Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Required Reading


Recommended Posts

  • 1 month later...

I will provisionally nominate Ali-Bab's Practical Gastronomy. Provisionally, as I haven't read it (I just got my copy from www.abebooks.com), but had seen it recommended in Becoming a Chef (where I was also turned on to many good books, including The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, my favorite book on any subject, ever), and in Craig Claiborne's autobiography (A Feast Made for Laughter, a good read in its own right)'s recommended cookbook library, if I remember right, etc.

Edited to change underlines to boldface. Why? Because I'm a lemming. Squeak!

Edited by afn33282 (log)
Frau Farbissma: "It's a television commercial! With this cartoon leprechaun! And all of these children are trying to chase him...Hey leprechaun! Leprechaun! We want to get your lucky charms! Haha! Oh, and there's all these little tiny bits of marshmallow just stuck right in the cereal so that when the kids eat them, they think, 'Oh this is candy! I'm having fun!'"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perfection Salad by Laura Shapiro

Her second book, Something From the Oven, is also good.

Food Politics, by Marion Nestle, for an interesting look at the relationship between the government and the food industry.

Culinary Artistry is probably the most circulated book at the library where I work.

Making of a Pastry Chef by MacClauchlan is the same for the dessert-oriented.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If we include Saucesand some of the other cookbooks suggested (and how can you have a culinary library without them), then I might suggest the following, wich also have substansial sections and anecdotal information appreciating said food.

Thai Food, by David Thompson

La Technique/La MethodeJacques Pepin

The Complete Book of PorkBruce Aidelson

Marcella's CucinaMarcella Hazan

The Cuisines of MexicoDiane Kennedy

The Making of a CookMadelline Kamman

These are seminal works, and I would personally not visit any Culinary Library that didn't have them in the stacks (library talk for shelves, my dad is a librarian :wink: ).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Escoffier Cookbook

The Physiology of Taste - Jean Anthelme (Brillat-Savarin) is a very interesting read.

And if I can ever find an English translation of Les Classiques De La Table, which was co-authored by Brillat-Savarin, Louis (Marquis de Cussy), Alexandre Balthazar (Grimod De La Reyniere), Marie Antoine Careme, and Alexander Dumas – I’d snatch that up in a second as I’m sure it contains an untold wealth of information from the depths of French cuisine that, if for nothing else, would be interesting. Cussy alone was said to have more than 350 + recipes for chicken.

{edit}: Sorry... 366, one for each day of the year... including leap years.. or so I read.

Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can't believe I forgot to mention Copeland Marks's fabulous books of which I have read only Korean, but recently acquired another and am looking forward to it. Also Bread Alone, by Daniel Leader.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This may be a bit more obscure, but the book Six Thousand Years of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History by H.E. Jacob is a fascinating look at the development of mankind via the simultaneous discovery of harvesting wheat, inventing the plow, building an oven, etc. Until I read this tome of food history, I had not realized the true evolutionary impact of our daily bread.

I reviewed the book here if you are curious.

Thanks to all of you for these wonderful recommendations; it looks like I have some shopping to do. Given the name of my website, you can guess which book is on my top library shelf. :wink:

Jennifer L. Iannolo

Founder, Editor-in-Chief

The Gilded Fork

Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Home of the Culinary Podcast Network

Never trust a woman who doesn't like to eat. She is probably lousy in bed. (attributed to Federico Fellini)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Blue Trout and Black Truffles~Peregrinations of an Epicure

by Joseph Wechsberg. Is a great look at the history of fine dining, as well as providing insights regarding dining in general. There is something about it that makes it a great read for anyone truly interested in food/dining/history, IMO.


Patrick Sheerin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...

Ran across this thread while on another search. I'm without access to my home bookshelves at the moment, but would like to add these off the top of my head in response to the original post:

Good to Eat (previously released as The Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pig) : Riddles of Food and Culture- Marvin Harris

The Anthropologist's Cookbook- Jessica Kuper

Might come up with a few more later.

"A good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." Virginia Woolf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a bibliophile/cookbook seller I can't fault any of the above but if Ihad to choose one it would be a dead heat between Patience Gray's Honey from a Weed and Elizabeth David's An Omelette & A Glass of wine

Some suggestions from down under....

Plenty: digressions with food by Gaye Bilson persnal ruminations from one of Australia's great restaurateurs that won several book of the year non fiction category awards down here

One Continuous Picnic by Michael Symons a history of Australian gastronomy now out of print

A History of Cooks & Cooking by Michael Symons originally published as The Pudding that took 1000 chefs

Can't believe you haven't included Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef and The Soul of a Chef!

