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Kate’s Favourite Books for Historically Minded Foodies

March is National Reading Month, which is extra exciting for bookworms like me. I'’m so excited about it, I'’m going to let you in on a little secret:

I don’t really love to cook.

I know, it’'s kind of shocking for Joyous Health'’s resident nutrition nerd, isn'’t it? I like cooking when I have loads of free time (which doesn'’t happen all that often), but when I’'ve got tons of work pilling up, errands to run and classes to teach, I’'d be just as happy to let someone else take care of meal prep for me.

Now that you know this, it'’s probably not quite as surprising that none of my favourite books about food are cookbooks.

The most important thing for me in any book –fiction or non-fiction –is a good story. I love food books that I’'ll want to read in any room of the house, not just the kitchen. Here are some of my favourites:

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

Despite it’'s seemingly very philosophical framework – the book is divided into four sections, each devoted to one of the four elements – Cooked is first and foremost the story of real people'’s very real relationships to their food, and it'’s these characters that really bring the book to life. While Pollan tries to connect foods to their basic elements, we’'re introduced to a southern barbecue expert (fire), a classically trained chef (water), a surfer turned artisanal baker (air) and a nun who makes cheese the way she believes God, not the health department, intended (earth).

I should probably mention that almost none of the foods Pollan documents in this book would be Joyous Detox –approved, but that doesn’'t make them any less fun to read about. These are stories about people who are crazy about food in the best ways possible, and Pollan is able to convey their enthusiasm in a way that isn’'t just compelling, it'’s downright infectious.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Salt had a rough couple of decades, but for most of history it was one of the most coveted commodities. Wars have been fought over it, cities have been named after it, and a person’'s social standing has been determined based on how close they were allowed to sit to it.

The reason for this is pretty simple: salt – the only rock humans eat,– is necessary for our survival. Kurlansky tackles how humanity's need for salt has shaped our world geographically, politically, culturally and linguistically. While the exotic spice trade had a huge impact on history, the effects of the seemingly much humbler salt are even more far-reaching and long-lasting.

How Carrots Won the Trojan War: Curious (but True) Stories of Common Vegetables by Rebecca Rupp

How can a history-loving foodie not love a book with a title like this? Seriously, I could keep myself entertained just reading the chapter titles (“In Which Asparagus Seduces the King of France,” “In Which Corn Creates Vampires,” “In Which Melons Undermine Mark Twain’s Morals,” etc.).

This book is crammed full of fantastic cocktail party facts like how many types of lettuce Jefferson grew at Monticello, how mediaeval Europeans thought that wearing radishes would allow you to see witches, and how fashionable Victorians got around the stigma of cosmetics use with beet juice. It manages to be informative while keeping a light and humorous tone. It'’s a science and history text that feels like a beach read.

Now it'’s your turn! Share some of your favourite food books with me in the comments!

Tecmint   •   March 24, 2015

Very interesting choice!


Brittany   •   March 27, 2015

My favourite book lately has been Eating Alive by Dr. John Matsen ND. As a nutritionist student I really appreciated the simplification of ideas and how it really emphasizes how all our different body systems are interconnected. For such an important topic it kept things like as well.

Kate McDonald Walker   •   March 27, 2015

Sounds interesting! I'll have to check it out! Kate - Joyous Health Team

Kate Millie   •   March 29, 2015

By far the best "food" book, imo, and one of my top favs of all time, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver

Kate McDonald Walker   •   March 29, 2015

Oh! I read The Poisonwood Bible years ago, but I've never heard of this one. I'll have to check it out!

Lisa   •   April 6, 2015

An amazing read is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I love how vividly she is able to describe her journey with food.


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