’Tis the season for giving and eating, and we’ve got the perfect strategy. . . combine the two! Whether your gift list contains a Francophile, a restaurant lover, a bibliophile, a classic movie buff, or a fan of military history, these 12 food-themed sweet and savory books will satisfy every appetite on your list. Bon appétit, and happy holidays!
For the Bibliophile
I love to read while I eat, and this delightful cookbook, inspired by food from celebrated works of literature (and containing the corresponding passages themselves), is a yummy amalgamation of those activities. Perfect for cooking in the kitchen, or simply for reading while curled up in your favorite comfy chair.
For the Memoir Enthusiast (or the Lover of Southern Lit)
I found my favorite ginger snap recipe in Michael Lee West’s cross between a traditional Southern cookbook and a hilarious memoir. The chapters read like we’re sitting at her kitchen table while sipping sweet tea, nibbling lemon squares, and laughing at tales of her quirky family, including elderly aunts who brew love potions. Made me wish I was from the South!
For Military History Fans (or Lovers of Convenience Foods)
Did you know we have the military to thank for almost all the ready-to-eat food on our supermarket shelves? What’s a “bliss point,” and how does it affect how much we eat? Find out in this romp through the wild evolution of the commercial food industry, from feeding military personnel to feeding our families.
For the Classic Movie Buff
Compiled by Audrey Hepburn’s son, this collection of recipes for her favorite dishes (written in her own handwriting) also includes anecdotes, family photographs, Hollywood memories, letters, and drawings. A true labor of love, and a really good cookbook to boot!
For Your Friend Who Just Moved Into Their Own Apartment
The title of this compilation of intriguing meditations on the secret, and often weird, meals we eat when we’re alone was inspired by an essay of the same name by the great novelist Laurie Colwin. It also includes authors as varied as Marcella Hazan, Haruki Murakami, and Nora Ephron.
For Those Who Enjoy a Good Biography
From reading her books I thought I knew most everything about M.F.K. Fisher, the American icon of food writing. So I was surprised to learn so many intimacies in this meticulously researched and beautifully written biography, which humanizes the larger-than-life literary figure.
For Lovers of Magical Realism (or Oysters)
Beloved author Isabel Allende is also an authority on aphrodisiacs! In this irresistible ode to sensuality, she shares the foods that have sparked the flames of love or lust through the centuries, igniting our senses with racy essays and recipes, including those from her own kitchen and bedroom.
For the Wine-Lover
What’s the big deal about wine? Bianca Bosker aims to find out as she traverses the path to becoming a sommelier, attends secret underground tasting parties, learns the neuroscience behind smell and taste, and shares all in this entertaining and informative adventure that will leave you excited to peruse the wine list. Cheers!
For the Friend Who Can Always Get Reservations
What was Baked Alaska called before it was called Baked Alaska? How many varieties of ice cream were served at Howard Johnson’s? And how do race and class tie in? Find out in this “biography” of ten diverse eating establishments, from Schrafft’s to Chez Panisse to Sylvia’s. Exploring the tradition of American restaurants and American culture, the lovely illustrations, historical photographs, and memorabilia add to this tasty feast of a book.
For the Francophile (or Cheese-Lover)
The sensory overload of Les Halles serves as the backdrop for this historical novel, which follows the life of a fish inspector—who is also an escaped political prisoner—in tumultuous nineteenth-century France. The exquisite descriptions of cheese alone will have you salivating.
In the third novel of Emile Zola’s 20-volume Les Rougon-Macquart series, a man named Florent, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, escapes to Paris and becomes a fish inspector at the Les Halles market. Food and politics collide in the heart of the market, giving the reader some of the most vivid and delicious descriptions you’ll ever find on the page.
For Your Inappropriate Friend
How much bacon is enough bacon? We all have that friend with a sense of humor often dubbed “inappropriate,” and this one is for them. WARNING: Do not read this collection of essays by a former sex worker on public transportation, or you will embarrass yourself with uncontrollable, snorting laughter. Food, casual recipes, sex, love, really gross stuff. . . it’s perfect. I will never look at broccoli the same way again.
For Everyone Who Eats
Author Laura Shapiro’s entertaining exploration features women as varied as Eva Braun, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Helen Gurley Brown. Told through the lens of their kitchens and meals, these pieces provide fascinating insight into the lives of these six famous, and infamous, women.