The best books to read when you’re hungry

Why are we passionate about this?

Our obsessions with food and history mean that recipes are not the end of the journey, but the beginning. Recipes are an answer to a whole host of questions, challenges, and opportunities, and those are the stories that interest us. A recipe with no history is like the punch line with no preceding joke, incomplete at best.   


We wrote...

The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers

By Andrew T. Huse, Bárbara Cruz, and Jeff Houck,

Book cover of The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers

What is our book about?

Now at long last there is a chronicle worthy of the Cuban sandwich and the people who create it, brought to you by three of the sandwich’s most obsessive fans. Together, we trace the epic journey of the mixto, Cubano, and medianoche from hazy origins, through the cafes of Havana, and on to several generations of exiles in new lands. We bring the story of the sandwich to life with interviews and profiles of artisans who practice the arts of Cuban bread, ham, roast pork, and more. Finally, readers will find professional tips for creating their own glorious Cuban sandwiches at home, and in the process, honor the journeys of those who made it possible.  

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The books we picked & why

Book cover of Cross Greek Cookery

Andrew T. Huse, Bárbara Cruz, and Jeff Houck Why did I love this book?

Capitalizing on the charming landmark “Cross Creek” novel about her fish-out-of-water life in central Florida’s backwoods in the 1920s, Rawlings shares recipes using ingredients she harvested from her primitive surroundings.

There isn’t much call in the Instacart and UberEats era for entertaining dinner guests with Pot Roast of Bear, Lamb Kidneys with Sherry, or Alligator-Tail Steak. The days of serving Jellied Tongue have long passed, thankfully. Rawlings and her Cross Creek neighbors ate those dishes by necessity more than choice.

You devour what the land provides, whether it’s by shovel, by hook, or by gun. When the world gives you loquats, you make Loquat Jelly.

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cross Greek Cookery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Classic Book on Southern Cooking
First published in 1942, Cross Creek Cookery was compiled by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at the request of readers who wanted to recreate the luscious meals described in Cross Creek -- her famous memoir of life in a Florida hamlet.
Lovers of old-fashioned, down-home cooking will treasure the recipes for Grits, Hush-Puppies, Florida Fried Fish, Orange Fluff, and Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie. For more adventuresome palates, there are such unusual dishes as Minorcan Gopher Stew, Coot Surprise, Alligator-Tail Steak, Mayhaw Jelly, and Chef Huston's Cream of Peanut Soup.
Spiced with delightful…


Book cover of Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History

Andrew T. Huse, Bárbara Cruz, and Jeff Houck Why did I love this book?

In the Twentieth Century, the U.S. took stock of its regional specialties, resulting in landmark publications around the country. Many of the resulting books then and now tend to fixate on recipes alone, the tip of the culinary iceberg.  

During the 1980s, John Egerton meandered around the South looking for vestiges of vittles only found there at a time when regional cooking specialties across the US seemed to be fading fast.  With snippets of travel writing, interviews with artisans, anecdotes, and recipes, Southern Food demonstrated the culinary vitality and diversity of the South in one volume.   

Egerton’s work revealed the need for deeper research and more context to make sense of culinary traditions. It also helped casual observers to recognize the importance of Southern food, and that before mass-produced popular culture took hold, all food was essentially regional.

By John Egerton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Southern Food as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as an instant classic when it appeared in 1987, John Egerton's Southern Food captures the flavor and feel of what it has meant for southerners, over the generations, to gather at the table. This book is for reading, for cooking, for eating (in and out), for referring to, for browsing in, and, above all, for enjoying. Egerton first explores southern food in more than 200 restaurants in eleven southern states; he describes their specialties and recounts his conversations with owners, cooks, waiters, and customers. Then, because some of the best southern cooking is done at home, Egerton offers more…


Book cover of Norman Van Aken's Feast of Sunlight: 200 Inspired Recipes from the Master of New World Cuisine

Andrew T. Huse, Bárbara Cruz, and Jeff Houck Why did I love this book?

Norman Van Aken is known internationally for introducing "fusion" into the lexicon of modern cookery as the founding father of New World Cuisine. 

Van Aken found his cooking voice in Key West by marrying Caribbean ingredients and spices with classic cooking techniques. 

He wrote this landmark book while helming Key West's Mira restaurant, where he showcased lobster terrine with caviar on a champagne yogurt dressing, curried carrot and chicken soup, and grilled marinated shrimp and chorizo.

Chef Charlie Trotter once called Van Aken, “the Walt Whitman of American Cuisine.” That would make this book his “Leaves Of Grass.” Poetry indeed.

