WLRN #FridayReads: Foodie Edition

Jul 21, 2017

We've had mangoes on our mind all month. (Stay tuned for an upcoming story about mango chutney!)

Then we remembered Miami Spice month starts Aug. 1. So, to prepare for deals on delicious meals in South Florida, we asked two writers and a chef about their favorite food books. 

What are your favorite books about food? Tell us with the hashtag #FridayReads or just share what you're reading right now by tweeting at us

Diana Abu-Jaber, author of "The Language of Baklava" and "Life Without A Recipe"

To my mind, it all starts with M.F.K. Fisher. She was a sort of Empress, a high priestess of artistic culinary sensibility: her work is literary and yet deeply sensual. Of all her books, I most love "The Gastronomical Me" — erudite, personal, and delicately written, with great precision of thought and detail. This book chronicles a cross-section of Fisher's meals and travels with husbands, lovers, and strangers. 

It's difficult to classify her work because her writing is so immersed in voice, so very close-up, that the real life of her writing seems to be as embedded in the sentences as in the stories. She describes the simplest moments with a richness of detail that is both delicious and oddly moving: "She put stone jars of cream there, too, and wire baskets of eggs and lettuces, and when she drew them up, like netted fish, she would shake the cold water onto us and laugh almost as much as we did." Her prose glows, illuminating both the surfaces and the interiors.

One of the problems with much of food writing is that it can be a bit cheap — leaning on food as a quick and easy metaphor, or rarely transcending itself. "The Gastronomical Me" is elevated and brilliant as any great writing. John Updike called her — perhaps with a bit of smile — our Poet of the Appetites, yet her work demonstrates clearly that the "appetites" are the subject of all true poets.

Carlos Frias, Miami Herald food and dining editor

Food memoirs have been de rigeur since Anthony Bourdain wrote his "Kitchen Confidential," and most pale in comparison. One that decidedly does not is Eric Ripert's "32 Yolks," a fierce and honest memoir from one of the world's great chefs (who spends about a week a month at his Miami Beach condo). Life in the kitchen, and being raised by an abusive stepfather, made him hard; the love of a Puerto Rican woman and a Buddhist lifestyle softened him. It's easy to see why the book left Bourdain himself speechless.

Linda Gassenheimer, author of Flavor of the Florida Keys and host of WLRN's Topical Current's Food News & Views segment, also recommended Ripert’s memoir. She called it “very uplifting and moving.” 

Martha Hubbard, Isle Cook culinary curator

I have always been more of a reader on the culture and cuisine history of foodstuffs, etc., than pondering the political agenda writings on food. One of my favorites is James Beard’s "American Cookery." Mostly because his research is obviously from the Old World (immigrant recipes) and newer foods evolving into what was then, I think in the very early ‘50's maybe even the ‘40's, defining American Cuisine. I also recommend anything that Alice Waters or Julia Child has written. Keeping food simple and fresh — it's not always the easiest!