Throughout the holiday season, we’re gathering books that make the perfect gifts for everyone on your list—from your mother and the teen in your life to your foodie friend and the coworker who loves Harry Potter. Need more ideas? Check out all of our amazing gift guides!
A Michael Pollan fan is not just any foodie—she’s an intelligent foodie, a cerebral foodie, an engaged foodie, the foodie who wants to know not just how her meal was cooked, but where it came from, how it got to the table, who’s responsible for it, and what it’s going to do to the body (at which point, Mary Roach takes the baton). While you’re waiting for the master’s next piece, here are eight food science/adventure books to tide you over.
Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss
Moss is a New York Times investigative reporter who most recently turned his damning gaze on the processed food industry. If America is addicted to the unholy trinity of fat, salt, and sugar, he argues, then companies like Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Kellogg are our Heisenbergs, ruthlessly cooking up product so chemically delicious we can’t resist.
All Natural*: *A Skeptic’s Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier, by Nathanael Johnson
If you’ve ever asked yourself whether you really need the organic toothpaste, this book is for you. Raised by über-hippie parents, Johnson understands the pull in today’s world between the natural and the technological. He takes a thoroughly researched look at the debate with the same mix of wonder, regard, and consternation we’ve come to expect from Pollan, his former classmate at UC Berkeley.
The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America, by Langdon Cook
These are not the scrawny hacky sack players in the parking lot of a Phish show. Cook goes on a mushroom adventure of an entirely different kind, following “wild food entrepreneurs” and itinerant mushroom foragers through the shadowy underbelly of the fungus world. Bet you never knew mushrooms were so bada$$.
The Telling Room, by Michael Paterniti
I thought I loved cheese. No, this man loves cheese. In his nimble hands, a quest for the exalted Páramo de Guzmán, which takes him to the cave “telling rooms” of Castile, becomes a mesmerizing tale about storytelling, love, place, joy, family, loss, revenge, and ultimately, life.
Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal, by Melanie Warner
A look at an entirely different kind of cheese (or, more accurately, “cheese product”). If you don’t want to see how the sausage is made, then you probably don’t want to see how the American cheese slice is made—but you should. Investigative reporter Warner takes a behind-the-scenes look at what really goes into the food lurking at the center of the supermarket.
Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well), by Peter Kaminsky
Excess poundage is a real occupational hazard for professional gluttons like Kaminsky, a celebrated food writer and New York Times columnist. His latest book details how he changed his ideas about food and became a healthy hedonist.
An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler
For the Pollan fan who thinks, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what do I do with this information?” A meditative, philosophical, and practical look at how we’re throwing out or ignoring some of the greatest and simplest ingredients in our kitchens (I don’t mean the half-sleeve of Oreos you put in the garbage so you wouldn’t finish them in one sitting), and how to better appreciate and utilize them for a fuller food life.
Animal Vegetable Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver
Beloved novelist Kingsolver chronicles her family’s grand experiment: moving for a year to Southern Appalachia, where they would eat only what they could grow or source hyper-locally. A mix of literary memoir, political activism, and celebration. We’d like to see McEwan try that.
What’s your favorite foodie read?