The best French cuisine books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about French cuisine and why they recommend each book.

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The Cooking of South West France

By Paula Wolfert,

Book cover of The Cooking of South West France

Wolfert made her name with her book Couscous and Other Food of Morocco, first published in 1973. This groundbreaking book was not only the first time an American writer’s topic was North African food but Wolfert explored for the first time its culinary anthropology. This book on southwest France might even be better than her couscous book. Its depth of understanding and explanation is amazing. Its thoroughness is unparalleled. Its fastidiousness might annoy some readers, but one will never claim there wasn’t enough detail. Follow this book and you will be able to make confit de canard to use in your equally authentic cassoulet of southwest France.


Who am I?

Clifford A. Wright is a cook, food writer, and independent research scholar who won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000 for A Mediterranean Feast. He is the author of 16 books, fourteen of which are cookbooks, as well as writing all the food entries for Columbia University's Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and the entry for tiramisu and other sweets in the Oxford Companion to Sweets.


I wrote...

A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

By Clifford A. Wright,

Book cover of A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

What is my book about?

A groundbreaking culinary work of extraordinary depth and scope that spans more than one thousand years of history, A Mediterranean Feast tells the sweeping story of the birth of the venerated and diverse cuisines of the Mediterranean. Author Clifford A. Wright weaves together historical and culinary strands from Moorish Spain to North Africa, from coastal France to the Balearic Islands, from Sicily and the kingdoms of Italy to Greece, the Balkan coast, Turkey, and the Near East.

French Provincial Cooking

By Elizabeth David,

Book cover of French Provincial Cooking

David was one of the most famous food writers in post-World War II Europe and she introduced English readers to the cuisine that exists beyond the celebrated kitchens of the top chefs of Paris. Although the recipes are written in a more abbreviated style than one sees today, her personable stories enliven the dishes she includes so you the reader will excitedly jump right to the kitchen and get cooking.


Who am I?

Clifford A. Wright is a cook, food writer, and independent research scholar who won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000 for A Mediterranean Feast. He is the author of 16 books, fourteen of which are cookbooks, as well as writing all the food entries for Columbia University's Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and the entry for tiramisu and other sweets in the Oxford Companion to Sweets.


I wrote...

A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

By Clifford A. Wright,

Book cover of A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

What is my book about?

A groundbreaking culinary work of extraordinary depth and scope that spans more than one thousand years of history, A Mediterranean Feast tells the sweeping story of the birth of the venerated and diverse cuisines of the Mediterranean. Author Clifford A. Wright weaves together historical and culinary strands from Moorish Spain to North Africa, from coastal France to the Balearic Islands, from Sicily and the kingdoms of Italy to Greece, the Balkan coast, Turkey, and the Near East.

Monet's Table

By Claire Joyes,

Book cover of Monet's Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet

A famous painter’s cookbook? If you didn’t think artists eat, think again, and start by Googling images of Monet’s kitchen at his house in Giverny. (I said eat, not cook.) Written by the wife of Madame Monet’s great-grandson, this book offers you beautiful photographs of this artwork along with diary accounts of his family life and an opportunity to understand one of the great Impressionist artists through the dishes that his wife and family prepared, including his favorite, richly green-hued pistachio cake. 


Who am I?

I am an author, film composer, guitarist, multimedia artist, and perfumer. As a music journalist, I’ve written extensively for many major U.S. and international guitar publications before launching the website, The Guitar. My music has been featured on National Public Radio and worldwide at major U.S. and international art and design museum festivals. Part of being a writer is about expressing one’s curiosity through constant delving and engaging in the ongoing process of discovery. What compels me is the attempt to understand the inspiration that drives an artist to create a distinctively beautiful melody, fragrance, or artwork—one that grabs your attention with a mesmerizing, transfixing, and soulful quality. 


I wrote...

My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords from 70 Legendary Musicians

By Julia Crowe,

Book cover of My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords from 70 Legendary Musicians

What is my book about?

My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords features interviews with over 70 of the world’s most well-known guitarists from different musical genres (rock, classical, flamenco, jazz, blues, country) about how they obtained their start as a professional musician. In each interview, the artist tells their own indelible story in their own words about their early recollections of obtaining their instruments and performing, along with early foibles and hard-won triumphs. Woven in between is the author’s own story of how she came to collect the interviews. 

French Pastry 101

By Betty Hung,

Book cover of French Pastry 101: Learn the Art of Classic Baking with 60 Beginner-Friendly Recipes

My apprentice, Betty Hung, who eventually inherited the bakery I founded, has written an award-winning recipe book on French pastries. It’s wonderfully photographed, well-tested and informative. I am always proud to see her create with such precision and success.


Who am I?

Jackie Kai Ellis is a designer, bestselling author, pastry chef, entrepreneur, lifestyle writer, and other bits n’ bobs. Jackie left design to pursue her passion for pastry in Paris. After finishing her studies, she founded the award-winning pâtisserie, Beaucoup Bakery & Café in Vancouver – featured in countless publications and media including Bon Appétit Magazine. Jackie turned her passion for authentic storytelling and launched her bestselling memoir, The Measure of My Powers: A memoir of food, misery, and Paris,.


