If you are a foodie, you know that food books are not merely cookbooks Food books are a world of their own, going from autobiographies of iconic chefs to journals of globetrotters, fictional works describing lavish spreads, and so much more. They are not just about food either - they explore the nuances of taste buds, the psychology of appetite and desire, and how food speaks to the soul. Great food writing is like a fine piece of 4D audio; it creates a multi-sensory experience. In the spirit of cosying up at home and cooking meals for loved ones, we have put together a list of five books that will make you smell the spices and hear the sounds of the sizzling butter-smeared toast!
The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais
A timeless novel that was adapted into a movie starring Om Puri, Manish Dayal, and Helen Mirren, The Hundred Foot Journey is a delightful read that delves into Indian and French cuisines. It takes readers through a cultural journey from India to London to the French Alps through Hassan Haji’s immigrant family. Against vivid backdrops like Mumbai and Lumière, France, Morais puts forth enticing descriptions of flavours, tastes, aromas, and textures. From simmering sauces to curries, roasted meats, and Michelin-star delicacies, the story is a beautiful celebration of cultures, kitchens, and cuisines.
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, by Ruth Reichl
As the name indicates, Garlic and Sapphires is a novel about Reichl’s stint as a coveted, undercover critic for the New York Times. A world-renowned chef, critic, and editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, Reichl gives us a rare glimpse into the epicurean world. The book features entertaining anecdotes of high-profile restaurants, how Reichl disguised herself, and the absurdly funny world of ratings and reviews. Together with her favourite restaurant reviews, and recipes, Garlic and Sapphires is packed with revelations that Reichl had about how we present ourselves and how we are treated. There was a time when waiters were offered cash to spot her, but she was rarely caught. Now that she has retired from writing reviews, the book serves like a time-machine into the pre-social-media era.
Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America by Gustavo Arellano
Arellano takes a historical and cultural deep dive into Mexican food with this informative read full of facts, mouth-watering recipes, and his witty opinions. Nobody can quite explore the evolution of Mexican cuisine in America, the Tex-Mex movement, the rise of Chipotle, and the origins of tacos, tortillas, and burritos like Arellano. “Mexican food has entranced Americans while Mexicans have perplexed Americans,” he writes. Uncovering history through politically and emotionally charged stories, Arellano shows how food eventually united the two nations. In modern-day America, Mexican food is ubiquitous as American food, and a billion-dollar industry. Part-memoir, part-cookbook, there are some authentic Mexican recipes in Taco USA that Arellano absolutely treasures.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Another one on this list that was adapted into a feature film starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, Heartburn is an autobiographical, bittersweet account of the late Nora Ephron’s life, centred on her second marriage and subsequent divorce. Nora Ephron was a journalist, screenwriter, and director. A tale of love, betrayal, and heartache, imbued with Ephron’s authenticity and wit and peppered with recipes, it is meant for those who love a good book. For the food connoisseurs, Ephron leaves behind a host of comfort food recipes like key lime pie, mashed potatoes, sorrel soup, simple loaves of bread, and linguine allaCecca, to name a few. Thirty-five years since it has been published, and Heartburn remains a favourite among those who treasure fine writing about food and breakups.
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
Consider this book the closest you will ever get to experience a decadent feast that includes everything under the sun. A hilarious and impassioned read, Steingarten draws from his days as a Vogue food writer to put together recipes that go from simple french fries to Tunisian Mechouia, basic homemade ketchup to Alsatian choucroute. In addition to being a cookbook, it is a brilliant collection of travel stories that pretty much teleport you to modern marvels in Paris and ancient Egypt. The Man Who Ate Everything packs self-deprecating humour, some propaganda, some discourse on medical and scientific facts, and lots of practical information. – Namrata Loka