By Norman Van Aken,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Norman Van Aken's Feast of Sunlight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to the New World. The tastiest, most imaginative cooking in America today comes not from the East Coast or the West Coast but the South Coast, especially Florida. That's where Norman Van Aken, Florida's most celebrated chef, has created New World Cuisine, a passionate marriage between the vibrant flavours of the South, Southwest, Latin America, and the Caribbean and the classic techniques of Europe and the Mediterranean. Here are big, bold flavours exquisitely prepared and beautifully presented, from a true master who, in these 200 glorious recipes, happily reveal his secrets to the home cook.


Book cover of Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar

Andrew T. Huse, Bárbara Cruz, and Jeff Houck Why did I love this book?

This well-researched volume explores the history of cocktails in the U.S. through the godfather of bartenders everywhere, Jerry Thomas. 

Since Thomas was the first to systematically record the drinks of his age, publishing his first bartender’s guide in 1862, his writings serve as important historic sources from anyone interested in mixology.  

Bartender guides tend to be terse and practical, reducing storied and noble creations to a few efficient lines of text.  Wondrich engagingly discusses the history and merits of more than one hundred cocktails, all of which illuminate the times and places in which they were created and drank. 

The result is a series of revelations about the drinks, some famous and some forgotten, that imbibers typically take for granted. Just like a good recipe, it takes history, culture, and geography to inspire a good cocktail. Thanks to Wondrich and his research, the history is much more accessible in this book.   

By David Wondrich,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Imbibe! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The newly updated edition of David Wondrich’s definitive guide to classic American cocktails.

Cocktail writer and historian David Wondrich presents the colorful, little-known history of classic American drinks--and the ultimate mixologist's guide--in this engaging homage to Jerry Thomas, father of the American bar.

Wondrich reveals never-before-published details and stories about this larger-than-life nineteenth-century figure, along with definitive recipes for more than 100 punches, cocktails, sours, fizzes, toddies, slings, and other essential drinks, along with detailed historical and mixological notes.
 
The first edition, published in 2007, won a James Beard Award. Now updated with newly discovered recipes and historical information, this…


Book cover of Dinner with the President: Food, Politics, and a History of Breaking Bread at the White House

Andrew T. Huse, Bárbara Cruz, and Jeff Houck Why did I love this book?

It’s all here—from George Washington’s penchant for cracking walnuts with his teeth to Biden’s famous weakness for ice cream—Dinner with the President is a fascinating peek into the First Families’ eating habits en famille, as well as the diplomatic maneuvers behind state dinners and the gastro-intrigue girding geopolitics.

By the coauthor of Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France, this meticulously researched account of White House meals is part history book, part food biography. Juicy behind-the-scenes accounts shed light on events like Andrew Jackson’s 1829 inauguration party, Richard Nixon’s improbable gastro-diplomacy in China, and Jimmy Carter’s brokering peace in the Middle East over 13 days of food. 

Last, readers will appreciate a compendium of selected White House recipes (some modernized to today’s tastes and accessibility of ingredients), historical photographs (such as notable events at the White House and a few of the kitchens through the years), and images of artifacts and documents (such as the cup Lincoln used to sip his last coffee, and the Bill of Fare from his ill-fated second inaugural ball).
Dinner with the President handily confirms Anthony Bourdain’s observation: “Nothing is more political than food. Nothing.”

By Alex Prud'homme,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dinner with the President as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A wonderfully entertaining, often surprising history of presidential taste, from the grim meals eaten by Washington and his starving troops at Valley Forge to Trump’s fast-food burgers and Biden’s ice cream—what they ate, why they ate it, and what it tells us about the state of the nation—from the coauthor of Julia Child’s best-selling memoir My Life in France

"[A] beautifully written book about how the presidential palate has helped shape America...Fascinating."—Stanley Tucci

Some of the most significant moments in American history have occurred over meals, as U.S. presidents broke bread with friends or foe: Thomas Jefferson’s nationbuilding receptions in…


You might also like...

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

Book cover of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

What is my book about?

I grew up thinking that being adopted didn’t matter. I was wrong. This book is my journey uncovering the significance and true history of adoption practices in America. Now, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women’s reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, I am uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption.

The history of adoption, reframed through the voices of adoptees like me, and mothers who have been forced to relinquish their babies, blows apart old narratives about adoption, exposing the fallacy that adoption is always good.

In this story, I reckon with the pain and unanswered questions of my own experience and explore broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization, and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children. Now is the moment we must all hear these stories.

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

What is this book about?

Nearly every person in the United States is affected by adoption. Adoption practices are woven into the fabric of American society and reflect how our nation values human beings, particularly mothers. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women's reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, Rebecca C. Wellington is uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption. Wellington's timely-and deeply researched-account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States' adoption industry.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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