Here, Try This Thing: Best Under-The-Radar Food Books
A (food) book for every (food) occasion.By Buffet
You know those moments you're reading a book and want to smell the pages just to cement a sensory sentence you’ve just encountered? Just us? No? Well, we love them. Lucky for us, one of the many perks of working at Buffet is the book allowance we all receive each quarter (not spon, it’s for promoting creativity and downtime!). Every three months our #books Slack channel goes off with thrilling announcements of what we’re adding to cart, and they're often food-centric. So, to make your next online book haul experience less stressful and more flavoursome, we’ve collated the team’s favourite under-the-radar food reads. Under-the-radar in the sense that they’re not all blockbusters, Oprah probably hasn’t mentioned them (yet), they’re just really good. Read on for books to cook with, some you’ll underline and reference in your food writing, photography essays to be inspired by and, of course, a few frothy whipped-cream beach reads. Enjoy!
Molly Urquhart, Content and Copy Editor
The Third Plate, by Dan Barber
The Third Plate is essential reading for anyone who eats. Dan Barber, chef and writer, looks at the farm-to-plate ethos, how it’s possibly harmful and offers a different, better way of eating. He challenges the ethics of foie gras and just reiterates, time and time again, the importance of caring for land. I love this, on the unadorned dessert peach on California's Chez Panisse’s menu: “Masumoto’s [the farmer’s] peaches were incredibly delicious. But more than that–as if a peach needs to be more than that–they got people to consider good food as inseparable from good farming.”
Gemma Plunkett, Content Editor
The Food of Sichuan, by Fuchsia Dunlop
The Food of Sichuan doesn’t skim over the details. It’s an in-depth, precise and intriguing dive into the numbing, striking, fish fragrant wonders of Sichuan cuisine. It’s hard to find books like this, cookbooks that dig right into a region and pull out all the good bits and go into detail on harder-to-find ingredients. It takes me back to when I was in Chongqing a few years ago, although it’s no longer a part of the Sichuan province (as it’s grown into its own) the food is very much as spicy, textural and interesting. I will admit, I’m completely obsessed with this book. Last week I cooked from it four times and I’ll probably use it again tonight.
Megan Gordon, Strategy and Content Manager
The Sun and Moon Guide to Eating Through Literature and Art, edited by Douglas Messerli
An oldie(ish) but a goodie, first published in 1994, this random (in the ’90s sense of the word) compendium of recipes, art, poetry and prose (all centred around food, glorious food) is a delicious, fun and sometimes weird ride. The book is divided into eight "courses" (for example "Entrees" and "Memories, Cigars, Liquors and Late Night Snacks") and features a smorgasbord of writing talent, from the likes of Samuel Beckett, Gabriel García Márquez and Ernest Hemingway. Fun to snack on by flipping through or go the whole hog and read cover to cover. Lots to tantise and surprise, and further proof (in case you need it) that food is definitely art.
Sophie McComas-Williams, Director
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
The frontwoman of indie rock band Japanese Breakfast’s memoir focuses on the agony of losing her mother to cancer. It’s about family and connection to culture, but it’s also about Korean food — soooo much of it! If you’re into kimchi and plentiful banchan and porridge made from rice and pine nuts (jatjuk) and serving the ones you love food that means something, then you’ll love the bubbling undertone to this touching, heart-wrenching book. It’ll be a film soon, too!
Nikki To, Director
Feast For The Eyes by Susan Bright
This book is my ultimate food photography inspiration location. It follows the story of food photography dating back to the 19th century with cameos from the likes of Man Ray, Irving Penn, Gourmet Magazine and Bobby Doherty, just to name a few.
Issy Plasto, Production Coordinator
Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
This isn’t your typical food book, but as the main character Nina is a successful food writer, this one can’t go unnoticed. Alderton’s debut novel is a funny portrayal of love, relationships and family, but at the crux of it all is Nina’s love for food, while watching her beloved dad deteriorate with Dementia. The poignant writing about food, memory and nostalgia is a particularly special aspect of this one.
Julia Bowdler, Graphic Designer
The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
This is a 700-page encyclopedia on the classics of Italian food. It isn’t fancy (there are no images in the book), but rather a rustic staple for any home cook wanting to perfect the art of Italian cuisine. From the basics of how to make gnocchi to ossobuco and frozen tangerine shells filled with tangerine sorbet, this book has it covered.
Emilie Gaïda, Operations Manager
Delicious: The evolution of flavor and how it made us human by Rob Dunn & Monica Sanchez
A delightful blend between storytelling and science — this book offers an interesting perspective on the evolution of flavours, where they come from but also what role they have played in the evolution of our society (cooking tools, the creation of beers, some interesting facts about monks and cheese, etc).
Rose Howard, Content and Development Editor
Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History, Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal by Margaret Visser
A mouthful of a title. Margaret’s Visser’s Much Depends on Dinner, 1986, is a seminal socio-cultural treasure, a history of dinner rituals that have stood the test of time, with each chapter deep-diving into staples like Butter, Lemon Juice, Ice Cream, Salt and Rice. Open to any page, and you are gonna learn something you probably did not know (or, perhaps, did not want to know). Such as butter in mythologies the world over is a symbol of semen. It’s an essential reference book to have on your shelf if you are a food writer, and I’ve seen it referenced all over, especially by Rachel Roddy in her recipe column for The Guardian — exhibit A and B. It is, surprisingly, a page-turner.
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