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The Friday Wish List: Food Memoirs

As well as thinking about food, I love reading about food and foodie people. So I’ve put together a list of the sharpest, sexiest and edgiest foodie memoirs that put excitement into the kitchen and make a chef’s life look glamorous, creative and dynamic (while leaving out the issues like terrible hours and dreadful pay). They’ve taught me how to cook better, how to chop and when to eat fish in a restaurant. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read a memoir about an English female food writer – so many of the good ones are about macho male New York chefs that I’d like to hear the other side of the coin.

 

1. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

This memoir started it all, a no-holds-barred insiders take on the kitchen that reveals it for its lawlessness, drug-taking, late hours and boorish behaviour. It tells you what most chefs won’t: why you shouldn’t eat fish on a Sunday, how daily specials are often a way of selling off items that have been over ordered…and it’s highly readable. Dodge his follow-ups though – they lack punch.

Buy it here

2. Toast by Nigel Slater

Toast by Nigel Slater

This doesn’t quite fit into the sexy, slick kitchen memoir category, but deserves its place in the list for its tender telling of an evocative story, the real life autobiography of food writer Nigel Slater, taking in his difficult childhood, the death of his mother and remarriage of his father, coming out and the food that weaves it all together. Hot buttered toast is his comfort food – reading this makes you want to eat it, and makes you muse on how food fits into the most emotional parts of your life.

Buy it here

3. Heat by Bill Buford

Heat by Bill Buford

I’ve just read this one, a fantastic story of a New York writer sent to research and write a story on the flamboyant Italian-American chef Mario Batali. The lure of the kitchen proves too powerful for Buford, who chucks in the day job to work sweaty shifts in Batali’s restaurant and then leaves New York to complete apprenticeships with butchers and pasta makers in Italy. It’s a rip-roaring read, with pace and verve and is shot through with a real love of food. I loved it – it’s the perfect holiday read.

Buy it here

4. The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten

The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten

Here’s another story of transformation courtesy of the steamy kitchens of New York. Lawyer Jeffrey Steingarten changes career to become a food writer and decides that he needs to conquer his irrational food phobias to do his new career justice. The story follows his progress as he becomes the man who ate everything, touring the world in search of exotic food. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds sensational.

Buy it here

5. Blood, bones & butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

Blood, bones butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

New York (see – again with the New York) restaurateur Gabrielle Hamilton’s food memoir takes you from childhood memories with wood-smoke and seared lamb scenting family parties, to her reluctant education in food as an adult and is one of the most acclaimed foodie memoirs around as well as a New York Times bestseller. It follows her search for meaning in life as well as her route through multiple kitchens, and the disintegration of her marriage and is apparently beautifully written. I can’t wait to read it.

Buy it here

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