If you prefer longer form journalism, then you’re in luck. In addition to thousands of cookbooks, the library owns a substantial collection of food writing. You’ll find classics by MFK Fisher as well as a multitude of culinary memoirs of chefs, restaurant critics and home cooks – an area of publishing that took off after Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain showed the wide-appeal these books could have.
I’ve put two of the library’s newest books in this genre on my to read list this fall: Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg and Sous Chef: 24 hours on the Line by Michael Gibney. I was excited to see these two, because a few years ago I blazed through this genre and felt like I checked out everything the library owned on the topic. A few standouts from that reading adventure:
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelson – Samuelson was orphaned as a child in Ethiopia, raised by adoptive parents in their native Sweden and educated in central Europe before settling in New York City. The New York Times called the memoir “beautiful.” A great read that spans the poorest of rural Ethiopia with the most sophisticated of Western cooking in the world’s richest cities.
Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton – a true literary work. I read it at the same time I was reading a novel, and I kept putting that book down to return to this one. Anthony Bourdain, no slacker when it comes to literary writing, called Hamilton’s book “the best memoir by a chef, ever.”
Life, on the Line by Grant Achatz – James Beard award-winner Achatz experienced the cruelest twist fate for a chef when he was stricken with stage IV squamous cell carcinoma tongue cancer. The aggressive treatment, which saved his life, left him without a sense of taste. He relays the journey to save his career and his restaurant in this book.
Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as a Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford – Buford, a former New Yorker staffer, left his publishing job and convinced Mario Batali to let him work in the kitchen at Babbo, despite having no professional kitchen experience.Now, I need to channel the same enthusiasm I had when I raced through these books. There’s a Thanksgiving dinner that needs my attention.
-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library