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Food memoirs and biographies (a reading list)

November 1, 2009

Tags: food, memoirs

Writing about food and meals is a good way of getting at family dynamics and core memories, because so many of our interactions with family, good or bad, are associated with shared meals. For foodies, a good food memoir or biography offers delight on several levels and often sends us into the kitchen to recreate a scene! I've departed from listing only memoirs here because the lives of people like Julia Child are so darned interesting that some biographies just cry to be listed. For those taking or teaching a life writing (or life-telling) class, these may serve as triggers for your own memories. Here's a reading list to begin with; let me know if there's anything you'd add (or subtract):
• Abu-Jaber, Diana. The Language of Baklava (growing up partly in Jordan)
• Apple, Jr., R.W.. Far Flung and Well Fed
• Bemelmans, Ludwig. Hotel Bemelmans (behind-the-scenes account of a great hotelby a writer who worked at the Ritz and who wrote the Madeline books)
• Bociurkiw, Marusya. Comfort Food for Breakups: The Memoir of a Hungry Girl
• Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen Confidential Updated Ed: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.)
• Boyle, T.C.. Talk Talk (a novel about identity theft that some criticize for too much food writing--not a problem for foodies!)
• Buford, Bill. Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany
• Child, Julia. My Life in France (delicious!)
• Child, Julia about: Noel Riley Fitch, Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child; Nancy Verdi Barr, Backstage with Julia: My Years with Julia Child; and Julie Powell, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen
• Claiborne, Craig. A Feast Made for Laughter
• Colwin, Laurie. Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
• Ehrlich, Elizabeth. Miriam's Kitchen: A Memoir
• Ephron, Nora. Heartburn (Memoir, disguised as novel, with recipes and outrage)
• Epstein, Jason. Eating: A memoir
• Ferrary, Jeannette. Out of the Kitchen: Adventures of a Food Writer
• Fisher, M.F.K.. The Art of Eating (brings together the wonderful Fisher’s Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet for Gourmets)
• Fussell, Betty. My Kitchen Wars
• Greene, Gael. Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess
• Guinta, Edvige. The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture
• Haney, John. Fair Shares for All: A Memoir of Family and Food (growing up hungry in London’s East End
• Jaffrey, Madhur. Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India
• Jones, Judith. The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food (Knopf’s legendary cookbook editor)
• Kingsolver, Kingsolver. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (about the year they lived without processed foods)
• Liebling, A.J.. Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris
• Maisto, Michele. The Gastronomy of Marriage
• Mayle, Peter. A Year in Provence; French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew
• McNamee, Peter. Alice Waters and Chez Panisse
• Mitchell, Joseph. Up in the Old Hotel (especially “All You Can Hold for Five Bucks”)
• Mones, Nicole. The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel (a novel, but a great gift for foodies)
• Orwell, Joseph. Down and Out in Paris and London (you will never feel the same about a restaurant meal again)
• O’Neill, Molly. Mostly True: A Memoir of Family, Food, and Baseball
• Pepin, Jacques. The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen
• Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (this is bigger than a memoir) and The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World
• Reichl, Ruth. Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table (the early years); Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
• Richman, Alan. Fork It Over: The Intrepid Adventures of a Professional Eater
• Roberts, Doris. Are You Hungry, Dear? Life, Laughs, and Lasagna
• Sedaris, David. Me Talk Pretty One Day (he’s funny, and there’s a food story)
• Sheraton, Mimi. Eating My Words: An Appetite for Life
• Slater, Nigel. The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater and Toast
• Steingarten, Jeffrey. The Man Who Ate Everything
• Trillin, Calvin. The Tummy Trilogy (or any of his books)
• Villas, James. Between Bites: Memoirs of a Hungry Hedonist
• West, Michael Lee. Consuming Passions: A Food-Obsessed Life
Anthologies:
• Bodger, Lorraine. Eater's Digest: 400 Delectable Readings about Food and Drink
• Hesser, Amanda. Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table (essays from the New York Times, with recipes)
• Hughes, Holly. Best Food Writing 2008
• In My Mother's Kitchen: 25 Writers on Love, Cooking, and Family (contributions by Maya Angelou, Jennifer Appel, Holly Clegg, M. F. K. Fisher, Rosemary Gong, Tina Miller, Kitty Morse, Michel Nishan, - Christina Orchid, Ruth Reichl, Julie Sahni, Nigel Slate, Walter Staib, James Villas, Joyce White
• Miller, Leslie. Women Who Eat: A New Generation on the Glory of Food
• Witherspoon, Kimberly and Andrew Freidman. Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs