The 10 Best Food Memoirs to Devour Right Now
It takes special talent to turn great eating into great writing. (Truly, you can only say “mouthwatering” some many times in one book.) So we’re always impressed when a memoir seamlessly integrates food into real storytelling—whether it’s a chef writing about life on the line, or a critic who makes you feel like you’re sitting at the table with him. Here are ten of our favorites.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
The late, great Bourdain is largely to thank for the food memoir genre as we know it today. In the book that launched his career, Bourdain quickly strips the glamour away from the chef’s life, writing crudely (but hilariously) about what goes on behind the counter of a busy New York bistro. Read this before watching CNN's forthcoming Bourdain documentary on repeat.
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
When he became the food critic at Vogue, Steingarten vowed to learn to like all the foods he had spent his life avoiding—things like kimchi, lard, clams and anything blue. He succeeded on most fronts (blue foods are still untrustworthy), and brings readers on every adventure along the way.
My Life in France by Julia Child
If you found yourself particularly charmed by the Julia parts in Nora Ephron’s movie Julie & Julia, we can assume two things: First, you have a pulse, and second, you’ll love this book, on which the Julia half was based. In it, the great chef and TV personality teamed up with her nephew to write lovingly about her years in France, which went on to change the culinary world forever. NBD.
Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen
Raised mostly in the Arizona desert, this daughter of a Marxist lawyer and a cellist-turned-psychologist has plenty of fodder for a great memoir. We love that Christensen chose to tell her life story through the foods she ate at every stage of life—from the soft-boiled eggs of her childhood to the pastries during a nannying stint in France to the chicken thighs she cooked in a small New York kitchen, nursing a broken heart.
Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
It’s hard to imagine that the former New York Times restaurant critic and editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine grew up eating moldy food thrown together by a slightly unhinged mother. The first in a beautifully written trio of Reichl’s memoirs, Tender at the Bone chronicles her unlikely rise to one of the most storied food careers of the last few decades.
The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher
Fisher is like the fairy godmother of great food writing—she did it earlier and better than anyone else. It’s hard to pick just one of her books, but this one, about her first trip to France, holds a special place in our hearts.
Delancey by Molly Wizenberg
If you’ve ever thought that opening a restaurant might be fun, we direct you to Seattle food blogger Molly Wizenberg for a big reality check. As newlyweds, she and her husband decided to open a pizzeria, which turned out to be a labor of love, in more ways than one. (Don’t worry; it’s now one of Seattle’s most beloved spots.)
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
The self-taught chef of the beloved New York restaurant Prune is also an MFA-trained creative writer. And it shows. Her memoir is bold, passionate and brilliant: a gold standard for the genre.
Heat by Bill Buford
Buford was an established writer with a pretty enviable day job at The New Yorker when he quit to be an apprentice in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo. His memoir is full of practical cooking tips (never throw away starchy pasta water, FYI), as well as great stories (pig slaughtering in Italy, for one) and insights into the über-competitive world of New York restaurants.
Born Round by Frank Bruni
Journalist Frank Bruni spent most of his life struggling with his weight. When he was finally getting it under control, he took a big gamble: accepting a job as the restaurant critic for The New York Times. Bruni writes with enormous warmth and intimacy about his career, his family and his daily battle to keep everything in balance.