Breaking Bread: Tasty Reads

In addition to an interesting book, what’s the next best thing for a long, lazy Sunday afternoon? Why, that would be a good biryani. Or burger, shawarma, sushi, pizza or sandwich – whatever it is that you fancy. By that reckoning, the best thing has to be combination of the two – a well-written book about well cooked food, right? Here’s our list of the food writing we look forward to reading in 2023.

Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat, by Larissa Zimberoff

The book explores the world of tech companies trying to find solutions to the problem of feeding the world, sustainably and hopefully without killing animals. But before you shout ‘I hate stinky tofu,’ get this – Technically Food goes way beyond soy patties and veggie burgers. Instead, the book ventures into the brave new world of eating exotica like algae and fungi, cell-based meat, cultured milk and eggs, pea protein and plant-based meat substitutes that actually taste like the real thing. Easting seaweed instead of steak might not be very high on your list of priorities right now, but maybe that’s the direction in which food is headed. Maybe.

‘Eating a veggie burger used to mean consuming a mushy, flavourless patty that you would never confuse with a beef burger. But now products from companies like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Eat Just that were once fringe players in the food space are dominating the media, the refrigerated sections of our grocery stores, and, increasingly, the world. With the help of scientists working in futuristic labs – making milk without cows, and eggs without chickens – startups are creating wholly new food categories. Real food is being replaced by high-tech. Technically Food is the first comprehensive survey of the food companies at the forefront of this booming business. Zimberoff questions the mania behind today’s changing food landscape to uncover the origins of these mysterious foods and demystify them. As our food system leaps ahead to a sterilized lab of the future, we think we know more about our food than we ever did. But because so much is happening so rapidly, we actually know less about what we are eating. This book will arm food lovers with the right questions as they navigate the supermarket aisles.’ More on the author’s website.

Super Sushi Ramen Express: A Culinary Adventure Through Japan, by Michael Booth

These days, a lot of people claim to love sushi. Indeed, nobody does rice and raw fish the way the Japanese do. But beyond sushi, ramen, tempura and okonomiyaki – buzzwords that are commonly rolled out every time the subject of Japanese food comes up, few of us really know much about Japanese food. With Super Sushi Ramen Express, the author, with his family, undertakes a 3-month journey eating his way across Japan. The result is a book that’s as punchy as real wasabi and enjoyable as the justifiably famous Kobe beef steak.  

‘In this entertaining read, Booth makes it delectably clear that Japanese food is a whole lot more than sushi. Informed by a Japanese colleague that he has never tasted real Japanese food, Booth sets forth with his family to eat his way through the Land of the Rising Sun. As a narrator, Booth is both genial and informed, deploying his two sons as comic foils while he performs his ‘innocent abroad’ character with aplomb,’ says Publishers Weekly. ‘Though Booth trained as a chef in Paris, his tastes are delightfully eclectic: he is as apt to indulge in a 10-hour ‘food crawl’ of Osakan fast-food noodle joints as he is to savour the most delicate sushi, and he evokes both experiences with gusto,’ adds Kirkus.

Your Table Is Ready: Tales of a New York City Maître D’, by Michael Cecchi-Azzolina

Cecchi-Azzolina is ‘a career maître d’hotel who manned the front of the room in New York City’s hottest and most in-demand restaurants,’ says a note on the Macmillan website, adding that Your Table Is Ready ‘is a rollicking, raunchy, revelatory memoir.’

‘From the glamorous to the entitled, from royalty to the financially ruined, everyone who wanted to be seen – or just to gawk – at the hottest restaurants in New York City came to places Michael Cecchi-Azzolina helped run. Besides dropping us back into a vanished time, Your Table Is Ready takes us places we’d never be able to get into on our own. He breaks down how restaurants really run (and don’t), and how the economics work for owners and overworked staff alike. The professionals who gravitate to the business are a special, tougher breed, practiced in dealing with the demanding patrons and with each other, in a very distinctive ecosystem that’s somewhere between a George Orwell dungeon and a sleek showman’s smoke-and-mirrors palace.’ More on the Macmillan website.

‘Even when Cecchi-Azzolina thinks he’s had enough of the industry, he’s soon reminded of its ability to ‘give one another life.’ Readers will gobble up the juicy gossip and decadent stories from a man who has seen it all,’ says Publishers Weekly. ‘The author’s account of life in the restaurant industry is fast-paced, long on the meticulous details of service, unsparing of the salacious tales of sex, drugs, alcohol, run-ins with the mob, ‘jumpers’ within view of the River Café, and more. Readers interested in the who’s who of the NYC celebrity world will not be disappointed,’ adds Kirkus.