I wrote...

The Measure of My Powers: A Memoir of Food, Misery, and Paris

By Jackie Kai Ellis,

Book cover of The Measure of My Powers: A Memoir of Food, Misery, and Paris

What is my book about?

On the surface, Jackie Kai Ellis's life was the one that she and every woman wanted. She was in her late twenties and married to a handsome man, she had a successful career as a designer, and she had a beautiful home. But instead of feeling fulfilled, happy, and loved, each morning she'd wake up dreading the day ahead, searching for a way out. Depression clouded every moment, the feelings of inadequacy that had begun in childhood now consumed her, and her marriage was slowly transforming into one between strangers--unfamiliar, childless, and empty. In the darkness, she could only find one source of light: the kitchen. It was the place where Jackie escaped, finding peace, comfort, and acceptance.

The Cooking of Provincial France

By Mark Kauffman, M.F.K. Fisher,

Book cover of The Cooking of Provincial France

The Time-Life Foods of the World series first published in the 1960s is hands down, to this day, the best books on the various cuisines of the world. Every book in the series is top-notch but the one on provincial French cooking was edited by the famous food writer M. F. K. Fisher. The book, as all in the series, is not written from a chef's point of view, but for the home cook. The recipes are classics and easily do-able by an even slightly competent home cook. They were originally sold as a box set consisting of a large book of text with several recipes and alluring photographs and a smaller spiral-bound book of recipes.


Who am I?

Clifford A. Wright is a cook, food writer, and independent research scholar who won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000 for A Mediterranean Feast. He is the author of 16 books, fourteen of which are cookbooks, as well as writing all the food entries for Columbia University's Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and the entry for tiramisu and other sweets in the Oxford Companion to Sweets.


I wrote...

A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

By Clifford A. Wright,

Book cover of A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

What is my book about?

A groundbreaking culinary work of extraordinary depth and scope that spans more than one thousand years of history, A Mediterranean Feast tells the sweeping story of the birth of the venerated and diverse cuisines of the Mediterranean. Author Clifford A. Wright weaves together historical and culinary strands from Moorish Spain to North Africa, from coastal France to the Balearic Islands, from Sicily and the kingdoms of Italy to Greece, the Balkan coast, Turkey, and the Near East.

French Regional Cooking

By Anne Willan,

Book cover of French Regional Cooking

Willan is an Englishwoman who lived most of her life in France where she founded and ran the École de Cuisine La Varenne, in Paris and Burgundy. All her books are great, but this book is superlative, and I would put it in the same ranks as the Time-Life book. Its depth of knowledge and breadth is wonderful and there is much to explore and learn. The recipes are gems and work every time.


Who am I?

Clifford A. Wright is a cook, food writer, and independent research scholar who won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000 for A Mediterranean Feast. He is the author of 16 books, fourteen of which are cookbooks, as well as writing all the food entries for Columbia University's Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and the entry for tiramisu and other sweets in the Oxford Companion to Sweets.


I wrote...

A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

By Clifford A. Wright,

Book cover of A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

What is my book about?

A groundbreaking culinary work of extraordinary depth and scope that spans more than one thousand years of history, A Mediterranean Feast tells the sweeping story of the birth of the venerated and diverse cuisines of the Mediterranean. Author Clifford A. Wright weaves together historical and culinary strands from Moorish Spain to North Africa, from coastal France to the Balearic Islands, from Sicily and the kingdoms of Italy to Greece, the Balkan coast, Turkey, and the Near East.

Mourjou

By Peter Graham,

Book cover of Mourjou: The Life and Food of an Auvergne Village

Few visitors to France venture to the Auvergne, the sparsely populated, south-central region where until recently most of the now-aging population still spoke the medieval language known as Occitan. Englishman Peter Graham moved there in 1978 and became captivated with the land and its inhabitants. Mourjou communicates his love for this little-known region and its hearty food. Graham collected extraordinary recipes that can't be found in other books about French food (an eggy pudding made with buckwheat flour, ham, Swiss chard, and prunes; a charlotte made with chestnut flour, chestnut cream, pumpkin, and quince). He intersperses recipes with beautifully crafted essays that dive deep into the region's history and culture, chronicling a way of life that is rapidly disappearing.


Who am I?

I've been thinking and writing about food ever since I spent a year in the Soviet Union many decades ago and discovered that food is a wonderfully immediate way to enter into another culture. My first cookbook led to a stint as a spokesperson for Stolichnaya vodka when it was first introduced to the US—a fascinating exercise in cross-cultural communication during the Cold War. In 2001 I founded Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, which deepened my interest in culinary cultures around the world. Cookbooks aren't just about recipes. For me, the best ones include personal stories and history that transport you to other realms.


I wrote...

Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore

By Darra Goldstein,

Book cover of Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore

What is my book about?

