Five Favourite Food Memoirs For All You Foodies Out There
Five Favourite Food Memoirs For All You Foodies Out There
Anybody who has read my BooknBrunch Journal entries over the years will know I am passionate about food. I think about it the second I wake up and it’s the last thing on my mind at night before I go to sleep. I’m constantly pondering and planning where my next meal will come from. It should come as no surprise to you then that my bookshelves are filled with cookbooks and memoirs of my favourite chefs – here are a few of my favourites. I hope you choose to read even just one of them and that you get the same pleasure and satisfaction that I did when reading it for the first time.
My Life in France by Julia Child & Alex Prud’Homme
Since watching the movie ”Julie & Julia,” I have been drawn to Julia Child. Inspiring, with constant joy and a larger-than-life personality – she is definitely somebody I would love to have dinner with. My Life in France tells of her time in Paris, her success embedding herself in a new country, mastering the language and the cuisine – it’s the basis for the movie Julia & Julia. In her own words, she shares the ups and downs of life in Paris with her husband, Paul Prud’Homme, an American diplomat. She threw herself 110% into everything she did, and as the only woman on a chef’s course at Cordon Bleu, she went into battle with the head of the school and came out victorious. After many years, and almost as many rejections, she published her renowned cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She successfully presented her own TV show, “The French Chef,” delivering French cuisine to the nation. A true inspiration and a fantastic lady.
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
I honestly don’t recall him being in “The Devil Wears Prada” (note to self – watch the movie again!), but I fell in love with him in ”Julie & Julia,” where he played Paul Prud’Homme, the husband of Julia Child. I also adored his performance in ”The Inside Man,” playing a death row prisoner with a knack for solving mysteries. Growing up in an Italian American family in Westchester, New York, he was introduced to good food early on. He shared many recipes in The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table. Now, he invites us to explore the inspirations and stories behind those recipes in Taste. It’s a nostalgic peek into his life – both the ups and the downs. It is littered with recipes that make you want to put down the book and head to the kitchen to rustle up some tomato sauce (or maybe even a cocktail).
Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger by Nigel Slater
A remarkable chef, writer, and TV presenter from the UK–and one of my favourites–Nigel Slater has written 11 cookbooks, five diaries, and four memoirs and essays. I wrote an article for The Journal in 2019 where I shared my love of one of his cookbooks, The Christmas Chronicles, which reads like an eloquent novel and shares over a hundred recipes from quick family meals to nostalgic pies and puddings (click here for the article). Toast, first published in 2003, is a biography recalling his childhood, where food triggers many colourful and nostalgic memories and remarkably coherent recollections of past experiences. It is the winner of many literary awards, including the National Book Awards British Biography of the Year – it has even been made into a BBC film. Written with humour and intimacy, his recollections stir such vivid memories from my childhood, growing up in the UK in a similar era. References to 1960s and 1970s staples such as Arctic Roll, grilled grapefruit, crumpets, and canned fruit take me right back to family meals in our dining room, even down to the white sliced bread and butter that accompanied every meal, complementary or not!
Climbing The Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey
Madhur Jaffrey is an Indian-born British-American actress, food and travel writer, and television personality. Her first cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking, published in 1973, was inducted into the James Beards Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame, and she’s gone on to write a total of 15 cookbooks. I would like to guess that any chef or home cook interested in Indian cuisine will have at least one of her books on their bookshelves – I have three! Published in 2006, Climbing the Mango Trees is an evocative memoir of growing up in Delhi during the final years of the British Raj and a society of yesteryear. She grew up in a large family where it was not unusual for 40 or more members to eat together; where an expanse of flavours was to become imprinted on Madhur’s palate and subsequently shared with us through her recipes and books. The joyous memory of climbing her grandfather’s mango trees provides the title for her memoir, when she would pick the mango when the fruits were still green and sour, peeling and slicing them before dipping them into a spice mix of salt, pepper, red chillies, and roasted cumin. She draws on this and many simple acts of childhood and family life to evoke her memories and through, which she so lovingly and kindly shares with us in the pages of this book.
Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table by Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl has many strings to her bow – chef, food writer, acclaimed food critic, and magazine editor. She has published 11 books, including one novel, and won an impressive six James Beard Foundation Awards. Recognizing in her early years that food could be a way of making sense of the world around her, she quickly determined that you could learn a lot about people from watching what they ate and thus began her interest in food. Tender at the Bone, her first memoir published in 1998, gives us a glimpse into how her passion for food, paired with familial experiences and the colourful characters she meets along the way, helped to develop her love for food and shape her long and impressive career. Witty and engaging, I found it difficult to put down and devoured page after page to satiate my desire to learn more about this remarkable woman.
If you’re interested in food, you should check out some of the books above – they’re entertaining and allow you a peek into the lives of your favourite chef and what guided them along the way. Let us know which one you like best on social @booknbrunch.
With 30 years of general management experience in the global insurance industry and having lived in 4 countries, Jacqui now spends her time between London and New York where she continues to pursue her passion for writing, food, books and travel. A Reiki practitioner, yogi and huge animal advocate, her home isn’t complete without a furbaby or three. In addition to being a BooknBrunch contributor, she writes for industry publications. Favourite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Favourite brunch dish: avocado toast with tomato and chilli
With 30 years of general management experience in the global insurance industry and having lived in 4 countries, Jacqui now spends her time between London and New York where she continues to pursue her passion for writing, food, books and travel.
A Reiki practitioner, yogi and huge animal advocate, her home isn’t complete without a furbaby or three. In addition to being a BooknBrunch contributor, she writes for industry publications.
Favourite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.