A Few Food Books I’ve Enjoyed

March 28, 2012(updated on March 20, 2022)

Last year, when I was writing my cookbook, I couldn’t read food writing. Even keeping up-to-date with my favorite blogs was a challenge. It was all I could to keep my own thoughts pulled together and reading the words of other writers left me distracted and fragmented.

Since putting the finished touches on the draft in the fall, I’ve been reading food books and memoirs like I have a deep thirst to quench. Here are the ones I’ve particularly enjoyed lately.

Barnheart: The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One’s Own
Fans of Jenna Woginrich’s blog Cold Antler Farm will find much to enjoy in her latest book. As someone who aspires to a slightly more homesteady life, Jenna’s story of building her farm is honest and uplifting.

Eating for Beginners: An Education in the Pleasures of Food from Chefs, Farmers, and One Picky Kid
The tale of a mother who cares a great deal about food and her son who won’t eat a bite of it. Written by Melanie Rehak.

Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love
This the story of Jessie and her husband Jake; and tells the tale of how a city girl and a country boy found love and made it work. It’s not a food book exactly, but cooking, potlucks, gardening and preserving all play solid roles. Jessie also co-wrote a terrific canning book called Tart and Sweet that came out about this time last year.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch — Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods
As someone obsessed with making things at home that are often bought at the store, I’ve adored this book. Jennifer Reese has cooked her way through just about every household staple, as well as some more exotic ingredients and has an opinion about every single one. She includes entertaining anecdotes and is totally honest when it comes to offering advice as to whether to make or buy something.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace
There have been so many words of praise for Tamar Adler and her book. Here are mine. I adored this book, because it encourages cooking and does so in a way that leaving you longing to dash to the stove. I read it while vacationing at a bed and breakfast and it was all I could do to restrain myself from asking our innkeepers if I could borrow the kitchen for an hour.

Her message is that you can make a meal out of nearly anything and that eating well is as much about creative thinking as it is about anything else. If you’ve found yourself without much culinary motivation of late, read this book. It is certain to inspire.

Amarcord: Marcella Remembers
Most people know Marcella Hazan thanks to her simple pasta sauce. It’s the one in which you combine pureed tomatoes with some butter and a halved onion and let the whole thing simmer until delicious. However, she is so much more and this book tells her story.

I’d love to hear what food books the rest of you have been reading lately. Any recommendations for me?

Disclosure: I received free review copies of Rurally Screwed and Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. I bought the rest of the books mentioned here with my own hard-earned cash. 

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40 thoughts on "A Few Food Books I’ve Enjoyed"

      1. Yes, I do. But it’s not the most manly reading list, so I must have thought there needed to be guns in there somewhere.

  • So – this isn’t really a recipe book, but I’m reading “The American Way of Eating” by Tracie McMillan right now. She went undercover in the food system a-la-Nickel and Dimed, and worked as a farmworker, at Walmart, and at Applebee’s. I’m about half-way through and I really appreciate her writing style and the approach she took. Really eye opening. I also really enjoyed reading “Tomatoland” by Barry Estabrook (although ‘enjoyed’ is a bit strong, because it’s sort of interesting in an enlightened and depressing kind of way…).

    1. I read an excerpt of Tracie McMillian’s book on Gilt Taste the other day and really want to read it. I have Tomatoland on my Kindle, but haven’t quite been able to face it. Sounds too depressing.

  • A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove by Laura Schenone. An entertaining ode to the power of the kitchen. It does a beautiful job honoring women’s roles in the rise and stabilization of civilization.

    1. I have that one on my shelf but have never read it. I’ll have to pull it down and add it to my active stack.

  • Thanks for the recommendations! I’m always looking for new (good) books to read. I’m going to add some of these to my list.

  • I’ve been wanting to get my hands on Everlasting Meal! It sounds right up my alley. This isn’t a book I’ve read recently, but so enjoyed “Food of a Younger Land,” by Mark Kurlansky. It’s a great non-fiction food book. The subtitle is “A Portrait of American Food–Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation’s Food Was Seasonal,” which basically sums it up! Really good.

    1. I started Food of a Younger Land some time ago and put it down (though I don’t remember why). I’ll have to go back to it!

