As a voracious reader from early on, I believe certain books inspired me to be a “foodie” – I always wondered about the apple jams in “Anne of Green Gables” and I was intrigued by the description of making head sausage by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I just remember wanting to try the recipes for myself…
If I am not cooking, I am usually reading about cooking. And the current cold weather, when you just want to hang out indoors and read, has brought on memories of books about food that inspired me early on. These are not cook books by our usual standards (only about recipes) but these, upon reflection, are more about the way they addressed food, and its preparation and appreciation, in a way that I had not considered before:
My mother had this anthology around the house as I was growing up and as I was always looking for diversion from the back of cereal boxes, I would dive into it. I loved her descriptions of eating, feeding people and working with basic ingredients. I believe this early grounding taught me how to appreciate making the most of what you have available and how to be frugal with it. Although I discovered Elizabeth David later in life, I still hold Fisher to be one of the best English food writers in the last century.
This was the first book I read to focus on the long-lasting importance that food in our childhood has on our adult lives. I still have have memories of “natilla” (something like sour cream) when we lived in Costa Rica – it would arrive in big 1 litre plastic jugs with an orange top – and the visits to the “smelly” cheese shop in Atwater Market in Montreal. Reading this book made me start to make connections between what I knew as a child and what I cook and enjoy as an adult.
In my opinion, this was the book that started the whole “Food Porn” phenomenon; with its insights behind the scene in restaurants. I still won’t order swordfish and “feed the b*$tch” is now part of our lexicon (particularly when it comes to red wine vinegar!)
4. And how can I forget the “Nancy Drew Cook Book”? I adored it immediately upon receiving it as a gift when I was about ten (as a self-imagined girl detective). After a year I could make the cheese muffin recipe from memory …I was taking my cues from Hannah Gruen so how could it go wrong? And I still make these muffins so have to share the recipe after over 30 years…
Cheese Muffins (8 – 12)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Melt 4 tbs of butter.
3. Mix 1.5 cups of flour with 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tps baking powder & a dash of salt.
3. Add melted butter, 1 egg and 1/2 cup of milk to the dry ingredients.
4. Mix together and add 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese.
5. Fill greased muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes.
I have since found so many amazing writers who cover food in a way that may include recipes but also involve the reader in so much more (such as Michael Pollan, Kate Christensen, Alice Waters, Barbara Kingsolver and I could go on). Every book adds to my appreciation to try new things…
But I am always looking for more inspiration…so what are the books you read early on that inspired you?
PS: if you are a book lover, check out this video made at a local book store…