My Favorite Food Books of 2011

Life has been a whirlwind the past few weeks since Thanksgiving, filled with traveling spouses, busy weeks at schools, and wonky injured lower backs. I would love to share with all of you details of my experiences learning how to make delicious challah from scratch, and how my kids reacted to roasted pumpkin Thai curry I decided to try out in the midst of the madness. But that wonky lower back is still with me, and time in front of the computer is scarce this week. So instead, in the spirit of the holidays when we all tend to cook/bake more, as well as wrack our brains for those perfect gifts, I though I’d share my favorite food book acquisitions from this year.* I hope this provides inspiration on various fronts.

Happy days to all of you!


2011 Favorites

1. My hands down favorite food book of 2011 is Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland. With riveting storytelling, he brings to light one of the most egregious and important food industry injustices of our day: slavery and farmworker exploitation in Florida’s winter tomato industry. It is quite rare to have investigative journalism read like a novel. Unfortunately, the intense stories depicted are true. But the good news is that the Coalition of Immokolee workers, who have organized in support of fair labor practices for years, are slowly but surely succeeding. Read this book – you won’t regret it.

2. Yotam Ottolenghi’s stunning Plenty is making its way onto many a favorite cookbooks list this year, for very good reason. In a nutshell, this is food porn at its finest. The photography alone is a good reason to add this to your cookbook collection. I’m very excited to try more of the very accessible, creative, internationally inspired vegetarian recipes featured. The few I’ve made have been a major hit.

3. As I wrote a few weeks ago, Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food is a pleasure for anyone interested in learning more about how to build a sustainable kitchen pantry, as well as really cool insights into the inner-workings of one of the most progressive grocery stores in the country. Of course it also features awesome recipes, including Delfina’s legendary Spaghetti (which I can’t wait to try) and the aforementioned challah.

4. One of my 2012 New Year’s resolutions will be to focus more on Sunday dinners as a hearty family meal. It seems like a great way to kick off the week, ensure leftovers for kid lunches, and have an excuse to spend more time cooking with my girls, which is challenging on busy weekday evenings. Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques offers inspiration for countless meals, but its the winter roasts and stews that I’m excited to try first.

5. As a school food advocate here in San Francisco, I find myself often turning to Janet Poppendieck’s Free for All: Fixing School Food in America for its excellent historical references, policy recommendations, and broad message of equity in the lunchroom. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in getting more involved with improving school food in your community.

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*Caveat here: these books appeared at my house this year, but were not necessarily published in 2011.

3 thoughts on “My Favorite Food Books of 2011

  1. For more, check out NPR’s best cookbooks of the year.

    The one that caught my attention is “What Chefs Feed Their Kids: Recipes And Techniques For Cultivating A Love Of Good Food” by Fanae Aaron•

    Imagine the life of a chef who is also a parent — the backbreaking hours, the sleepless nights, the pleas for snack and homework help right at service time. You may think you have it hard with your picky eater, but compared to these parents, you probably don’t. In this book you won’t see cupcakes decorated with M&M’s or raisins arranged to look like ants on a celery stick. This is real food — curried chickpea salad, brown rice risotto with spring greens. It’s made in a hurry and it’s seasoned to please. Find me a kid who is eating Barbara Lynch’s Japanese Pancakes and I will show you a kid whose whole worldview regarding vegetables is about to change.

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