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5 Best Nonfiction Food Books

April 02 2013 - 9:00 AM

If Top Chef, The Taste and Chopped are constantly blaring from your TV, I hope your book shelves are just as equipped for your love of food. Some people hate on nonfiction, yet I feel food nonfiction is one of the few exceptions that really engages me regardless of the topic. If you’re new to the genre or just looking for a few good summer reads to start adding to your list, check out five of my favorites.

1. Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
by Gabrielle Hamilton

It’s true that not all chefs can write, yet Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune in New York definitely has a knack for it. The book covers all of Hamilton’s influences in the kitchen, from her family to her travels. It isn’t my absolute favorite, although it is an interesting story that made me want to visit Prune.

2. Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
by Ruth Reichl

Ever wondered how being The New York Times food critic really works? Reichl takes you through her journey reviewing some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the city, with some hilarious and insightful anecdotes included. Another great choice is Reichl’s Tender At The Bone, which chronicles her life growing up, learning how to cook and trying to escape her mother’s poisonous cooking.

3. Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess
by Gael Greene

Food critic Gael Greene may be getting up there in years, but she’s still got it. She became New York Magazine’s restaurant Critic in 1968 and held her post for more than 30 years. Greene is candid, hilarious…and she even discloses information about her affairs with celebrities such as Elvis Presley.

4. In Defense of Food
by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan is one of my modern-day food heroes. I’ve met him and heard him speak, and his books are that much more influential to me now. In Defense of Food will totally change the way you grocery shop and think about everything you put in your mouth. Pollan serves up some tough information to swallow, yet he does so on a lovely organic platter, at least. My favorite takeaway: don’t eat anything your grandma wouldn’t recognize.

5. Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove
by Jeff Henderson

While this book isn’t quite as food focused as the others, it is incredibly interesting and inspiring. Jeff Henderson became the first African-American Chef de Cuisine at Caesar’s Palace after spending nearly a decade in prison. This is a story of how he turned his life around and where he got his love for food. He’s been featured on numerous shows, and will have his own show on The Food Network soon called The Chef Jeff Project.