My Top 5 Books for the Foodies Among Us

Each week, I will contribute an article to my food column: College Cooking, where I will share recipes and opinions on food trends and culture. To see more of what I like to cook and bake, check out my personal food Instagram at @healthy_eclair

It can be difficult to muster the brainpower to open a book “for fun” after staring at your screen and/or very small text all day, but I stand by the importance of reading before bed. In fact, I have pretty much done this every night since fifth grade. That being said, I have read a few books pertaining to food and have many more on my list that I hope to cross off sooner rather than later. 

What follows are three books of various genres and subject matter that all approach the role of food in our everyday lives from different, but important angles.

  1. 1. Tomorrow There Will be Apricots by Jessica Soffer

    The year before I enrolled in Adjunct Assistant Professor of English, Jessica Soffer’s notorious course Food: Reading and Writing, I read her first novel Tomorrow There Will be Apricots, a title inspired by the Arabic saying. Soffer’s beautiful story follows two women: Lorca who grapples with mental health and her relationship with her mother and Victoria, who is mourning her husband’s death while dreaming of the daughter they gave up decades ago. They are connected by delicious recipes, Lorca tracking down her mother’s favorite meal: a Middle Eastern dish called masgouf, and Victoria teaching cooking lessons in memory of her husband, an Iraqi Jewish immigrant who used to run a restaurant. The women bond over food, loss, love, and family and by the end of the novel, begin their paths to healing.

  2. 2. The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal (translated by Sam Taylor)

    Within the same genre of fiction, French author Maylis de Kerangal’s book The Cook has been on my must-read list for quite some time. Similarly, the plot is a coming-of-age story told from the point of view of an unmanned female narrator and friend/love interest of the protagonist, Mauro. The reader follows Mauro’s journey from baking as a child, jobs, and affairs in between until he rediscovers his true passion by the end.

  3. 3. Empty: A Memoir by Susan Burton

    Trigger warning: eating disorders mentioned in this memoir. I read Susan Borton’s memoir Empty last semester. Although a difficult read due to the subject matter, Borton’s narration of her adolescence and young adulthood as she struggles with eating disorders is honest, blunt, and forthcoming. She does not hold back and the book is as much of a cathartic experience for herself as it is for her readers, regardless of their relationship with eating disorders and/or body image.

  4. 4. Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen

    Amy Thielen’s food memoir Give a Girl a Knife also claims a spot on my continuously growing list of books to read. Her memoir is characteristic of a coming-of-age story as well and follows her childhood growing up in Minnesota before moving to a cabin with her husband where she discovers her relationship with food and ultimately to NYC to make it as a chef. Humorous and truthful, Thielen’s book is the perfect night to read to learn more about the twists and turns many chefs take before landing in the notorious big apple.

  5. 5. Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain

    Historian Marcia Chatelain’s book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America is an important read to learn how Black capitalists and civil rights leaders saw the franchising of fast food restaurants by Black owners as a means to improve the quality of Black life. Franchise explains that while fast food conglomerates, such as McDonald’s, provided jobs and food to Black neighborhoods and communities, this approach was not a sustainable solution.  Chatelain’s work of history prompts her readers to look with an attuned eye towards bright symbols of the “American Dream,” which are far more sinister upon closer inspection.

If you have a favorite “food” book, please comment below as I am always looking for a good read:).