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The Best of 2006: Staff Favorites

Tales of Food, Love, and Life




Book Cover Image. Title: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Author: Michael Pollan.

Hardcover
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The Omnivore's Dilemma
A Natural History of Four Meals
Michael Pollan


Botany of Desire author Michael Pollan serves up this nonfiction, culinary cautionary tale that describes how modern-day Americans walk a similar line to ancient hunter-gatherers with their eating habits. And it's not good news. With wry humor and eye-opening truth found in few other food-essay books, Pollan ushers us on an incredible social, historical, and environmental journey about our nation's lousy eating habits, centering on how our attitudes tie in directly with what goes in our stomachs. A grand helping of wisdom you shouldn't miss.


Book Cover Image. Title: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia, Author: Elizabeth  Gilbert

Hardcover
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Eat, Pray, Love
One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia
Elizabeth Gilbert


Reeling from divorce and depression and with her life in shambles, Elizabeth Gilbert journeys to three countries to explore three separate aspects of her nature. In Italy she indulges her sensuality, learning the language and happily packing on 23 pounds! In India, she pursues enlightenment with the help of a guru and a cowboy with a whole lot of horse sense. And in Indonesia, she finds a delicate balance between pleasure and transcendence…and, unexpectedly, falls in love. The author covers more than the usual ground in this charming, unconventional travel memoir that chronicles a true journey of the heart.


Book Cover Image. Title: Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, Author: Bill  Buford

Hardcover
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Heat
An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany
Bill Buford


As Julia Reed admits in her New York Times review of Heat, we're jealous of Bill Buford. We'd love (but don't have the nerve) to bolt our day job to spend a few years trying our hand at the culinary trade -- even if it means, as it did for Buford, indenturing ourselves as a "kitchen slave" to superstar chef "Molto" Mario Batali…or seeking to make perfect pasta in tiny, out-of-the-way Porretta Terme, Italy. But whether your pleasure is devouring a good pancetta or gobbling up its prose equivalent, you'll find this restaurant memoir deeply satisfying.


Book Cover Image. Title: My Life in France, Author: Julia  Child

Hardcover
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My Life in France
Julia Child


Begun shortly before her death and completed by her grandnephew Alex Prud'homme, this "last hurrah" from culinary icon Julia Child is suffused with all the self-deprecating wit and joie de vivre that endeared this irrepressible foodie to the world. Not a collection of recipes, but a memoir that recalls the Childs' years as newlyweds in Paris, My Life in France chronicles a delightful idyll punctuated by Julia's accidental apprenticeship at the Cordon Bleu. As she writes in the introduction: "This is a book about some of the things I have loved most in life: my husband, Paul Child; la belle France; and the many pleasures of cooking and eating." Bon appétit, Julia, wherever you are!


Book Cover Image. Title: The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden, Author: William  Alexander

Hardcover
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The $64 Tomato
How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden
William Alexander


Henry David Thoreau meets Woody Allen in this hilarious account of one man's expensive education in the horticultural arts. When William Alexander set out to cultivate a mid-sized fruit and vegetable garden in the backyard of his Hudson Valley home, he had no idea what he was up against. Seduced by landscape contractors, sabotaged by eye-rolling family members, and plagued by an insidious army of weeds, insects, and rampaging wildlife, he discovers that the true joy of gardening has more to do with process than produce. Written with rollicking good humor and no small measure of acquired wisdom, this charming memoir explores the miracle of growth -- in people and plants alike.


Book Cover Image. Title: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think, Author: Brian  Wansink

Hardcover
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Mindless Eating
Why We Eat More than We Think
Brian Wansink


You might think that the horrific title of this troubling book describes a habit you're immune to, but...well, let's just say that food psychologist Dr. Brian Wansink has heard your excuses before. Indeed, he's collected enough data as director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab to know that all of us are constantly lured into eating routines that have nothing to do with hunger (e.g., he describes how he got moviegoers to gorge on free popcorn he'd deliberately allowed to go very stale), and he's happy to share his results -- and recommend healthy mental adjustments -- to help you take control of your appetite.


Book Cover Image. Title: The Bon Appetit Cookbook, Author: Barbara  Fairchild

Hardcover
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The Bon Appetit Cookbook
Barbara Fairchild


Since 1978, the culinary magazine Bon Appétit has delivered thousands of delectable recipes aimed at helping cooks create sophisticated yet simple dishes at home. Now, longtime editor Barbara Fairchild has put together this handsome volume of over 1,200 "best of" recipes that includes bountiful breakfast fare, meatless main courses, savory tarts and pies, and much more. With easy-to-follow instructions, extra information on stocking the pantry, and guides to ingredient substitutions, this is a reference no serious foodie can afford to pass up.


Book Cover Image. Title: The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners, Author: Matt  Lee

Hardcover
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The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook
Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners
Matt Lee


Charleston natives and now New Yorkers, the Lee brothers dish up this delectable, welcoming book about southern cooking that delivers down-home sense with a touch of class. Including such mouthwatering recipes in their book as "Blackened Potato Salad," "Pickled Peaches," and "Kentucky Burgoo," the Lees have brought together a collection that features classic fare and new recipes, in a beautiful book that will spur you into cooking up a mess of grits before you know it. And with extra asides like short history lessons and tips on how to prepare certain foods quickly, this cookbook makes a smart addition to any culinary bookshelf.


Book Cover Image. Title: The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones, Author: Anthony  Bourdain

Hardcover
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The Nasty Bits
Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones
Anthony Bourdain


Bestselling chef and culinary personality Anthony Bourdain has put together this spicy collection of essays that reveals the dark secrets behind the restaurant biz. Writing in his trademark, no-holds-barred style, Bourdain unapologetically skewers the widely held conventional wisdoms and sacred cows that self-proclaimed food gurus hold dear. At times funny, often surprising, and always opinionated, Bourdain is one critic who you may not always agree with but whose insights you will definitely appreciate.


Book Cover Image. Title: What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating, Author: Marion  Nestle

Hardcover
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What to Eat
An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating
Marion Nestle


In this handy, no-nonsense guide for grocery shoppers, renowned nutritionist Marion Nestle demystifies food labels and offers tips on outsmarting grocery store traps. Tackling such hot-button issues as agribusiness and dieting, Nestle takes readers on a comprehensive tour of store food aisles from produce to dairy, giving us the lowdown on how companies lure you into buying their products with savvy marketing. But Nestle delivers basic guidelines and can't-miss wisdom meant to empower shoppers, and thanks to her outstanding treatise, future supermarket trips will be a different experience.