A smorgasbord of books for lovers of food and the natural world
”Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly”. It is now up to your taste buds to decide which books will be munched, nibbled or savoured, but I have thoroughly enjoyed all of them.
The Mushroom at the End of the World (On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins), Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
An intricate and winding investigation of the absurd, vital and disturbing world of the matsutake mushroom. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing takes an anthropological, ecological and economical lens to the destructive, collaborative and resilient people and plants that make the story of the most valuable mushroom in the world. A wonderfully fresh perspective on what grows from ruins.
Michael Pollan, Cooked
I almost left him out because he makes it onto almost every food writing list, but you can’t go wrong with the pleasant, but pugnacious prose of Pollan. In Cooked, he weaves a powerful argument for the importance of communities taking back control from big industry, but also cookings ability to provide liberation and joy for us personally. Any of his books are well worth a read, but this is my personal favourite as there is a whole section on bread.
Carolyn Steel, Sitopia
An engrossing and hopeful manifesto for a world driven by good food. Her writing is so inviting and unpretentious, that it almost hides the importance of her ideas. Sitopia serves a vision for a more equitable, more cooperative and more delicious future for food and for the planet. It reminded me of Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists, but with a little more discussion about the importance of soil, which can be no bad thing.
Robert MacFarline, The Old Ways
An unrelentingly beautiful story about a world well-trodden. If you haven’t read any Macfarline before, his prose sings with a love for the natural world, for walking and for the extraordinary humans he meets on his travels. Once you have followed Macfarline’s paths, tracks and holloways, you won’t be able to stop yourself from tying up your laces and walking some of the ways yourself.
Bryant Terry, Vegetable Kingdom
Frustratingly hard to get hold of in the UK, but you can get a kindle edition at the moment. Bryant Terry is a refreshing, intelligent and thoughtful food writer; his recipes are an ode to African diasporic foodways and are an invigorating step away other Vegan cookbooks. I’ll leave the rest to him: ‘I have approached recipe development as a collagist—curating, cutting, pasting, and remixing staple ingredients, cooking techniques, and traditional Black dishes popular throughout the world to make my own signature recipes.’
Helena Attlee, The Land Where Lemons Grow
A lyrical, sun-dappled and zesty (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) portrait of the relationship between Italy and Lemons. Attlee walks you vividly through Calabria, Sicily, Lake Garda and the Amalfi Coast in a tale intoxicatingly full of life. A trip to Italy, without the air miles.
Dan Barber, A Third Plate
Ambitious, influential and a real, tangible cause for hope. A book which made me see food, the natural world and the future in a different way. I couldn’t recommend it higher for anyone interested in what is and could be on their plate. Barber can’t help himself from looking further and further into the history, philosophy and taste of food and his discoveries are at once shocking and optimistic.
Bridget and Stephan Anderson, Burma: Family, Food and Conflict
Recommended to me by a fantastic bookshop owner in Bristol. It subverts what a cookbook is thought to be and beautifully intertwines colonialism, resistance and Myanmar cuisine. It contains some fantastic photography and accessible recipes entangled in love, history and resilience (what more could you want for dinner?).
Gill Meller, Time
For pure deliciousness this is my go to. Fantastic recipes, beautiful photography and splattering of poetry anyone who likes a bit metre alongside their meat.
The Well-Gardened Mind, Sue Stuart-Smith
An affirming excavation of how gardening brings growth. That statement may seem a little self-evident, but Sue Stuart-Smith interweaves her career as a psychotherapist, her love of gardening and fascinating examples from history to show how the natural world and our engagement with it can bring us back to ourselves.