Everyday Meals

Food-Focused Books to Read While You're Self-Isolating

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Whether you’re still in your first few days of self-isolation or have been home for weeks, boredom is easy to encounter while you’re alone. And while there’s nothing wrong with catching up with your favorite shows (or perhaps starting a new one), things start to feel bleak when Netflix asks if you’re still watching The Office for the third time. The good news is that all that free time you now have on your hands is the perfect opportunity to start, and actually finish, a new book.

Even if you aren’t leaving the house, reading has a transformative power. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite food-focused books—in addition to cookbooks, we’ve included memoir, historical, and fiction titles—to help pass the time. If you can, shop at your local bookstore. Independent booksellers across the country are offering free in-town shipping, and you’ll do your part for the local economy. You can even collaborate with friends and hold quarantine-friendly book clubs over Skype or the phone.

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

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After moving into a 1950s fixer-upper with her husband, Alice discovers a cookbook left behind by Nellie, its original occupant who was trapped in an abusive marriage. As Alice pieces Nellie’s secrets together, we learn her own transgressions and witness how both women wrangle control of their relationships through food.
Buy it here.

The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South by John T. Edge

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Starting with the Civil Rights movement, The Potlikker Papers tracks the course of Southern food, and both its persistence and its changes, up to the last decade. Whether you’re reading about sit-ins at lunch counters, a vegan farm run by a hippie commune in Tennessee, or Colonel Sanders’ business strategy, you’ll be both entertained and enlightened.
Buy it here.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

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Intermingled between recipes and group therapy sessions, Heartburn chronicles cookbook writer Rachel’s perfect marriage as it crashes into separation. Like Ephron’s other work, Heartburn is a classic for a reason: It’s heartfelt and human, and still finds solace in the most soul-crushing instances.
Buy it here.

Happiness Is Baking: Cakes, Pies, Tarts, Muffins, Brownies, Cookies: Favorite Desserts from the Queen of Cake by Maida Heatter

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Maida Heatter’s final cookbook emphasizes why she was one of the greatest bakers of our time. After going through every possible mistake a new baker can encounter and all the tools they’ll need to get serious, Heatter shares some of her greatest recipes and the stories behind them. If you plan on becoming a baker while you’re quarantined, Happiness Is Baking makes a crucial read.
Buy it here.

Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine One Plate at a Time by Adrian Miller

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Fans of food history will appreciate this chronicle by Adrian Miller, an authority on soul food. Miller dives into fascinating details while not falling into the trap of droning about dry topics. He breaks down iconic soul food dishes piece by piece and explores their sociopolitical and cultural legacies.
Buy it here.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat

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Samin Nosrat’s debut is only a few years old, but the New York Times Bestseller and James Beard Award-winner is already a classic. That’s because Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is far more than a cookbook: It goes back to the very fundamentals of cooking, approaching science and technique from a lighthearted perspective.
Buy it here.

Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over by Alison Roman

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Alison Roman is the current darling of the food world for good reason. Nothing Fancy, the follow-up to 2017’s Dining In, gives a fresh perspective on classic ingredients. It was a 2019 IACP Award finalist and, let’s be honest, has some great photos. If you’re going to be stuck at home, you might as well have fun cooking.
Buy it here.

JELL-O Girls: A Family History by Allie Rowbottom

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Allie Rowbottom’s family is cursed by its legacy: transforming JELL-O from a formula to ahousehold name and portrait of expected femininity. Mainly focused on Rowbottom’s mother, JELL-O Girls juxtaposes the dessert’s success with her family’s misfortune.
Buy it here.

 

 

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