Taste: My Life Through Food, by Stanley Tucci

Actor, writer and producer, Tucci is also a foodie – he certainly likes his food and drink. Anyone who’s watched CNN’s Searching for Italy knows that Tucci knows his food. So, if he’s been talking about food on TV and written two cookbooks already, a third book couldn’t have been too far behind, right? Sure enough, here it is and it’s not bad at all.

‘An intimate and charming memoir of life in and out of the kitchen. Stanley Tucci grew up in an Italian-American family that spent every night around the kitchen table. Taste is a reflection on the intersection of food and life, filled with anecdotes about his growing up in Westchester, New York. Each morsel of this gastronomic journey through good times and bad, five-star meals and burned dishes, is as heartfelt and delicious as the last,’ says the book’s description on Amazon.

Taste takes you through Tucci’s life in a largely but not entirely linear fashion, and I enjoyed eavesdropping in its early pages on a loud and food-proud Italian American family. Italy factors heavily into Taste, as Tucci keeps circling back there to sample and learn more about its food, though engaging scenes pop up all over the globe. Tucci is a game, amiable tour guide throughout,’ says The New York Times.

‘The fusion of love and food is what gives Tucci’s book its sweetness. He writes of his family’s rituals with tenderness, from the Christmas timpano (a mighty pastry drum stuffed with ziti, salami, cheese, eggs and meatballs) to epic Independence Day picnics at which guests drank jug wine and feasted on sausages and peppers. Of his mother, Tucci writes, ‘I can honestly say that on the four-burner electric stove she used throughout my childhood and on the gas hob that replaced it many years later, she has never cooked a bad meal. Not once,’ says The Washington Post.

Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom, by Adam Chandler

Thick, juicy beef burgers. Fried chicken. Tacos. Deep dish pizza. Steak and fries. What would the United States be if it weren’t for all this and much, much more? What, indeed. ‘Most any honest person can own up to harbouring at least one fast-food guilty pleasure. In Drive-Thru Dreams, Adam Chandler explores the inseparable link between fast food and American life for the past century. The dark underbelly of the industry’s largest players has long been scrutinized and gutted, characterised as impersonal, greedy, corporate, and worse. But, in unexpected ways, fast food is also deeply personal and emblematic of a larger than life image of America,’ says Macmillan. ‘With wit and nuance, Chandler reveals the complexities of this industry through heartfelt anecdotes and fascinating trivia as well as interviews with fans, executives, and workers. Chandler tells an intimate and contemporary story of America – its humble beginning, its innovations and failures, its international charisma, and its regional identities – through its beloved roadside fare,’ it adds.

‘Before anyone casts judgment upon fast food, Chandler asks readers to take a much closer look at all the outcomes and influences of this industry, how these businesses both provide employment and act as equalizing venues of social interaction,’ says Booklist. ‘This fun, argumentative, and frequently surprising pop history of American fast food will thrill and educate food lovers of all speeds,’ adds Publishers Weekly.

Fatty Fatty Boom Boom: A Memoir of Food, Fat, and Family, by Rabia Chaudry

‘My entire life I have been less fat and more fat, but never not fat,’ says Chaudry, who ‘always loved food too much to hold a grudge against it.’ Her parents, Pakistani immigrants in the US, did introduce her to fatty, processed American fast food when she was young, though later in life Rabia came to love Pakistani food, learning to cook with wholesome ingredients and eat in moderation. ‘Her book, Fatty Fatty Boom Boom, is at once a love letter (with recipes) to fresh roti, chaat, chicken biryani, ghee, pakoras, shorba, parathay and an often hilarious dissection of life in a Muslim immigrant family. Fatty Fatty Boom Boom is also a searingly honest portrait of a woman grappling with a body that gets the job done but that refuses to meet the expectations of others. Chaudry’s memoir offers readers a relatable and powerful voice on the controversial topic of body image, one that dispenses with the politics and gets to what every woman who has ever struggled with weight will relate to,’ says the book’s description on Goodreads.

‘My two best friends are my fat and my food; my whole life, I couldn’t divorce these issues. People who have had any kind of weight issues or body image issues, it’s directly tied to what they eat, how people tell them to eat, how they deprive themselves, how they eat. At the same time, I really feel like everybody is entitled to abundance and to enjoy their food; we shouldn’t feel punished through it and shamed through it. There’s no way to write about one without the other for me — that’s how my life is, and I think that’s how most people’s lives are,’ said Rabia, speaking to Eater.

‘Whether she’s describing a mad motorcycle mission to score Lahore street food with her overweight uncles, the acquisition of the ‘freshman 25′”‘ with new friends at college, or sharing ice cream in bed with her sweet second husband, Chaudry eloquently portrays the role of food in love and friendship. At the same time, she doesn’t flinch from reporting the humiliations heaped on the overweight at every turn. She also includes a selection of enticing recipes,’ says Kirkus. We want to get our copy now!

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