  • I’m not much of a reader but have been making my way through An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace and really enjoying it… it’s how I cook… virtually no waste ’cause there’s another layer of flavor to throw in with those scraps! Autumn, check your library…. that’s where I got the copy I’m reading!

  • I adore Tamar Adler’s book. I got it as a library book, then bought three copies to gift (one for me!). I took one day last week to try out lots of suggestions in “how to boil water” and invited friends for a chicken dinner. It was delicious. This week I have tried buying and cooking-at-once all my vegetables. We’ll see what I end up doing with them all. It was *exhausting* to do this, actually, but I had fun, too.

  • Sounds like I need to read Eating for Beginners right away… I recently read Stevie Parle’s Real Food from Near and Far and enjoyed it a great deal. Just simple food and a quick read but so inspiring. (I’m also a “tactile reader”, and love the feel of the paper. In general, it’s a beautiful little book!)

  • I have been on a food reading kick lately too. I recently really enjoyed The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn, The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz, and An Everlasting Meal (LOVED this book!). Thanks for your list now I have more to read.

  • Thank you so much for your reading list! I reserved every book at my public library – can’t wait til they all come in!

  • A quick aside Marisa, I just found that Amazon now has the 1.5 pint tall Ball jars available for order- 9 for $19.97…

  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. It’s a work of fiction about a girl who can taste the feelings of whoever prepared the food. It was heartbreaking but also fascinating!

    1. Isabelle, I LOVED that book. It’s one that I often think about and it’s been at least a year and a half since I read it.

  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver, is such a great non-fiction read from this fantastic writer and her husband and daughter. And there are recipes!!
    Thanks for sharing all of your recommendations; I will have to check them out.

  • I really like “Summer in a jar” by Andrea Chesman. It’s filled with one-jar recipes so it’s easy to try something new out without committing to too much. Also, I find it has an uncommonly high concentration of good tips, and the illustrations are great. Can’t recommend it enough!

  • I just finished Food Heroes, by Georgia Pelligrini and loved it! She explores a variety of food-driven people and their efforts to preserve the traditions surrounding the foods they care for. It was beautifully written. I followed that with The Feast Nearby; the author has slipped my mind right now. It was a very practical book about how to eat well as a locavore on a limited budget– a lot of preserving, freezing and bartering. It had a ton of tips. Both were very motivational reads.

  • I read a lot of food and cookbooks, but sadly I haven’t read one lately. However, I loved “Blood, Bones & Butter” last year. I was not familiar with the book “An Everlasting Meal”, thank you for sharing your thoughts on that title.


  • Currently reading “Humble Pie” by Anne Dimock. Enjoying it. And just picked up a copy of “Comfort Me with Apples” by Ruth Reichl. Have not started it yet, but came highly recommended.

  • My dear friend Sue lives up in western Massachusetts, and her kids go to school with Susie Chang’s kids, so she sent me “A Spoonful of Promises” for my birthday. I don’t get to listen to NPR much anymore, but I gather that Susie Chang is very popular. Anyway, I enjoyed the book very much. Glad to have the suggestions above – will have to check out some of them.
    One of the other classic food books, in my opinion, is “Heartburn” by Nora Ephron. I suggest it for you younger folks who may not know it. (Also a classic divorce book, but that’s another story…….I’m not divorced, but I give this book to all of my friends who are.)

  • Not a new one, but I recently read Talking with My Mouth Full, but Bonnie Wolf who is an essayist and commentator for NPR. The book is a wonderful collection of her food essays that range from holiday cooking, the history of the Bundt cake and other great stories about food. Highly recommend!

    Also, as a latent gardener these days, I picked up a book called the $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Gardener. I know it’s not a “food book” per se, but from the soil is where all this great food comes from, right? This tome is a delightfully funny read about this man’s quest to build a garden…and how everything looks great on paper, but then reality strikes!

  • not sure how i missed eating for beginner’s, but i did. but thanks to you, i’ve corrected that error. book now on order. will go to the top of the reading stack.

    happy spring to you!


  • Thanks for posting these suggestions, I love hearing about food books! I just finished Rurally Screwed, and am about to check Make the Bread buy the Butter out from the library (after ordering your new book AND Ripe last week, I think I should put my wallet away for a while).