On my shelf: A few books for the foodies

I spend more time than I’d like to admit planted in front of the television, but every so often, I read. I was reorganizing our bookshelves today and identified a small collection of food and drink related literature that I thought I’d share with you all. Here’s what I have on the shelf right now.

For behind-the-scenes secrets

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I’ve referenced Anthony Bourdain in a few past posts (see here and here), so you can probably tell that I’m a fan of his. This was the late American chef’s first published book, a memoir released in 2000 that eventually became a New York Times bestseller. The premise of the book was based on Bourdain’s 1999 essay in the New Yorker, entitled “Don’t Eat Before Reading This“, offering an insightful and brash look into the restaurant industry and Bourdain’s own crazy experiences during his rise in the culinary world. Interestingly, I just learned that the book was eventually adapted into a television series starring Bradley Cooper as a fictionalized Bourdain, apparently an unsuccessful venture since it was cancelled after only one season. I would recommend the book itself as an opportunity to learn about the intense and at times unpleasant nature of the restaurant business; it will certainly turn you off of getting into the biz yourself but it’s an entertaining read. We also learned how to make a macerated strawberries dessert from reading this book.

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

This was the follow-up to Kitchen Confidential, published a decade later in 2010 when Bourdain had shifted out of cooking and was focused primarily on his career as a writer and television personality. I don’t think this book was as well received and he seems to have annoyed a few people with his opinions, but I found it to be a fun read for his insights on the evolution of restaurant culture and especially the phenomenon of celebrity chefs.

My Life in France by Julia Child

Mr. Chuckles got me this as a Christmas present, apropos of our recent cooking experiment making Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon. American chef Julia Child was best known for bringing French cuisine to the American public, inspired by her years living in La Rรฉpublique. My Life in France is Child’s autobiography, compiled in partnership with Alex Prud’homme and written during the last eight months of her life. It is focused on the years between 1948 and 1954, when Child and her husband, Paul, were residing in Paris, Marseille, and Provence. Unlike Bourdain’s memoirs, the tone of this book is much more wholesome and demure. I’ve had a bit of a short attention span with this one and actually haven’t gotten through the whole thing yet.

For the recipes

Momofuku by David Chang & Peter Meehan

As far as cookbooks go, this one is quite fun to flip through. Momofuku is a culinary brand established by American chef David Chang, starting with New York City’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004. Since then, Momofuku restaurants have expanded into Sydney, Toronto, Washington DC, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. We have had the chance to eat at the Noodle Bar and Kojin in Toronto, as well as the Momofuku and affiliated Milk Bar in Las Vegas. Published in 2010, the cookbook features most of the restaurants’ signature dishes, such as their ramen and the ever popular cereal milk. There are interesting narrative sections outlining the history of Momofuku that are worth a read as well. At the very least, it’s a neat coffee table book.

Healthy, Lean & Fit by Gordon Ramsay

Speaking of celebrity chefs, the most significant celebrity interaction I’ve ever had was shaking hands with Gordon Ramsay at a meet and greet at the mall. The only reason why we own this cookbook is that I made a rushed purchase over at Chapters, so that there would be something for Gordon to sign and provide hard evidence of me having met a famous person. To be honest, the cookbook is a bit dry, focused on healthy green meals. It may be worth checking out if you are looking for salad ideas, but otherwise the most noteworthy part for me is the “Love, Gordon” inscription on the front page, hehe.

For those who imbibe

101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die by Ian Buxton

Ian Buxton is a former marketing director for Glenmorangie and wrote this little pocketbook of his 101 recommended whiskies, which I bought for Mr. Chuckles on his birthday. The whiskies are not ranked, just listed in alphabetical order with no objective rating system, but there is some interesting commentary on each one. Personally, I’m not a whisky connoisseur at all so this is all lost on me, but Mr. Chuckles has enjoyed it as an addition to his shelf.

Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of American Whiskey by Fred Minnick

This one was picked up at a shop near our place selling barware. Those with an interest in American food and drink culture may find this a cool read, as it provides a detailed outline of bourbon’s entire history, beginning with the distilleries established by Irish, Scottish, and French settlers and extending to its current resurgence. To give its publisher some credit, the book is nicely illustrated and very aesthetically pleasing, another worthy addition to the coffee table set at least.

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