Given the fact I loathe the word "foodie" and dislike the term "beach read" (for the way in which it relegates potentially good literature into the realm of superficial fluff), I'm surprised I'm so excited about this list. Regardless of your personal opinion on either of these terms, I hope you recognize I mean to refer to interesting, entertaining, and even educational books about food, eating, and cooking that are okay to pick up and put down in between building sandcastles this summer. Seriously, what fun! Here are my Top Five:
5. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Pollan). One may argue that Pollan is a bit too pedantic for the beach, but his latest book is nevertheless an addictive chronicle of how the fire, water, air, and earth transform simple ingredients into spectacular foodstuffs.
4. Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All (Parsons). My friend Amelia gave me this book to celebrate defending my dissertation and since then I've enjoyed reading it off and on lounging on my bed, cocktail in hand. What I love about this history is its compendium, rather than linear narrative, construction; I can read the well-crafted entries will-nilly, without worrying about skipping over 'crucial' information. Another plus are the intoxicating photographs and whimsical vintage illustrations.
3. Bullets and Bread (Whitaker) Maybe it's not everyone's cup of tea to read about World War II while you're trying to relax on vacation, but this nerd loves indulging in wartime histories in her bathing suit. And she knows, KNOWS she is not alone. Bullets and Bread is a fascinating, sometimes dour, always informative account about how people fed themselves on the homefront and on the battlefield.
2. Drinking With Men (Schaap). In this memoir, Rosie Schaap contemplates the unique sort of camaraderie local watering holes, small-townpubs, and even big-city bars can inspire. Having served as both a patron and a bartender, Schaap has a broad, not to mention, witty perspective on the vices and virtues of the sort communites that arise from social drinking.
1, Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built (Federman). Federman's account of the origins and development of Russ & Daughters, famous purveyors of salted and smoked fish in Manhattan's Lower East Side, is earthy, charming, and touching. Also, this goy really enjoying getting a refresher course on yiddishisms.