The first nonfiction book by the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals (Little, Brown, $25.99), is part memoir, part reportage, and all personal, Foer takes us behind the curtain, exposing some of the hardest truths about the American food industry. As a father facing the question of deciding what his children should eat, Foer weaves food traditions, pop culture, and diet myths into a deeply affecting story of how we all should eat. Like The Jungle and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Eating Animals speaks with an honesty and creativity all its own.
First published in 1990, the popular kitchen reference, The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion (Barron’s $29.99), by Sharon and Ron Herbst, has been updated to reflect the global ingredients that have entered our cuisine in the last decades. I could easily find the thick and sweet Indonesian soy sauce I was looking for (kecap) as well as the popular Southeast Asian seafood sauce (sri racha) in the glossary of sauces and stocks. With apple pies on deck for the holidays, I at last have a three-page summary of the differences between all those apples at Whole Foods; ditto, the olive oils and the cheeses. There’s a potful of information here for all aspiring kitchen Quiz Kids.
Chefs, foodies, and Italophiles will treasure Elena Kostioukovitch’s Why Italians Love To Talk About Food (Farrar Straus & Giroux, $35). This masterful tome is a culinary encyclopedia and travelogue—a chronicle of Italy’s regional cuisines. In each chapter, Kostioukovitch introduces a region and explores the foods that define it. We learn about Piedmontese truffles, Neapolitan mozzarella di bufala, and the Roman Jews’ unique relationship to eggplant. Cuisine is a “code that pervades all of Italy,” Kostioukovitch writes, and discussing it “means celebrating a rite, uttering a magic formula.” Gorgeous photos and mouthwatering sample menus round out this literary feast.