I’ve gotten really into food related books recently – not so much cookbooks, but memoirs or fiction describing food and how it relates to the author or characters lives. Here’s a few of my favourites.
Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes – Elizabeth Bard
At a glance this looks like fluffy chic lit – American girl goes to Paris for a conference and falls in love with a dashing Frenchman over pavé au poivre. And yes, there are elements that are a bit on the romantic side. But this book is much more than that – there’s also the challenges of moving to a new country, dealing with French bureaucracy, being a wife and of course, the food. Bard’s writing style is light and very readable, even when describing heavy subjects. There’s a lot of love and joy in her descriptions of food, which made me drool and wonder just how Parisian women stay so thin. Her descriptions of Paris, especially marketplaces, make me more determined than ever to see it for myself.
Each chapter has a relevant recipe or two at the end, written in quite a descriptive and chatty manner. I tried cooking the lentil soup recipe, which turned out to be the best lentil soup I’ve ever had. I’m tempted to try some of the other recipes, especially the sweet ones, although the amount of butter in French cuisine makes me a little wary of cooking too much of it!
A Homemade Life
If you read the first paragraph of the blurb of this book and imagined that it would be about finding yourself in Paris, you might be a little disappointed. Molly, the author, writes a chapter or two in the middle of the book about her time in Paris following the death of her father, but this isn’t the focus of the book. A Homemade Life is more about the varied relationships and people in Molly’s life, and how they then relate back to food, in the sense of recipes they introduced to her or foods she associates with them. Often it’s very personal, including the devastating effects of cancer and chemotherapy on her father, and her meeting her now husband through her blog, Orangette. The writing is full of love and enthusiasm, which in my opinion is exactly what needs to poured into homemade food.
The recipes show the very multicultural nature of American cuisine, with some French food thrown in from her time in Paris. I’ve bookmarked but have yet to try ‘roasted eggplant ratatouille’, ‘Dutch baby pancakes with lemon and sugar’, ‘tomato soup with two fennels’ and ‘chana masala’ to name a few.
Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes – Shoba Narayan
This book follows the life of the author, from growing up in Madras to studying in and eventually moving to the USA. Food plays such a large part in Indian culture, and each dish seems to be tied to particular memories and and important people in her life. One of the defining moments was the challenge to cook a proper Indian feast for her family in order to be allowed to move to the US to study – which she does despite the odds. A lifelong vegetarian, each dish Narayan describes makes use of vegetables, dhal, chickpeas and flour combined with an array of spices that sound more delicious than any of the vegetarian meals that I generally cook.
Although I love the food I’ve never really had much of an urge to travel to India – but I think this book has changed my mind. Apart from the amazing sounding food, the descriptions seem so colourful and enticing, filled with an interesting and really unique culture. It’s also interesting to see her foreigner’s view of America, and her rebellion against some Indian traditions whilst embracing others.
There’s a recipe at the end of each chapter, which I’ve just flicked through quickly for the moment – I’m always looking for good vegetarian recipes to throw into our meal plan though, so I’ll probably try a few eventually.
I think next I’ll go for something from a male perspective – maybe The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz, or something about eating locally, like Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith.
Read any good books lately?