I love the icy beauty of cold climates, which I've written about in several of my cookbooks. For Beyond the North Wind, I traveled to remote regions of the Russian North to explore the true heart of Russian food and show how foods from a harsh climate can be surprisingly sophisticated. The book celebrates whole grains, preserved and fermented foods, and straightforward but robust flavors, with recipes for a dazzling array of pickles and preserves; infused vodkas; homemade dairy products and baked cultured milk; a pantheon of pies; large, lacy blini; and seasonal vegetable soups.

Beyond the North Wind is a home-style cookbook with a strong sense of place that offers a rarely seen portrait of Russia, its people, and its palate.

The Apprentice

By Jacques Pépin,

Book cover of The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen

This is the heartwarming and inspiring story of the journey a great chef took from serving as a lowly apprentice to becoming a leader in establishing new food traditions in America. I especially enjoyed the many funny stories about Pepin and his family. Warning: the book includes many of his favorite recipes that will cause hunger pangs as you read the book. 


Who am I?

When I headed the Executive Education Center at the University of Michigan I had the opportunity to meet with many great leaders and observe them in action. I also enjoy interacting with faculty colleagues who conduct state-of-the-art research on leadership. Because of this experience, I believe that leaders are made, not born, and that reading biographies, psychological studies, philosophical commentary, histories, and fiction like the books on my list is one of the best ways to gain insight into what you need to become a great leader. 


I wrote...

Seven Essentials for Business Success

By George J. Siedel,

Book cover of Seven Essentials for Business Success

What is my book about?

This book shows how legendary business school professors teach seven areas that successful leaders and entrepreneurs should understand. Through their teaching at leading business schools, these professors are models of leadership. By adopting the best practices the professors have developed, leaders can share their knowledge and develop their associates to achieve organizational success. The book includes many examples of the authenticity that plays an important role in the success of these award-winning teachers. 

Traditional Recipes of the Provinces of France

By Maurice Edmond Sailland,

Book cover of Traditional Recipes of the Provinces of France

Better known by his pen-name Curnonsky, Maurice Edmond Sailland, was called the Prince of Gastronomy and was the most celebrated writer on gastronomy in France in the 20th century. Notice I say writer on gastronomy and not most famous chef or most famous cookbook author. What Curnonsky did was write about the whys and wherefores of the great provincial cuisines of France. If you think you know something about provincial French cuisine, Curnonsky will enlighten you with his explorations into the culture and geography of these various regions. The recipes in some cases will be unfamiliar and archaic, although no less delicious. The book is a gem.


Who am I?

Clifford A. Wright is a cook, food writer, and independent research scholar who won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000 for A Mediterranean Feast. He is the author of 16 books, fourteen of which are cookbooks, as well as writing all the food entries for Columbia University's Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and the entry for tiramisu and other sweets in the Oxford Companion to Sweets.


I wrote...

A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

By Clifford A. Wright,

Book cover of A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes

What is my book about?

A groundbreaking culinary work of extraordinary depth and scope that spans more than one thousand years of history, A Mediterranean Feast tells the sweeping story of the birth of the venerated and diverse cuisines of the Mediterranean. Author Clifford A. Wright weaves together historical and culinary strands from Moorish Spain to North Africa, from coastal France to the Balearic Islands, from Sicily and the kingdoms of Italy to Greece, the Balkan coast, Turkey, and the Near East.

The Gastronomical Me

By M.F.K. Fisher,

Book cover of The Gastronomical Me

To call Fisher merely a food writer is to miss out on one of the most provocative essayists of the 20th century. This exploration of her departure from American life to live in Dijon, France, is a celebration of what it means to be truly engaged in one’s own story. For those with ravenous appetites for not just food, but the stuff of life.


Who am I?

Denise Kiernan is a multiple New York Times bestselling author of narrative nonfiction books including The Girls Of Atomic City, The Last Castle, and We Gather Together. Throughout her career as a journalist and an author, she has explored underrepresented stories and characters and the impact they have had on history. These stories of the unsung offer fresh perspectives on historical tales we think we already know. At the heart of many of Kiernan’s nonfiction explorations are women from a variety of different backgrounds and time periods.


I wrote...

We Gather Together: A Nation Divided, a President in Turmoil, and a Historic Campaign to Embrace Gratitude and Grace

By Denise Kiernan,

Book cover of We Gather Together: A Nation Divided, a President in Turmoil, and a Historic Campaign to Embrace Gratitude and Grace

What is my book about?

From Ancient Rome through 21st-century America, bestselling author Denise Kiernan brings us a biography of an idea: gratitude, as a compelling human instinct and a global concept, more than just a mere holiday. Spanning centuries, We Gather Together is anchored amid the strife of the Civil War, and driven by the fascinating story of Sarah Josepha Hale, a widowed mother with no formal schooling who became one of the 19th century’s most influential tastemakers and who campaigned for decades to make real an annual day of thanks.

Populated by an enthralling supporting cast of characters including Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, Walt Whitman, Norman Rockwell, and others, We Gather Together is ultimately a story of tenacity and dedication, an inspiring tale of how imperfect people in challenging times can create powerful legacies.

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