Three Foodie Reads For Summer

“Recipe for Disaster”

There are recipes in this book to be sure. But more than that, there are stories that will touch and stay with you long after you set its spine down.

“Recipe for Disaster” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy, is by Alison Riley. It is the first book by this Brooklyn-based writer and creative director, and founder of the paper and text studio, Set Editions.

It’s a unique collection of 40 essays and recipes highlighting how good food provides sustenance in so many ways through so many trying times. Riley has assembled an impressive roster of big-name contributors who share strikingly personal stories about how food has soothed and assuaged during some of the worst moments in life.

Comedian Sarah Silverman writes about how chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies known as pinwheels were the only thing that comforted her when she first experienced long-term depression at age 13. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse reveals how the throes of the pandemic made her appreciate all the more the beauty of a fresh salad made with the produce grown by her local farms.

Actor-comedian Bowen Yang admits that as a child he didn’t care for his mom’s cooking, but now appreciates it so much that her version of ma po tofu is the first thing he wants when he goes home to Colorado. And in one of the most stirring accounts, broadcast journalist Alex Wagner explains how her simple, hastily made canned-tuna sandwich that she toted to work would turn out to be the only thing to offer any sense of normalcy on Sept. 11, 2001.

“The Jewish Deli”

As if there was a need for more reasons to love a good Jewish deli, along comes “The Jewish Deli: An Illustrated Guide To The Chosen Food” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

This charming and informative illustrated book is by Ben Nadler, an illustrator, designer, writer, and comics artist who grew up in Wisconsin and now resides in New York City.

For anyone who’s ever noshed heartily on lox and bagels, debated the best bagel joint in New York, tore into a sky-high pastrami on rye or comforted themselves with a warm bowl of matzo ball soup, this book will definitely delight.

With whimsy and a comic-style approach, the book touches on the history of Jewish delis; explores iconic items such as “The Smoked Meat Sandwich,” “The Reuben Sandwich,” and “Chopped Liver”; and interviews the owners of some of the best-known establishments around.

Discover the different varieties of bialys, all about borscht, and the origins of the black-and-white cookie (that’s actually a drop cake apparently).

It’s impossible to leaf through this book without developing some major cravings, too.

“Perfectly Good Food”

Did you know that in the United States, one-third of all food produced goes uneaten? That amounts to more than $400 billion worth of food going to waste. All the while, one in 10 Americans go hungry.

All of us can do our part to make sure we waste as little food as possible. That’s the premise of “Perfectly Good Food” (W.W. Norton), of which I received a review copy.

The book was written by chef-sisters, Irene Li and Margaret Li, who founded Boston’s Me Mei Dumplings, which has been recognized for its sustainability actions. Margaret is the founder of the cooking site Food Waste Feast; and Irene was honored with the 2022 James Beard Leadership Award.

The book has tips for storing food properly, composting, and using up odds and ends of vegetables that you might otherwise throw out.

Handy “hero recipes” give you a blueprint for making straightforward dishes that are adaptable to whatever is in your fridge or pantry, such as “Eat-Your-Leftovers Pot Pie,” “Cream-of-Anything Soup,” and “An Endlessly Riffable Fruit Crisp.”

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