The Sunday Salon – Cooking Away

The Sunday

There are cook books, and there are cooking books. I’m in the mood for cooking books.

The difference? Cook Books are focused on recipes, page after page, and if you’re lucky there are color pictures of the completed dish so you know what it’s supposed to look like and whether your own creation compares favorably.

Cooking books elevate food preparation and consumption to an art. They are mainly narrative, where the author waxes rhapsodical about foods they have known and loved. They artistically describe the lushness of ripe fruit, the mellow smoothness of good cheese, the sharp tang of spice on the tongue. They invite the reader to sit at the table and sup, to partake of the delicious bounty and savor every morsel.

I trace my newfound interest in cooking books directly to a recent read of  A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway’s classic memoir of Paris in the 1920’s, a book where food becomes symbolic of the expat lifestyle. Hemingway, Fitzgerald,  Stein, imbibing the sweet life in their favorite cafe while they wrote furiously and carried on fervent discussions about literature and the world. Cafe life seems so romantic and exciting and intellectually stimulating. Somehow, no matter how much time I spend in Starbucks or Panera, my laptop open on the table before me, I can’t quite capture the stimulating atmosphere Steinbeck conveys in this book.

Still, it’s made me very interested in cooking books. So I’m on the hunt for more memoirs about food. Ruth Reichl, I know about. Laurie Colwin, I know about.

Now tell me, Sunday Saloners, who else should I be feasting upon?

13 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon – Cooking Away

  1. Hmmm… if you haven’t read Julia Child’s My Life in France, then that should probably be first on your list. Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef gets high reviews, and it’s on my list as well. For sheer exuberance, good humor, and derring-do, I’d recommend Jeffrey Steingarten’s The Man Who Ate Everything; it’s not a memoir, exactly, but kind of a collection of culinary adventures and explorations (essays); lots of fun & easy to read in short bursts.

    Recommended with reservations: Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Definitely crude and definitely not for everybody, but I felt the tenderness under the surface and that got me through some rough spots. You should probably read the reviews — and maybe especially NEGATIVE reviews — before committing to it. Also, Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton: irritatingly uneven — somehow manages to tell all, but shows very little insight into anything except food & the food business; her personal life will leave you completely baffled. Still, when she’s writing about food, hospitality, and the desires that motivated her to start her restaurant, she’s wonderful.

    Good luck — will be interested in hearing what finally ends up on your stack!

  2. I’ve never been good at the cooking book recommendation, so I fail for you on that one. However, I’ll happily cheer you on and reminisce on the greatness that is A Moveable Feast. Man, Hemingway knocked it out of the park with that one. I loved everything about it! Can’t wait to see what cooking books you find and share with us!

  3. Ooh, great distinction! I think Peter Mayle’s Provence series of food talk about a love of food (not necessarily cooking, but definitely eating). Those might be a good bet 🙂

    • I love the Provence books by Peter Mayle, and there is definitely a lot of eating going on in there! Good choice – I have them all and they bear re-reading 🙂

  4. A Moveable feast is one of my favourite books. Have you read the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein? It’s almost a companion to A Moveable Feast. Many of the same “characters” make an appearance in Stein’s Parisian apartment. Lots of dinner parties and cafes. It’s a delicious read! Watch for my post on “Alice B. Toklas” in a day or two, if you like.

  5. Pingback: All roads lead to Paris: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein | educationdiva

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