Mazlan is an engineer by profession and a lover of food. In his free time, he likes to tinker around in the kitchen.
These 10 unusual food books include recipes, but they definitely aren't cookbooks! In the pages of the books below, you will find a healthy dosage of wit and humor, photographs, poems, drawings, and various other nontraditional elements not typically found in culinary works. These are books every food lover should read. You may want to buy them as a gift for your favorite foodie or keep them for yourself to satisfy your hunger for great literature.
10 Best Food Books to Read or Give as Gifts
- Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
- Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger
- Notes From a Kitchen
- Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant
- Extra Virginity
- Off The Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry
- Life, on the Line
- Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard
- Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life
- Hero Food: How Cooking With Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better
1. Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
Explore the delights of food and sex in Isabel Allende's Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses. Isabel Allende's Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses is a celebration in the joy of food and sex. This is a very sensual read with a combination of great recipes, tips on lovemaking, advice on how to attract a partner, poems, stories drawn from international literature, and even paintings.
Does smell has any effect on libido? You will find this answer in her book. For readers suffering from flagging virility, there is a section on how to revive it with the aid of, you guessed it, food! It includes some good aphrodisiac recipes, fresh storytelling, and added spices of humor and insight.
Isabel Allende was born in Peru but raised in Chile and is the author of several novels including some children's novels (though she successfully ventures into the very mature territory with Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses). She currently lives in California. Most of her books are international bestsellers and many have been translated into several languages. After the death of her daughter, Paula Frias, Allende started the Isabel Allende Foundation in late 1996. Paula Frias spent most of her twenty-eight years doing charity and volunteer works helping the poor in Venezuela and Spain. Her mother started this foundation to continue her work and funded it mostly from sales of her books. For more information, you may visit the Isabel Allende Foundation website. It feels good to know your book purchase is helping a good cause as well as providing entertainment!
2. Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger
Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger by Nigel Slater is an extraordinary tale of a childhood remembered through food. In Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger, Nigel Slater will take you to his kitchen with talk of bourbon biscuits and minced pies. It is an amazing story of his unhappy childhood reminisced through food, as well as a brilliant recreation of daily life in suburban England in the sixties.
At the tender age of nine, Nigel was deprived of affection after his mother died of asthma. He could not relate to his occasionally violent father and the situation was made worse when his father finally married the cleaning lady who was hired to tidy up the house and ended up seducing his father with her cooking. Nigel Slater is an English food writer, journalist, and author who became known to a much wider audience after this book was published. Toast was a winner of the British Book Award for Best Biography and was adapted into a tele-movie starring Helena Bonham Carter as his stepmother. His real life stepsisters, however, accused him of creating lies about their mother and claimed that much of the book was untrue.
Movie Trailer for 'Toast'
3. Notes From a Kitchen
Journey Inside Culinary Obsession in Notes From a Kitchen, by Jeff Scott & Others. Notes From a Kitchen by Jeff Scott, Blake Beshore, Sean Brock and Michael Laiskonis, is not a cookbook with recipes, but a brilliant and vibrant book with beautiful photographs, cooking notes, documentary film footage, and original artwork that explains what happens before a meal is served to you in a restaurant. It is a beautifully-crafted book that explores the work of several world-renowned young chefs, and It will take you to these chefs' kitchens and into their daily creative life. Among the many celebrity chefs featured are Sean Brock, George Mendes, Johnny Luzzini and Jason Neroni.
This 2-volume 900+ page coffee table book is best read in a quiet corner with your favorite desert and drink. See the video below for more information:
Notes From a Kitchen Video
4. Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant
Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant, edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler is an amusing collection of pieces. If you have always wondered what to cook when you are alone, Jenni Ferrari-Adler's Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant will help you answer this burning question.
She invited 26 foodies and writers (including my favorite writer Nora Ephron) to relate their experiences and stories of cooking for one and dining alone. They share secrets of their indulgences in food, including their comfort foods. Written with wit and humor, it is a delightful read. If you have to eat alone, then after reading this book, you will be more prepared.
