Bookshelf: Delicious Tales to Read in the Kitchen


Sometimes even the most literary among us need some suggestions. And who better to do it than the authors themselves? Welcome to Bookshelf, our newest literary feature, wherein we ask authors to design us a fantasy bookshelf, giving us their recommendations for the perfect reading material on a variety of topics. This week, author Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, whose sweet, witty food memoir, A Tiger in the Kitchen , comes out February 8th, draws on her considerable literary and culinary experience to tell us which inspiring foodie-favorites she would want on the fantasy bookshelf in her kitchen. Or your kitchen, as the case may be. Also check out Tan’s blog, where she has super cute recipes (maple-bacon ice cream!) and clever ruminations on food, family and everything in between.

The Art of Eating , by M.F.K. Fisher

“I feel like I’m cheating by listing this book because it’s really three books in one: Serve It Forth, Consider the Oyster, and How to Cook a Wolf. M.F.K.’s musings on life, love and food and how they all intertwine are pure art. This is food writing at its best.”

The Oysters of Locmariaquer , by Eleanor Clark

“I love New York but every time the city stresses me out, I pull out this book. It’s a wonderful narrative about a little town in Brittany, France, where the famous Belon oysters are cultivated. You learn about the people, the stories, the history of these oysters. Clark won the 1964 National Book Award for this work — a great achievement for a food narrative.”

Far-Flung and Well-Fed: The Food Writing of R.W. Apple Jr. , by R.W. Apple

“The New York Times’s R.W. Apple was one of my journalism idols for a long time — his writing was always so lyrical, so insightful. He opened doors to so many cultures and dinner tables for me — reading his stories about eating in far-flung locales always made me feel like I was right there with him, fork in hand. The best food writing does that for you. Singapore was one of the last places he wrote about before he passed away in 2006 and he really loved and got the place. RIP, Johnny Apple.”

A Moveable Feast , by Ernest Hemingway

“If you haven’t already been to Paris, this book will make you want to book a ticket right away. Ernest Hemingway’s account of life as an American expatriate in the City of Light in the 1920s is an enchanting read, and I love his stories of hanging out in bars and cafes with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. Just priceless.”

Tender at the Bone , by Ruth Reichl

“I adore all of Ruth Reichl’s books — and I’ve made her recipe for delicious sweet potato pie from Comfort Me With Apples more times than I can count — but Tender at the Bone, her first memoir, remains my favorite. It’s warm, funny and touching — she’s led a remarkable life and it was lovely to read about her earlier, less documented journeys.”

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry , by Kathleen Flinn

“I’ve sometimes fantasized about moving to Italy to learn how to bake really good bread and Italian desserts — and this book about a woman who moves to Paris to attend Le Cordon Bleu really fed that fantasy. It’s a hilarious and poignant account of her year there, the chefs who teach her, the students she gets to know and the ambitious and delicious dishes she learns to make. It’s all rather inspirational — I read this in one night.”

The Sweet Life in Paris , by David Lebovitz

“Whenever I need a good laugh, I take this book out and randomly flip to a page — David Lebovitz’s vignettes about living and eating in Paris are laugh-out-loud funny. The first time I read it, a few chapters actually had me in tears, I was laughing that hard. (The “What They Say Versus What They mean” chapter is a must.) I already can’t wait to read his next book.”

Travels With Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture in America , by Ken Wells

“Anyone who drinks beer must read this book — it’s a hugely entertaining account of Ken Wells’s journey across America, following the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana, talking to beer makers, drinkers and experts. (While drinking some beer, of course.) I’m not a huge beer drinker but I loved learning about beer culture in the US — who knew the World’s Largest Six-Pack was in in Lacrosse, Wisconsin?”

If after all that culinary wit you’re desperate to catch Tan (above photo by Jesse Pesta) in action, never fear. She’ll be out in about in NYC in the next few weeks:

Wednesday, February 9, 7:00 pm Cheryl Tan in conversation with Julie Powell @ McNally Jackson. Come for the Julie Powell, stay for the Cheryl Tan.

Thursday, February 10, 6:30 pm Enjoy free admission to the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) as part of Cheryl Tan’s talk and signing.

Thursday, March 3, 7:00 pm Cheryl Tan gives a talk, answers questions, and signs her book @ BookCourt.

Any other food books that have inspired your cooking? Let us know in the comments!