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Eat Your Words

Food sustains and heals us, brings us joy, occupies time and brings people together. As such an integral part of life, it is no wonder that food is the focus of so much reflection. Many great authors have combined their gift for observation and cooking to write thoughtful, often amusing, books about life, love and food. Here's a taste.

The late Laurie Colwin put into words what many feel about friendships, family, love, joy, sorrows and food. Two of her books, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, are collections of writings (many appeared in Gourmet Magazine) in which she offers recipes and personal musings on food. Her thoughts on homemade gingerbread after school, eggs sunny-side-up, roast chicken and black bean soup all speak volumes to the reader about her life. Of Ms. Colwin and her writing, book reviewer, Laura Shapiro, said, "On the surface her novels and stories are modest, as deceptively simple as a plate of fresh biscuits. But take a bite, and you discover a subtle, perfectly executed balance of tenderness and tang."

Frances Mayes takes her reader to the vibrant region of Italy called Tuscany. In two books, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, she, an American, chronicles life in a new country where food and wine are synonymous with life. In this country where family and friends gather for much of the afternoon to dine, she learns to make olive oil, finds that the skin of peaches peels off like a fine silk slip, fires up her Tuscan kitchen and doesn't feel guilty about napping at 9:00am.

In France, like in Italy, good food and wine is a way of life. Peter Mayle explores the beauty of Provence, its people, tranquil lifestyle and sumptuous cuisine in A Year in Provence. Illustrating just how important food is to the people of this lush land, he says their "sole concession to punctuality" is lunch.

The author of Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel, begins each chapter with a recipe and continues telling a sensuous story of longing, unrequited love, family obligation and adventures in food.

The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin is a compilation of three of the author's musings on food: American Fried, Alice Let's East and Third Helpings. Of the author and his writings, the American Library Association's BookList says "Trillin will be enjoyed by anyone who admires good writing, even those readers who are not especially partial to food writing."

In Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, author Ruth Reichl, takes you on the journey of her love affair with food. From her early days of trying to prevent her mother from giving everyone food poisoning to her many years as the New York Times restaurant critic, food has played a significant role in Reichl's life. Now as the editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine, she continues to regale her audience with tales of fine cuisine. The Seattle Times Book Review and Salon Magazine offer reviews of this book.

From dessert at an Indian restaurant to really good barbecue, Jeffrey Steingarten, former food critic for Vogue, has strong opinions about food. He has spent days baking the perfect loaf of bread, adores french fries and struggles with basting poultry. Steingarten shares all of these experiences and more in his book The Man Who Ate Everything. Books@Random offers a summary and excerpts of the book.

Perhaps of all those for whom food is a muse, M.F.K. Fischer is the most well-known. She has been called the "doyenne of food writers." Through her books such as The Art of Eating, The Gastronomic Man, Here Let Us Feast and How to Cook a Wolf, she has truly explored the world of food and its relationship to life. Of cooking she says, "No recipe in the world is independent of the tides, the moon, the physical and emotional temperatures surrounding its performance."

For more musings on food and life, check out Between Meals: Writing About Food. Though it does not provide summaries or reviews of the books, it is a helpful resource list.

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