Food is one of my favorite things in the world, and not just in the “I love to eat” kind of way. I’ve been fascinated by the science and history behind everything we eat since I first started watching Good Eats back in elementary school. Over the years, I’ve found myself leaning towards books to learn more and I thought I would share them with anyone who’s curious and looking to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding for the food on their plate.
A History of the World in 6 Glasses // This is the first food book I read and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. Tom Standage goes through and explains how 6 drinks– beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and coca cola– have defined and marked different periods in human history. It’s engaging, an easy read, and really helps to show how important drinks are and their effect and impact on history.
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat // This book takes a slightly different approach and instead focuses on tools and utensils and how they have shaped how we cook and what we eat. For example she explains why the mortal and pestle has been used for millennia while the spork was never able to gain real traction. Consider the Fork makes you more aware of all the thing we take for granted in our kitchens today like measuring cups or thermometers and sheds light on how something like the emergence of knives at the dinner table has changed our physical bodies.
Salt: A World History // I’d consider this a book more for those who are really into this kind of stuff, but I learned so much about this little white rock I encounter everyday. I’ll will admit though that the book feels repetitive at times, often telling the same stories but from different parts of the world and different points in time. While we’d all agree that you can’t have a kitchen without salt, I never knew the extent of it’s importance to history and how its cultivation and use has evolved over time.
An Edible History of Humanity // This is my most recent read, and while for me it wasn’t as engaging as ‘6 Glasses’, it still provides some valuable insight and learnings about our food. Covering everything from whether or not agriculture was the best move for humanity to understand the second green revolution, this book has helped better understand the food issues we are facing today.
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation // I haven’t finished this book yet but I have watched the four-part series on Netflix and was totally engrossed in it. Michael Pollan goes through the four elements and breaks down their impact on food and cooking. Pollan focuses on a return to the basics through understanding the processes we use to cook our food. The Netflix series is beautifully done and something that everyone can enjoy.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat // I have not managed to get this book for myself, but I have fallen in love with Samin Norsat (who is featured in an episode of Cooked) and can see how this book will greatly help my cooking abilities. Norsat outlines and explains how understanding these four elements of cooking can help you become a better cook, and as someone who wants to become a better off the cuff cook, Norsat provides the knowledge to make that happen. It’s also has a four-part series on netflix which is lovely.
I hope whether you’re a food connoisseur or a complete beginner that this list can be a launching point to learning more about food. I’m taking a break from reading food books (haha) but if anyone has any other recommendations I’d love to hear!