Kiddosphere: What’s Cooking? Books for National Chef Appreciation Week
Since 2005, the third week of August has been set aside to honor chefs from all walks of life during “National Chef Appreciation Week.” It’s hard to beat a great food-related read, so I’ve gathered some awesome chef-related titles guaranteed to entice your taste buds.
Books for Adults:
While Kitchen Confidential is probably Anthony Bourdain’s most famous title (and the one that spawned an entire subgenre of books chronicling the underbelly of the culinary world), I find A Cook’s Tour: In Search of a Perfect Meal to be equally fascinating. Bourdain was well-known for his deep appreciation/respect for international cultures and cuisines, which is memorably explored in this unique read.
If you love reading about food from international cultures, you’ll also want to pick up Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. Although Sasha Martin’s experiment of cooking a meal from all 195 countries (at the time of publication) is intriguing, her recollections of a rough and unstable childhood are heartbreaking and moving.
Food science-y books are perennially popular, but it will be hard to top On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. If you read the original back in the 1980s, you’ll want to read the fully revised 2004 edition, as our knowledge of nutrition has changed since then. Everything you’d ever want to know about the evolution of dairy animals (including the structure of ice cream, buttermilk, etc.), rice cooking techniques and customs, the different types of syrup production, and much more is covered in exhaustive detail. If this is a bit intimidating, try The Science of Good Cooking from America’s Test Kitchen (or anything from America’s Test Kitchen, as their books/magazines will go into the hows and whys of their recipes).
I love presidential history; not just about the presidents, but about their families and those that interacted with them. The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washingtons to the Obamas is a revealing look at the African-American chefs, butlers and servers who have worked for presidential families since the first days of the republic.
Books for Children:
Even if you’re not into culinary history, you’re probably familiar with Julia Child, who popularized French cuisine to American audiences. Child’s long remarkable life is worth exploring: Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child is a delightful picture book, while Erin Hagar’s biography (in graphic novel style) is a great read for older readers. Adults wanting an in-depth read should check out Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child.
Want to add some local flavor to your culinary reads? Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis introduces readers to Edna Lewis, the granddaughter of enslaved African-Americans and author of one of the classics of Southern cookbooks, The Taste of Southern Cooking. Lewis’s interests in locally-grown food, preserving regional recipes, and keeping the distance between farm to table predate the modern “farm-to-table” movement by several generations; this is an engaging picture book biography of a remarkable woman.
Roy Choi’s passion for “food that isn’t fancy” and bringing the food traditions of his native Korea to literally the “man on the street” is celebrated in this picture book biography of one of the first modern food truck pioneers. If you’re in the mood for a picture book biography that’s far from ordinary, Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix should be on your list.
Chinese restaurants, from the corner Chinese-American family supper stop to restaurants featuring one of the many unique cultures of China, are not considered exotic by the vast majority of Americans, but it was a different story in the late 1950s-1960s. Joyce Chen’s escape from China during the early days of the Communist takeover, the establishment of her first restaurant, to the creation of her cookbooks and her PBS cooking show are admiringly captured in Dumpling Dreams: How Joyce Chen Brought the Dumpling From Beijing to Cambridge.
Although I haven’t finished the series, I routinely recommend the Next Best Junior Chef trilogy to anyone looking for an entertaining read. Mentioning that it’s about kids on a cooking reality show contest never fails to catch the attention of both kids and parents! Cooking tips and techniques are featured in each title.
Jennifer Schultz, Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library