Some people would consider any book they own something they’ve “read.” While I have not read On Food and Cooking cover to cover yet, I am about half way in. I am only providing those books that I would personally recommend because they have had an impact on me. I hope you enjoy the list!
Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé. The infamous 1971 argument that vegetarianism could end world poverty is still used today. In her book, Lappé unveils some of the first shocking statistics on grain and meat production and her complimentary protein theory, setting the tone for books like Peter Singer’s 1975 Animal Liberation.
The Ethics of What We Eat, Peter Singer. Singer’s 2007 study on the ethics of our food system is a more measured and approachable work than the 1975 Animal Liberation. If you want the meat scared out of you, go for the raw text of the latter (even better, read this one as a primer). If you want to learn about practical things like the ethics of your grocery list, I highly recommend his new work.
Food Matters, Mark Bittman. While I like Mark Bittman’s approach to eating less meat products and those of higher quality, I personally don’t care at all for his recipes. Nonetheless, the first 100 pages or so are a refreshing and simple read.
The Geography of Thought, Richard Nisbett. An utterly fascinating, if slightly dry scientific study on the cultural distinctions and principles between the East and West that have affected how we think. For anyone interested in different cultures, cognition, the nature vs. nurture argument, and especially any westerner or easterner transplanted across the world, this book is essential.
In the Devil’s Garden, Stewart Lee Allen. Thanks to Mark Kurlansky, the on-my-shelf reference book (cousin to the coffee table book) has turned its sights on food. What better a subject than the sinful and devilish history of the foods we’ve scorned and coveted with cult-like enthusiasm? What better indeed.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan. It’s now cliche to say something like “Michael Pollan made me think about food.” However overpraised this book has been, it was my gateway into the world of food. As such, I couldn’t really suggest to start anywhere else, now could I?
Slow Food Nation, Carlo Petrini. While he may not be as eloquent as Wendell Berry or as simplistic as Michael Pollan, Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food is the kind of grassroots advocacy that is acting, now. Slow Food’s advocacy of saving traditional foods, educating our youth, and building a more sustainable food system (one that is good, clean, and fair), is both respectful of the old but also embracing the new. Yes, I’m a Slow Food Member.
The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry. Berry argues that the abandonment of farms and rural areas has only alienated us from the land, from ourselves, and from each other. We venture into increasingly more specialized jobs in economies that don’t value human worth, nature, or community. You’ve probably heard the argument, but if not with Wendell Berry’s poetry and passion, you’re probably still doing it wrong.
Nutrition and Dieting
Ayurvedic Healing, Dr. David Frawley
Healing with Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford
The Raw Food Detox Diet, Natalia Rose
Real Food: What to Eat and Why, Nina Planck
Ultrametabolism, Mark M. D. Hyman
What to Eat, Marion Nestle
Arranging the Meal, Jean-Louis Flandrin
The Art of Cooking, Martino Di Como
Building a Meal, Professor Hervé This and Professor Malcolm DeBevoise
Eating Right in the Renaissance, Ken Albala
A History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman
Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky
Food Writing & Literature
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Natural History, Pliny the Elder
The Odyssey, Homer
The Physiology of Taste, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (Translated by M. F. K. Fisher)
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee
Food Lover’s Companion, Sharon Tyler Herbst
Herbs & Spices, Jill Normal
Knife Skills Illustrated, Peter Hertzmann
The Produce Bible, Leanne Kitchen, Deborah Madison
Spices, Manisha Gambhir Harkins
The Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Rebecca Wood
The Yoga of Herbs, Dr. Vasant Lad
The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters
The Cheese Plate, Max McCalman
Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters
Chinese Gastronomy, Hsiang-Ju Lin
Eggs, Michel Roux
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan
The Flexitarian Table, Peter Berley
The Gourmet Cookbook, Ruth Reichl
Heaven’s Banquet, Miriam Kasin Hospodar
The Improvisational Cook, Sally Schneider
Jamie at Home, Jamie Oliver
Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Yamuna Devi
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, Julia Child
Mediterranean Cooking, Paula Wolfert
Molto Italiano, Mario Batali
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon
Real Food, Nina Planck
Sunday Supper at Lucques, Suzanne Goin
William Sonoma’s Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker, Norman Kolpas
The Zuni Cafe, Judy Rodgers
Artisan Baking, Maggie Glezer
Baking Illustrated, Cook’s Illustrated
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Peter Reinhart
Home Baking, Jeffrey Alford
Whole Grain Baking, King Arthur Flour
William Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking, Cathy Burgett
Wilderness Skills, Foraging and Identification
EMERGENCY: This Book Will Save Your Life, Neil Strauss This is the newest section to the list, and I can credit Neil Strauss’ incredibly readable, if not totally practical survivalist makeover to single-handedly inspiring (and frightening) me to take control and bug out of NYC.
Tom Brown’s Science and Art of Tracking, Tom Brown
Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: The Classic Guide to Building Wilderness Shelters, D. C. Beard
Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Lawrence Newcomb
The Wild Gourmets, Guy Grieve and Thomasina Miers