We're going to the conference today, but if we weren't going to the Star Chefs event, it would be the perfect fall day to drive out to Jones Beach, take a walk along the boardwalk and have a cup of chowder. After that I'd probably find a sunny spot somewhere at home to curl up with a good book. One of the benefits of the basement flooding this past August was that we were forced to unpack our myriad cookbooks and culinary classics. It was like reacquainting ourselves with old friends. This is the perfect time of year to savor some of my favorite food writing, collected over the last couple of decades.
Delight and Prejudices by James Beard was a favorite of mine growing up. From the coast of Oregon to far off ports of call, his memoir is a celebration of food and life. He was a wonderful, evocative writer and he makes you want to crawl into the pages and resurrect the Portland of his youth. From his childhood to mid-life, it is a journey of discovery and wonder. Having read the book, it seems almost inevitable that the man became such an icon on the food world.
As with James Beard, my first introduction to the books of Bert Greene was this collection of essays and recipes, Bert Greene's Kitchen, a Book of Memories and Recipes. It was published posthumously so I never got a chance to sample any of his cooking. Bert Greene was one of the original founders and considered the culinary heart and soul of The Store in Amagansett. Long before Ina Gardner made her mark as the Barefoot Contessa, the Store established the Hamptons as an area that appreciated good food and gourmet take out. He has a warm and engaging voice and there is such pleasure to be found in his writing. The stories will make your mouth water and the recipes will allow to make your own version of his favorite food stuffs. All of his books are quite wonderful, this one is still my favorite.
Consuming Passions, a Food Obsessed Life by Michael Lee West is a must for anyone who loves Southern Food, as I do. Although there is great food to be found in every region of the country, Southern history and culture has centered around food in ways that just aren't seen in other areas. James Villas, John Egerton, Edna Lewis, and Bill Neal were some of my favorite food writers during my formative years. As a result, I've always been fascinated the atmosphere of hospitality and gracious generosity that permeates the legends of Southern cuisine. Michael Lee West is equally evocative and downright funny with her stories of food and family in the south. It is a quick and entertaining read that will leave you with a hankering for mashed potato salad and smile on your face.
Sometimes reading is almost as delicious as cooking or eating. There's no muss, no fuss, no calories and still plenty of sustenance to be found.