"The purpose of a cookery book is one & unmistakable. Its object can conceivably be no other than to increase the happiness of mankind - Joseph Conrad"


new & old books about wine, food & the culinary arts bought & sold

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lets not forget The Seasoning of a Chef by Douglas Psaltis as its the book that spurned the largest debate ever here on Egullet.

Great book about a chef working his tail off to get into some of the finest kitchens in the country (and I might say not well kept freezers).

Edited by rocketman (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The literature produced by cultural historians, anthropologists, sociologists & writers or scholars hard to classify is overwhelming. There are academic presses with special series devoted to Food & Culture now that some recognition is given to the importance (as well as sexiness) of the intersection of these two categories.

Classics, Surveys or Worth Notice:

Claude Levi-Strauss, Totem and Taboo

Carole, Counihan, The Anthropology of Food and Body Gender, Meaning and Power

Ditto, Around the Tuscan Table. Food, Family & Gender in Twentieth-Century Florence, and as ed., Food and Culture: A Reader.

Bynum, Caroline Walker, Holy Feast and Holy Fast

Schlosser, Eric, Fast Food Nation (At least, I think this hasn't been mentioned.)

Spang, Rebecca L. The Invention of the Restaurant. Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture.

(Awarded numerous academic prizes from her peers.)

Two members have already mentioned Laura Shapiro who demonstrates how important cookbooks are as sources for researchers.

While I suppose James Peterson's Sauces might qualify if we're looking at the continuing influence of Haute Cuisine, or a certain type of reference book that is meant to expose home cooks to the lessons that professionals learn, I would say it's not as central to this thread as, for example, Mango Leaves & Curry, now under discussion here at eGullet or Paula Wolfert's revised publication on the cooking of South-west France.

In the regional forum on Italy, a number of members are cooking their way through specific areas of the country. One of the trends in cookbook publishing now is "micro" vs. "macro" cuisine. I.e., long after Artuso Pellegrino, Ada Boni, Marcella Hazan and others tried to define a national identity through recipes, cookbook authors are honing on the unique--or shared--dishes and habits of a single region.

A classic in that kind of approach is Richard Olney's Lulu's Provencal Table, long out of print, but reissued recently, probably because of the new publishing trend...as well as influence on Alice Waters, etc.

For Italy, there are many micro-books. Some of us are using Matt Kramer's A Passion for Piedmont now.

Another exploring a single city, but the living heart of a former empire, is David Downie's Cooking the Roman Way, a book whose lengthy bibliography attests to the fact that scholarship has always been a part of the cookbook writer's tasks. Research nonetheless informs illustrated "inserts", or pages of text that interrupt the flow of recipes by providing background on the "authentic" spaghetti--or penne--carbonara, etc. In fact, the subtitle of the book is Authentic Recipes from the Home Cooks and Trattorias of Rome, a title that tells you how much the author strives to understand the socio-cultural aspects of the dishes he presents.

There is too much more to mention. However, Deborah Madison's Local Flavors is not just a cookbook; it seeks to document the growing development of farmers markets...or what is sometimes called the "farmers market movement." I picked up something else recently that I think was called Fields of Green that is related, but written from a farmer's perspective with more essay-like text than recipe writing.

The name Deborah Madison also brings to mind vegetarian culture, so Anna Thomas and the two volumes of The Vegetarian Epicure deserve attention even though they're "just" cookbooks.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lets not forget The Seasoning of a Chef by Douglas Psaltis as its the book that spurned the largest debate ever here on Egullet.

Great book about a chef working his tail off to get into some of the finest  kitchens in the country (and I might say not well kept freezers).

The book was hotly-debated primarily because of the author's (perceived) credibility issues. While it was an informative and mildly entertaining book, it was pretty poorly written. Required reading? Not even close in my personal opinion, though it does contain a few notable moments.


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This thread has certainly given me some new titles for my reading list!

Classics, Surveys or Worth Notice:

. . . Bynum, Caroline Walker, Holy Feast and Holy Fast


Would be interested to know your opinion on Holy Feast and Holy Fast in particular, before I jump in and order- It was one of the titles I didn't recognize.


"A good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." Virginia Woolf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would also suggest Ma Gastronomie by Fernand Point. It is an excellent combination of stories about Point, discussions of his philosophy, and recipes.

Edited by mikeycook (log)

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Create New...