By Elatia Harris
Every Thanksgiving I make a list of the 10 books about food and cooking that made the greatest impact on me that year. My criteria? I have to have bought them, read them through, loved them and cooked from them if they include recipes. Not all do. Food writing is changing — one glance at the list below will show you how much. What about your own Top Ten?
1.) The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber
A visionary book. Can we make this future? Will we?
2.) The Culinary Imagination: From Myth to Modernity, by Sandra M. Gilbert
The subject as considered by one of the great minds of our time. Endlessly rewarding.
3.) The Food History Reader: Primary Sources, by Ken Albala
Magnificent choices. Now everyone can be a student of the dazzling Ken Albala.
4.) Cumin, Camels and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey, by Gary Paul Nabhan
Nobody knows the desert and its potential like professor and farmer Gary Paul Nabhan. An exceptionally moving book.
5.) Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, by Aglaia Kremezi
To simplify, to exalt real flavor, to live lightly on the earth — this is the book.
6.) Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition, by David Sterling
Deep insight into a marvelous, highly local cuisine with unique features.
7.) Heritage, by Sean Brock
A chef of passionate dedication works to preserve the heritage foodways of the American South. Certain people who shall be nameless have given Southern cooking a bad name lately. THIS helps!
8.) The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, by Dan Jurafsky
Hilarious and erudite. If you don’t really know if you like language better than food, or vice versa, read this. Zero conflict.
9.) Porta Palazzo: The Anthropology of an Italian Market, by Rachel Black (paperback edition 2014)
The largest open market in Europe holds up the mirror to Italian society.
10) Simple French Food, by Richard Olney (40th Anniversary Edition)
Were you trying, as a teenager, to master the art of French cooking? Then of course you went to Julia, but you might have gone to Richard, too. Matchless instruction, such beautiful prose that you can read it aloud for pleasure, and recipes that cannot disappoint.