Although nothing can truly beat the pleasure of sitting down to an expertly prepared meal, reading about such a meal can be a close second. Here at MenuPages Boston, we’re very much into food writing. No, not food criticism and no, not cookbooks. We’re talking about long-form magazine pieces and books about what we eat and why. A good piece of food writing, like any great book, can transport you to a place you’ve never been, teach you about a subject previously unknown, or inspire you to try something new. Although the general food writing section in your local bookstore (hint: it’s probably next to the cookbooks) may not be as large as, say, the selection of books about music, it can still be a little bit intimidating for the newcomer. Because we are truly evangelical about great food writing, we’re going to offer up a series of recommendations for great food books. Just as a tasting menu can be a great way to gauge which parts of the chef’s repertoire you most enjoy, reading an anthology of food writing is a great way to identify the subsets of the genre that appeal to you, so in that spirit, we present the first installment of our book suggestions.
•Best Food Writing 2006: Part of the ubiquitous “Best __ of 200_” series, “Best Food Writing” is densely packed with brief(ish) essays and book excerpts covering everything from home cooking to the food business. Really, you could buy any year’s edition (it’s been coming out each December since 2000), but we’re partial to 2006, both because we like to keep things current and because Anthony Bourdain’s “New Year’s Eve Meltdown” about the worst night of his culinary career is worth the $10.85 alone.
•American Food Writing: An Anthology with Classic Recipes: Molly O’Neill writes well enough that one can be eminently entertained by reading just her recipes. In this brand-new anthology, she collects recipes, reviews and essays from the past 250 years to assemble a cohesive and comprehensive portrait of food writing in the United States.
•Remembrance of Things Paris: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet: French food is undoubtedly the basis of modern Western cuisine. In this anthology of writings from Gourmet Magazine, the changes in the French food and restaurant scene are documented in fantastic detail. Curling up with the book and a cafe au lait is one of the best ways to feel like an expat from your own living room.