Summer Reading List: Best Food Memoirs

© Tram Nguyen

By Anna Painter Posted June 07, 2016

It's that time of year: you dust off your white clothes, buy new sandals, plan summer getaways, head for the nearest beach. Whether I am poolside, en route to somewhere fabulous or, more likely, sweating like it's my job at a string of shadeless New York City playgrounds, I need a good book on hand. If winter is for Ulysses and hot toddies, summer is for cooking memoirs and margaritas. Here are six excellent new releases.

Llyod Handwerker's Famous Nathan: A Family Saga of Coney Island, the American Dream, and the Search for the Perfect Hot Dog (Flatiron Books, June 2016)

If no trip to Brooklyn's delightfully gritty Coney Island is complete without a hot dog from Nathan's, then no beach bag is complete without this history of one of America's most famous hot dog purveyors. Handwerker, founder Nathan's grandson, charts the rise and evoluation of the business. This book is perfect summertime read for the food-history buffs among us. Best read with a hot dog in hand, of course.

Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen's Pen & Palate: Mastering the Art of Adulthood, with Recipes (Grand Central Life and & Style, May 2016)

Written by Food & Wine's own Lucy Madison and her childhood friend Tram Nguyen, this book is a funny and food-focused coming of age story. Charting their wobbly path from angsty teens to sure-footed adults, Madison and Nguyen's book is the perfect gift for all of the new college graduates in your life. And if the new grad wants to make fried chicken for the first time? Send them straight to page 239.

Eddie Huang's Double Cup Love (Random House, May 2016)

If benchmark food memoirist Ruth Reichl's writing flows like rich ganache over the edge of a cake, Huang's bounces like mustard seeds in a hot skillet. Three years after his first book Fresh Off the Boat, Huang takes readers back to China in Double Cup Love. Huang has wowed New Yorkers with his cooking, but how will he fare when he sets up shop in China? Is he Chinese enough to cook Chinese food in China? This book is raucous and raunchy and awesome. Although much is made of the book's hip-hop references and the staccato cadence of the writing, it is Huang's relationship with his family, particularly his brothers Evan and Emery, that anchors the book and keeps you reading.

Eric Ripert's 32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table to Working the Line (Random House, May 2016)

In an industry where cooks can seem to rocket from obscurity to celebrity overnight, Ripert reminds us of the tremendously hard work that comes first. Instinct in the kitchen, he cautions "is something you develop very, very slowly." Ripert's journey may have been rocky, but the stories and wisdom he has accumulated are invaluable. A must-read for aspiring cooks.

Ina Yalof's Food and the City: New York's Professional Chefs, Restaurateurs, Line Cooks, Street Vendors, and Purveyours Talk About What They Do and Why They Do It (G.P. Putnam & Sons, May 2016)

In addition to having the longest subtitle of any book mentioned here, Yalof's book has the most individual stories to tell. By the end of the book you have heard 53 unique voices, everyone from Paulette Johnson, chief overseer of the food service operations for the NYC Department of Corrections, to Luis Iglesias, oyster shucker for the Grand Central Oyster Bar, and Douglas Corwin, fourth generation duck farmer of Crescent Duck Farm. Each story gives you a glimpse behind the scenes of huge range of food-related businesses, and the voices and perspectives are as diverse as the city itself.

Lorna Piatti-Farnell's Banana: A Global History (University of Chicago Press, 2016)

Here, I ask you to read not a cooking memoir but rather the memoir of a food. Part of the Edible Series, this slim volume tells the long, violent and complicated history of this ubiquitous fruit. Read this book on the beach and remember that even the most humble of foods has a story worth telling.

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