vamysteryfan: (books)
There are cookbooks I get because I need the recipes (Weight Watchers Cook It Fast). Others are essentially food porn, like Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian, with beautiful pictures and mouthwatering descriptions of dishes I'll never cook. Then there are the ones I call food memoirs - partly recipes, partly stories and descriptions of the lives behind the food. Here are three worth reading.

To Eat: A Country Life by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, illus. Bobbi Angell This book refused to be categorized. The authors had decades of experience in working the land and they distilled it down to the purest essence. Each chapter is only a few pages long and covers a single vegetable. There's information about how to grow and cook it, but also how it fit into the farm, the seasons, and their lives. There are no tricks anywhere and I suspect their recipes and farm are much the same. It's an education in plain good language. Bobbi Angell's illustrations added greatly to my enjoyment of the book. Simple and beautiful.

Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life by Frances Mayes. Twenty years ago, Frances Mayes and her husband bought a house in Tuscany. They've been repairing it ever since, interspersed with good meals and good friends. This third book in the series has an air of farewell about it, not just to their life there but to the Tuscany that they knew. It tried to cover a little too much territory - it wasn't as cohesive as the earlier story. Still I enjoyed it.

Jam Today Too by Tod Davies. I loved the subtitle The Revolution Will Not be Catered. Revolutionaries seldom think about food and usually expect the women to do the cooking. The book is organized into life circumstances and the foods that might be appropriate to them. The recipes are arranged more as stories within the stories she's telling, rather than lists of ingredients. Her description of how to build a basic pantry was spot on. I loved her approach to the importance of eating locally and sustainably. She's at her best when she stays at the local level. Broader pronouncements aren't her strength. I was disappointed she repeated the old story about the Irish and fish (the English hanged poachers, so fish wasn't an option to solved the famine.)

And then there was Local: The Lexicon of Sustainability by Douglas Gayeton. This book annoyed me so much, I wanted to throw it across the room. I received an ARC for it, and it had a different subhead. I hope that means they changed some of the problems within. I've never seen a book so sabotaged by its design. Who thought it was a good idea to write in script across or (worse) around a photo? Or write in dark green across light green? Whole sections are inaccessible to people with vision difficulties. And readers don't put down a book to scan a QR code. I battled through enough of the text to realize it was badly organized as well. The goal is laudable, but this book does it a disservice.

I am reminded of <lj user="elmyraemilie">'s link to the NPR podcast on why we buy cookbooks. Strikes me that this is a good description of why and what I get.


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