5. Extra Virginity
Learn about the scandalous world of olive oil in Extra Virginity, by Tom Mueller. Tom Mueller's Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil looks into the fraud of the world of olive oil. Do not be fooled by the taglines and photographs of beautiful Italian countrysides on the labels. The cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil you are looking at may not be extra virgin after all. It may be adulterated olive oil mixed with low-grade vegetable oil. Even worse, it could also have artificial coloring. Hence, it is no longer 100% pure and healthy. To quote a critic, "it has lost its virginity' Technically, bottled olive oils labeled as "extra-virgin olive oil" must be made from crushed olives without using any chemicals or heat during the refining process. The oil has to taste and smell almost like the real fresh olives. It is claimed that almost 50% of the olive oils that are sold in America, are adulterated! This book will lead you into the shady world of olive oil, and it teaches you how to tell the real stuff from the phony.
6. Off The Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry
Create simple, stylish and delicious meals in Off The Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry, by Donna Hay. Australia's bestselling food writer Donna Hay writes and shares simple and easy recipes in Off The Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry. This book gives great tips and solves the "there is nothing to serve for dinner" dilemma. There are 190 recipes with each section offering tips on cooking methods and ingredients. It has basic food recipes as well as fancy dinner course recipes that are simple to prepare. All these are accompanied with beautiful photographs, which provide visual help. This book will give you the inspiration to come up with a great and delicious meal on short notice.
7. Life, on the Line
Face death in Life, on the Line, by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. Grant Achatz, one of America's celebrity chefs, shares his story of how he overcame tongue cancer, in Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat. Despite suffering an illness that deprived him of his ability to taste, he continued to work as chef of one of America's best restaurants. Earlier in 2002, Food & Wine named him one of the best new chefs in America. In 2003, he was awarded the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year Award. In 2005, he and a partner opened the award-winning restaurant, Alinea. In 2007 he was diagnosed with stage-4 tongue cancer.
The recommended treatment was to remove the cancerous cells. This would mean the removal of his entire tongue. Determined to overcome the cancer, he went for alternative treatments at the University of Chicago, which saved his life but took away his sense of taste. Despite this loss, his intensity and dedication to cooking pushed him to cook using his other senses: sight, touch and smell. Read this amazing story of his battle with tongue cancer as well as his memoir as a chef in a fiercely tough restaurant industry.
8. Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard
Learn how to use fruits from the garden in Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard, by Nigel Slater. The latest book by Nigel Slater, Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard is the companion to Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch. In the UK, Ripe was published as Tender: Volume 2. There are 24 chapters and each chapter is devoted to a fruit from the author's garden. The chapters include apricots, blueberries, apples, cherries, grapes, elderberries, gooseberries, figs etc. The beautifully-photographed chapters offer recipes for each of these fruits, tips on flavor pairing, info on the various varieties of each of the fruits, and other useful tips.
9. Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life
Take a look at rural life in Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life, by Julia Rothman. Julia Rothman's Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life is an amazing and brilliantly-illustrated guide book to the intricate and fascinating side of rural life. All the illustrations and the handwritten text in the book were done by Julia Rothman. She was inspired to write this book after her first visit to the farm where her husband grew up. As you read look at the beautiful illustrations, you will be educated on life in the country, on plants in the garden, animals on the farm, and even on how to make cheese. This charming book will appeal to people of all ages.
10. Hero Food: How Cooking With Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better
Learn how to cook with healthy food in Hero Food: How Cooking With Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better, by Seamus Mullen. Seamus Mullen, chef, restaurateur, and finalist in 2009's The Next Iron Chef, came out with his book Hero Food: How Cooking With Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. His diagnosis led him to study various food properties and nutritional values as well as the causes of rheumatoid arthritis. These extensive studies lead him to eighteen "hero foods" that offer vital and important nutrients for good health. The book is packed with recipes using these 18 "hero foods." Some examples include almonds, squash, olive oil, berries, eggs, anchovies, fish and leafy greens, but you'll just have to read the book for the rest! Each recipe has a complete writeup with beautiful imagery. Many of the recipes have an exciting Spanish influence.
© 2012 Mazlan
Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on October 01, 2012:
Om, the selections are tough to make. If I have only one book to buy, I will probably read 'Life, On The Line' by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas
Om Paramapoonya on September 29, 2012:
Thanks for this lovely list of books, greatstuff. They all sound like wonderful Christmas gifts for foodies. I actually consider buying some of these books for myself!