(this article was originally written for "The Book Lady" column at gabbygourmet.com)
Hi, I'm Jackie Blem, a reviewer with Tattered Cover Book Store, pinch hitting for Cathy Langer who usually writes this column. I like a good story. And a good recipe. I especially like it when the two come together. That's definitely true about these "foodie memoirs".
Immortal Milk by Eric LeMay
This is a laugh-out-loud treasure of a book that deals with the history and mystery of cheese in very layman terms. Eric and his wife Chuck ("pate to my rind" he says) are HUGE cheese fans. So, they decide to immerse themselves in it as much as they can on a very limited time and money budget. They do manage to go to an impressive number of places, including France twice (with hilarious results each time). This is a delightful read, which includes descriptions of complex cheeses such as "does not play well with others" or "this cheese was made to be consumed in a windy meadow", "tastes like what a milkmaids cheeks should", etc. Just about every page will have you laughing, yet this book teaches you a tremendous amount of information about cheese and will undoubtedly have you looking for the nearest local cheese monger to try some of them for yourselves!
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
Molly Wizenberg is a food writer with a monthly column in Bon Appetit and a popular blogcalled Orangette ( http://orangette.blogspot.com/ ), as well as being a contributor in several other publications as well as NPR and PBS. "A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table" is her first book, made up mostly of past entries on Orangette. It's a biography told in recipes--amazingly accessible recipes that made my mouth water and my feet itch to get into the kitchen and start experimenting myself. This book (and the blog, on which I am now hooked) is extremely personable and personal--she talks about food solidly in the context that is has in her life. Her father's French toast, a recipe for Tarte Tatin in which the memory of a young heartbreak in Paris is a silent but important ingredient, Dutch Baby pancakes made for her by one of her friend Rebecca's husbands (Rebecca says everyone needs two husbands:for her one is straight (John, the cook) and one is gay (Jimmy, the baker)--all three have successfully lived together for years). This book reads very much like a chat at the table over coffee with your best friend--one who is a fanatic about food and has been known to experiment with recipes for years before finally being satisfied.
The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
I am soooooo in love with this book! Josh is an ex-drag queen and writer turned advertising maven, Brent is "Dr Brent" on The Martha Stewart Show. They've been together for almost 10 years and seem to thrive on the big city lifestyle despite their 700 square foot apartment--until they take a wrong turn on a drive and discover The Beekman Mansion. It's HUGE, 200 years old and in need of a whole lot of work--but they want it. Dreams of leisurely weekends away from the city as gentlemen farmers dance merrily in their heads, so they take the plunge. Then Josh sneaks in a caretaker for the place that just happens to have a herd of goats. And, well, if they have goats now, they might as well have chickens. And a cow. And a garden. And then a bigger garden--MUCH bigger. Then a handmade Christmas project became a full on artisan soap company, and Beekman 1802 began--and grew...and grew...and grew. This is a wonderful tale of two Type A personalities taking on the bucolic life big city style, with some bonus ghosts and legions of zombie flies thrown into the mix. It's equal parts inspiring and exhausting, but you can't help but fall in love with these guys and the small town who has come to embrace them. The good news is they have a "docu-series" coming out in June 2010 on Discovery Channel's Planet Green called "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" so the laughs won't have to stop when the book cover closes.
Ginger and Ganesh by Nani Power
Single mother, teacher and writer Nani Power wants to learn to cook Indian food. But she doesn't want to take a class or buy a bunch of cookbooks--that seems too sterile, and she's just as interested in learning the culture as she is the recipes. So she puts a posting on Craigslist and begins a two year odyssey of kitchens and cultures, friends and amazing food--even love. The recipes (more than 50, all vegetarian) in this book are sublime, and her stories of her lessons are absorbing. She shares the wisdom of both cooking and life she gained along the way in an honest and open way. This book would make a fabulous addition to ANY cook's shelf (or beach bag).