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Festive Reads: Food For The Mind

In the run-up to New Year, many of us find our deepest pleasure in food. From Thanksgiving onward, we are flooded with temptations, the delicacies of the table trying to lure us. Food reigns in our mind. We cook, we bake, we eat, we drink – and be merry! How about some food for thought? This time of year, you can bury yourself in two food and drink books released recently. What can be more appropriate reading than food books at this time of the year?

Ann Hood, “Kitchen Yarns,” Norton

Ann Hood’s book is a memoir. Growing up in “a big, noisy family, in rooms overflowing with people and food,” novelist Ann Hood tasted her Italian grandmother Rose’s polenta with kale, tomato sauce, meatballs and Christmas antipasto. In 27 essays, Hood connects food with memory in delicious ways. She learned to cook while working as a TWA flight attendant, and expanded her repertoire with recipes from the Silver Palate cookbook (Chicken Marbella became her stock dinner-party dish). She describes the soft food (French scrambled eggs) she cooked for her son, who calls her for recipes as an adult, and the lessons (overnight chicken stock) she learned from her second husband, an award-winning chef. Her most beloved dish: novelist Laurie Colwin’s Tomato Pie.

Jay McInerney, “Wine Reads,” Grove Atlantic

Award-winning wine expert Jay McInerney has a literary side. He is inspired by Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.” “Wine Reads” is an anthology of essays by celebrated food writers.

“I wanted to write like Hemingway and drink like Jake Barnes,” he writes. “Brideshead Revisited,” with its “semi-delirious wine commentary,” also was an influence, he notes in the introduction of this lovely anthology, intended to “pair well with anything from a young Muscadet to an old Burgundy.” He includes essays by Eric Asimov, Bill Buford, M.F.K. Fisher, Jim Harrison, A.J. Liebling, Kermit Lynch, and Auberon Waugh. There are surprises in the mix: Roald Dahl’s 1945 story “Taste,” in which a sly gourmet bets he can identify his host’s claret; a wine-tasting excerpt from Rex Pickett’s 2004 novel “Sideways,” the basis for the award-winning film; Joseph Wechsberg’s mid-Century meditation, “Afternoon at Chateau d’Yquem,” and McInerney’s boisterous “Billionaire Winos.”

Go forth and feast on these books. Curl up in bed and lose yourself in the wonderful worlds of food these two writers have created.

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