discounts on list prices (often cheaper than Amazon) and, in addition to the largest rare books collection in New York City, they also buy/sell secondhand books so there are treasures to be unearthed.

And, of course, I'm all about supporting independent book stores. Yup, that's why I spend so much money in Strand. Nothing to do with my verging on uncontrollable book addiction.

That pile next to my bed:
Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Careme, the First Celebrity Chef by Ian Kelly.: Tales Near the Runway gave me this when she stayed over for last season's NYFW. Wonderful insight into the beginnings of the cult of the chef in the 18th & 19th centuries.

American Food Writing: An Anthology: With Classic Recipes by Molly O'Neill. At $40 I lusted after this book for months, stroking its covers and dipping into the essays whilst lurking in Strand's corners, before finally giving in. From Meriwether Lewis's pioneer treks across the country to Michael Pollan's food missionary zeal, this book runs the gamut of the American way of eating. Extraordinary.

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution by Thomas McNamee. Extremely thorough & fascinating biography of a curiously unlikeable woman, which illustrates how this visionary overruled normal boundaries of common sense, politesse and feasibility to achieve her ends.

Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink by David Remnick. Ranging across memoirs, short stories, poems and essays from the life span of The New Yorker, this is a wonderful dip-in anthology from writers from all fields.(M.F.K. Fisher, Roald Dahl, Julian Barnes, Joseph Mitchell, Calvin Trillin & Adam Gopnik all make an appearance.)