2010 Redux: Books

Making a list of picks for the top 5 books on food published in 2010 forced us to consider criteria for adding a book to our shelves. With apps for our smart phones in the addition to blogs and Internet sites devoted to cooking, it's easy to conclude we don't need any more books on cooking or food. Not so. After taking a look at the genre, including fiction and memoirs, books on technique and cookbooks, our picks are the books that transport us; they have a story, inspire imagination, engage thinking, entertain, and provide us with information.


52 Loaves by William Alexander In 52 Loaves, the reader joins William Alexander on his quest to bake the perfect loaf of bread. This particular loaf stems from a memory of the light, airy peasant loaves of France, with a "crisp, but chewy crust". Alexander starts the year (a loaf a week for 52 weeks) with determination and a dry wit which sustain him on his journey. In search of perfection, Alexander researches the history of civilization through bread, grows and harvests his own wheat, confers with artisan bakers, smuggles starter through European customs, and lives among the monks at a French abbey as he helps reestablish their centuries old baking traditions. Illuminating information for the novice or practiced baker, and a delightful read.


Keys to Good Cooking by Harold McGee Twenty-six years ago, Harold McGee published On Food and Cooking, a book based on the science behind techniques and ingredients in the kitchen. Once you read McGee, who published a series in The New York Times and blogs about the science behind food, its not a surprise to discover he holds degrees in astronomy, physics and literature. In Keys to Good Cooking, McGee distills and organizes information on cooking technique and the science of cooking. The book is a ready kitchen companion to the cook who wants to understand the why and the how while cooking with or without a recipe.

Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood When trying to cook and eat healthy foods, we are daunted and often disappointed with the results of baking with whole grains. In Good to the Grain, Kim Boyce, former pastry chef at Spago and Campanile, dispels the mystery behind whole grain ingredients and delivers recipes that work in the kitchen and on our palette. Chapters are organized by grain (amaranth, buckwheat, kasha) offering a helpful exploration of the grain and related recipes. The cookbook contains all the right ingredients: understandable explanations of whole grains that scare off the uninitiated, their baking qualities, beautiful photographs, well researched and well written recipes that result in baked goods with good texture and best of all, great flavor.


The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual by Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo and Peter Meehan The two Frank's, Falcinelli and Castronovo have a well earned and well established following for the New York City restaurants Frankies Spuntino 457, Prime Meats and Frankie's 17. The cover of their cookbook is rendered in a style that looks like a reissued classic book of literature with its dark blue color and glittering gold typeface. Inside, find a primer on how to prepare food the Frankie's way with a well- stocked pantry, planning time for preparation, understanding of technique and secret tips. There are amusing illustrations and timelines that give a delightful glimpse into the minds of these chefs. Most of the recipes are time consuming, the kind of recipes that require planning then invite you to get lost in the world of food and cooking for hours. For the serious cook looking for an authentic experience cooking Italian.

CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories edited by Daniel Imhoff 2010 has been a year marked by increasing public awareness of the role of food in an industrialized world on our health and the health of the planet. Imhoff, as editor of CAFO delivers a hard look at where our meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and seafood come from. The book is published in a coffee table format, with large dynamic photographs of the unpleasant reality of industrialized food production. The photos accompany compelling essays from a diverse group of widely published food writers and policy makers, liberal and conservative. The information is comprehensive; problems created by factory farms, industry hype defending CAFO practices, the true cost of cheap food, and real solutions for a sustainable food supply. A fantastic resource, rich with information and best of all a hopeful outlook for a clean, humane food supply.

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Carol Blonder