Genres to read to broaden your culinary horizons


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When I was growing up there was nothing I loved more than biting into a cold plum straight out of the fridge with my fingers wrinkled after a day swimming in the local lake. At dinner, I couldn’t wait to speed up the requisite amount of mixed veg on my plate before dipping into a second bowl of Neon Orange Macaroni & Cheese. My palette was not fancy in any way, shape or form, but I enjoyed food with a certain enthusiasm even at a young age.

As I read in my childhood, there were also certain books that I came back to over and over again. If you give a pancake to a pig by Laura Numeroff. Who put the pepper in the pot? by Joanna Cole. David Pelham’s Sam Sandwich. Then I went from living picture books to feasting on Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. What did each of these books have in common? The food in all its glory. And growing up, it seems my passion for food-centric writing was unfathomable. My interest in trying new foods, however, was not.

Fast forward to today, and I work in marketing with a strong emphasis on promoting local restaurants and cafes. Bottomless bowls of spicy ramen, octopus marinated in honey and vinegar, cinnamon buns so sweet – with a hint of citrus – I wanna cry… I’m known to eat all these things and become extremely expressive while doing so.

So how did things change? How did I go from classic pasta dishes and cold cuts in search of the tastiest and most daring bites? If you dream of expanding your culinary horizons and learning to enjoy foods you haven’t yet tasted, here are four kinds of books that have changed my life and my taste buds.

1. Culinary trials

It’s often easier to try something new when you understand it, so why not read up on restaurants, culinary history, the correct terminology for all the components of the most complex dishes, and more from the professionals. ?

A good place to start is The Best American Food Writing 2020 collection edited by J. Kenji López-Alt. This collection is carefully and tastefully curated for new and seasoned members of the food scene. From polished exhibition articles to truthful reviews of the chicest of restaurants, these food essays can open any reader to a world of fascinating information and inspire hunger even in the most reluctant eaters.

Personally, words like “tile” and “turned” weren’t familiar to me until I read an essay by Kwame Onwuachi and Joshua David Stein in Best American Culinary Essay 2020. Learn about foie gras (or maybe hold back on that one), époisses, marjoram and many other delicacies hitherto unknown to writers who have a foothold in the kitchen.

2. Contemporary romance

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a novel these days that doesn’t refer to food at some point, no matter how brief. (Coffee dates? Someone who looks like a sweet little snack? You know what I’m talking about.) But books specifically on characters who love food? This is the jackpot. In Katherine Reay’s A Portrait of Emily Price, an American artist and insurance restorer meets an Italian chef. The chemistry between them sparkles almost immediately, and soon Emily and Ben share meals and dreams.

Reay takes readers on a food tour: learn about American tourists and their pizza obsession, watch Ben prepare soffritto or bistecca alla pizzaiola in the kitchen, and learn about truffle hunting in the woods of Italy, all of it then. as the characters traverse the bumpy roads of disease, family and truth. Before reading A portrait of Emily Price, I had limited knowledge or knowledge of truffles. But suddenly I got a new interest and have since enjoyed a lot of truffle dishes.

(Fun fact: I first tried octopus when I first met Reay at a Mediterranean restaurant in Chicago years ago. You can read all about my experience in my essay on How Books To Me. made brave.)

3. Poetry

Reading poetry can be a seductive and sensory experience. Do you know what else can be an alluring and sensory experience? Before you get too crazy with your imagination, I’ll say it first – eat food! So what better way to discover foods that are new to you and get your salivary glands working than by reading some mouthwatering poems?

A starting point is a poem that I particularly like: “América” by Richard Blanco. The poet paints a clear picture of the food culture in his own home while growing up, especially as his family faces the challenges of being immigrants to America. In an excerpt from the poem, Blanco writes:

“There was always pork,
for each anniversary and wedding,
whole at Christmas and New Year’s Eve,
even on Thanksgiving day – pork,
fried, grilled or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips, and yuca with mojito. “

How not to be interested in such a meal? (If you want to read other stanzas on sweet and savory, check out some delicious poems on food and eating.)

4. Fiction for young adults

Finally, add some young adult fiction to your shelf! YA fiction not only offers adorable characters and inventive sets, but also tasty food. I can tell you that reading Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo and Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp will make you want to drop your cup of tea, grab your wallet, and buy plane tickets for one. tasty place.

In Somewhere only we know, you can almost smell the congee and steamed buns in the streets of Hong Kong. The story is a modern retelling of the 1950s romantic comedy Audrey Hepburn roman holidays. Follow Lucky, a K-Pop star, and Jack, a photographer, as they dodge the paparazzi and explore food and their feelings for each other.

Cocada, biscochitos, alfajores, dulce de leche panqueques and other delicious Latin American pastries are on the menu at Somewhere between bitter and sweet. Follow Pen as she pursues her dream of opening a bakery, while battling a cruel man determined to kick out his friends and relatives. Pen’s passion for food is contagious and will have you looking for a local bakery that sells the pastries she adores.

Whether you’re already not afraid to try unfamiliar cuisine or just dipping a finger in delicious new sauces for the first time, don’t be afraid to grab a book or peruse a food poem for you. recalls the joys of food.

If you’re looking for more food titles to read, take this quiz and create the food tour of your dreams for a YA food reading book.


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