Feedback from our December discussion of books about food….and more

Will post the suggestions from this month’s meeting – will include a line or two about the books because a list is just kind of daunting.  will also post the list of suggestions for January when we will be talking about classics – in our very loose description of what a classic might be.  The list isn’t intended to act as what you should read – it should just give you an idea of how broadly we are defining the term – mostly as books that have stood the test of time long enough to head into a second generation of readers.


Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-sour memoir of eating in China

Fuchsia Dunlop

In this memoir, Fuchsia recalls her evolving relationship with China and its food, from her first rapturous encounter with the delicious cuisine of Sichuan Province to brushes with corruption, environmental degradation, and greed.

A Thousand Days in Venice: An unexpected romance

Marlena de Blasi

Highly recommended – As this transplanted American learns the hard way about the peculiarities of Venetian culture, we are treated to an honest, often comic view of how two middle-aged people, both set in their ways but also set on being together, build a life. 

The Sharper Your Knife, the less you cry: love, laughter and tears in Paris at the world’s most famous cooking school

Kathleen Flinn

OK – not fabulous – This is the funny and inspiring account of Kathleen Flinn’s struggle in a stew of hot-tempered chefs, competitive classmates, her own “wretchedly inadequate” French, and the basics of French cuisine.

Blood, Bones & Butter: the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef

Gabrielle Hamilton

Owner and chef of New York’s Prune restaurant, Hamilton also happens to be a trained writer (M.F.A., University of Michigan) and fashions an addictive memoir of her unorthodox trajectory to becoming a chef. 

Goat Song: A seasonal Life, A Short history of herding and the art of making cheese

Brad Kessler

Goat Song is the story of a year in the life of a couple who abandoned their one-bedroom apartment in New York City to live on seventy-five acres in Vermont and raise Nubian goats.

Untangling my chopsticks: a culinary sojourn in Kyoto

Victoria Abbott Riccardi

In 1986, two years out of college and restless at her job with an ad agency, Riccardi left New York to spend a year in Kyoto, where she lived with a Japanese couple and attended an elite school devoted to the study of kaiseki, a highly ritualized form of cooking that accompanies the formal tea ceremony.

The Matchmaker of Perigord: a novel

Julia Stuart

very light – For every reader who adored Chocolat, Julia Stuart’s The Matchmaker of Périgord is a delectable, utterly enchanting, and sinfully satisfying delight.

A homemade life: stories and recipes from my kitchen table

Molly Wizenberg

In a Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my kitchen table, Molly Wizenberg, The Founder of the acclaimed blog orangette, Recounts a life with the kitchen at its center.

The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake

Aimee Bender

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice.  – Several people in the group had read this and felt it did not live up to its potential.

Tender at the Bone; comfort me with Apples; Garlic and Sapphires

Ruth Reichl

Memoirs from the woman who was a chef, a food critic and the editor of Gourmet.  Liked the first two much better than Garlic and Sapphires which is less about her growing up and more about her experience as a food critic.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food

Jennifer 8 Lee

In her search, Jennifer 8 Lee traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. – Recommended

Wheat Belly

William Davis

A renowned cardiologist explains how eliminating wheat from our diets can prevent fat storage, shrink unsightly bulges, and reverse myriad health problems.   His premise appears to be that wheat has been significantly changed for agricultural purposes and the current varieties of wheat are not healthy for humans.

A Cup of Christmas Tea

Tom Hegg

lovely book – a straightforward, sentimental poem that brought tears to his audience’s eyes. First published in 1982, it’s been a seasonal best-seller ever since.

Under the Tuscan Sun

Frances Mayes

story of woman who moves to Tuscany – filled with food and the beauty of life in Italy

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)

Amy Thomas

Recommended:  Forever a girl obsessed with all things French, sweet freak Amy Thomas landed a gig as rich as the purest dark chocolate: leave Manhattan for Paris to write ad copy for Louis Vuitton. – also has a recommended BLOG –

The Making of a Chef; The Reach of a Chef

Michael Ruhlman

Books about chefs and the role of the chef in the kitchen

United States of Pie

Adrienne Kane

Woman travels the US looking for heritage pie recipes – which are included in the book – good recipes

The Ethics of What We Eat

Peter Singer

Looks at the food experiences of three families – a traditional American diet, a vegetarian/organic meat diet; and a vegan diet to explore the impact our food choices have on us and on the planet.

Eating Animals

Jonathan Safran Foer

Eating Animals explores the many fictions we use to justify our eating habits-from folklore to pop culture to family traditions and national myth-and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting. 

Animal Vegetable Miracle

Barbara Kingsolver

Her year of confining her family’s food choices to what they could grow or what was grown within 100 miles of them.

Sweet Life in Paris

David Levovitz

From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men’s footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David’s story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city.

Yes Chef: a memoir

Marcus Samuelsson

It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations.  

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Lovely lovely book – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society begins in January 1946, when popular author Juliet Ashton, much like her fellow British citizens, is emerging from the dark days of World War II. As Juliet exchanges a series of letters with her publisher and her best friend, readers immediately warm to this author in search of a new subject in the aftermath of war. By the time Juliet receives an unexpected query from Dawsey Adams, we are caught in a delightful web of letters and vivid personalities and eager for Juliet to find the inspiration she seeks.

Dying for Chocolate – and about 18 more titles

Diane Mott Davidson

Mysteries that feature a caterer and include recipes

Key Lime Pie Murder – and about 30 more titles

Joanne Fluke

Her character is baker Hannah Swensen (Minnesota)

The Body in the ….. (over 20 titles all that begin with this phrase)  latest is The Body in the Boudoir – which is a prequel

Katherine Hall Page

her character is Faith Fairchild, caterer married to a minister in a small New England town (Katherine lives in Lincoln)  recipes included

Shades of Earl Grey and several other titles

Laura Childs

This author has a series set in a tea shop, one around scrapbooking and one called the Cackleberry Club Series which is set in a cafe (recipes included)

Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.   Has lots of descriptions of Ethopian meals.

Major Pettigrew’s last Stand

Helen Simonson

this book really doesn’t come to mind when you talk about food but it’s a lovely story that will appeal to people who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

The Lotus Easter

Tatjiana Soli

A unique and sweeping debut novel of an American female combat photographer in the Vietnam War, as she captures the wrenching chaos and finds herself torn between the love of two men.  (we had finished talking about food and were just talking about books at this point.

Love is a Many Splendored Thing

Suyin Han

a book about that post-war Asia shaken from end to end by stupendous, revolutionary changes.

Titles next month

Edith Wharton

Carolyn has been reading lots of her less well known books and highly recommends them.

The Gift of Rain

Tan Twan Eng

This remarkable debut saga of intrigue and akido flashes back to a darkly opulent WWII-era Malaya.

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn

thriller – shows up on lots of “best of 2012” lists


Cheryl Strayed

memoir of an 1100 mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again. (also on best of lists)

Marmee  Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and her Mother

Eve LaPlante

Biographers have consistently attributed Louisa’s uncommon success to her father, Bronson Alcott, assuming that this outspoken idealist was the source of his daughter’s progressive thinking and remarkable independence. But in this riveting dual biography, award-winning biographer Eve LaPlante explodes these myths, drawing from a trove of surprising new documents to show that it was Louisa’s actual “Marmee,” Abigail May Alcott, who formed the intellectual and emotional center of her world. 

Food Wishes BLOG

Chef John

offers video instructions for his recipes



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