I write a food column and food features for Iliffe media in the east of England alongside a newsletter about food writing called ‘Tales from Topographic Kitchens’ which won the 2020 Guild of Food Writers award for Best Online Food Writing.
It is hard to choose between the Lawson books but this is her first and it is a useful introduction to the most distinctive voice in British food writing if you have yet to read her work. I return to this again and again and never tire of it.
Suffused with love for her little daughter and a source of friendly advice with a familiar tone for the rest of us, this is, for me, the book to read when you feel in need of something other than a list of ingredients and what to do with them.
James Villas tells stories about white and black southern cooking and offers expert testimony based upon a lived experience of a south where the food was local and seasonal well before Alice Waters seized upon this and redefined California as the sine qua non of this type of eating. Villas is a wonderful combination of food snob and everyman.
Lewis carries the South in her heart and embarked upon a lifelong odyssey to recreate the flavours of her past in Virginia and introduce generations of people, especially Southerners, to the home cooking they have lost touch with. The granddaughter of a former slave, her writing and recipes have played a fundamental role in the revival of Southern food cultures.
This is an expansive primer by a scholar and chef who has travelled all over the Americas and the Caribbean. A good book to buy if you are new to these cuisines but want something more than a basic cookbook devoid of context.
I thought long and hard about whether such a new book should be included but having cooked solidly from it ever since means that here it is. Olia Hercules is Ukrainian and was born in Kakhovk and her book celebrates a familial rich cultural diversity, a "messy geopolitical mosaic" (her words) with its Siberian, Moldovan, Jewish, Uzbekistani and Ossetian roots. Her book and writing bear a richness that transcends these geopolitical boundaries.
Slater’s gentle contemplation, his seeming vulnerability and lack of urgency means his words act as useful counterpoint to the barrage of "look at this!!" we are subjected to. His recipes and words are mined and committed to the page like rare jewels. What tipped this as my choice was slater's recipe for Pork Ribs Ragu with Pappardelle. I loved this so much I would pay the cover price for the recipe alone.
"Mexicans eat them so often that the expression ‘echarse un taco’, to grab a taco, is synonymous with eating," which gives the reader some idea of the importance of the taco to Mexico and its diaspora. ‘Tacopedia’ represents four years of research and travel and it is an indispensable book for lovers of Mexican and border food.
This is not a recipe book per se but if you want to understand the influence African-American cooks exert over the cuisine of the United States then this book is essential. Lots of jump-off points for further reading and cooking.
Here we have a history of African foods before the middle passage, and then a thorough history of their transformation and incorporation into the American diet. Lots of recipes, great headnotes, and a glossary of ingredients and utensils ensure this is a practical as well as a scholarly book.