Food can be the great equalizer. We all have to eat, though our different backgrounds, tastes, and conveniences all influence exactly what, why, when, and how we eat. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to food-focused nonfiction. Not only does it combine two of my favorite things—good food and good books—it also allows me a window into someone else’s culinary world that I’m already vaguely familiar with. Sure, I know how to whip up a potato salad and dress a turkey, but how do other people do it and, more interestingly, why? Or better yet, why would someone avoid these foods altogether? We all share ingredients, but I find it fascinating when authors actually exam what exactly that means to them.
So for this Top Ten Tuesday, I’m happy to share quotes from ten of my favorite foodie nonfiction books.
The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher
I have been addicted to eating for half a century and to date show no signs of breaking the habit—or its kindred one of devouring food by courtesy of Gutenberg.
The Best Cook in the World by Rick Bragg
She had hoped for a daughter to pass her skills and stories to—that or a thoughtful son, someone worthy of the history, secrets, and lore; instead, she got three nitwit boys who would eat a bug on a bet and still cannot do much more than burn a weenie on a sharp stick, and could not bake a passable biscuit even if you handed us one of those whop-’em cans from the Piggly Wiggly and prayed for bread.
The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty
The Old South is a place where people use food to tell themselves who they are, to tell others who they are, and to tell stories about where they’ve been.
Everything is Under Control by Phyllis Grant
When I cook, I am calm. And confident. Baking works. You just follow the rules. There is comfort in the logic.
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee
Food is an intimate language that everyone understands, everyone shares. It is the primary ambassador of first contact between cultures, one that transcends spoken language. Food crosses cultural barriers. It bridges oceans.
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
But while cooking demands your entire attention, it also rewards you with endlessly sensual pleasures. The sound of water skittering across leaves of lettuce. The thump of the knife against watermelon, and the cool summer scent the fruit releases as it falls open to reveal its deep red heart. The seductive softness of chocolate beginning to melt from solid to liquid. The tug of sauce against the spoon when it thickens in the pan, and the lovely lightness of Parmesan drifting from the grater in gossamer flakes. Time slows down in the kitchen, offering up an entire universe of small satisfactions.
Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
Dinner alone is one of life’s pleasures. Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest. People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam.
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
To most people, I guess, turning twenty-one is all about booze. To me, turning twenty-one was all about coconut. Booze is nice, but coconut is chewable, and when push comes to shove, I will always like eating better than drinking. Everyone has their priorities.
My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme
I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as “Oh, I don’t know how to cook . . . ,” or “Poor little me . . . ,” or “This may taste awful . . .,” it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, “Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!” Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed—eh bien, tant pis!
Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi
Standing above the scene in my chef’s whites, I feel like an orchestra conductor peering in on my pit as the musicians tune up. Under the ruby sky, everything glimmers and shimmies with excitement. Next month is a historic election. Next month I’ll open my dream restaurant. Next month I’ll step into the life I’ve always wanted. So thought it’s late in the day, it feels like the dawn of something new.
Note: Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Be sure to check out her weekly post to find other participants.