Gastronomic Literature and Art

Freedom From Want by Norman Rockwell

Good food inspires me. Beautiful food can be a work of art, both literally and figuratively, as seen in the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibit, Art and the Appetite: American Painting, Culture and Cuisine and the Kelly Writer’s House edible books party. Clearly, food moves people as does art and literature. The Art Institute’s current exhibit looks at society’s passion for culinary delights whereas the Writers House “…has made literature palatable to a curious audience of food- and book-lovers alike.” One must admit, the “…love of cooking and reading is a winning combination.”

Authors have long recognized the intimate relationship between the reader and good food. Some notable authors Such as Shakespeare, Lewis, Dickens, Wilde, Stoker, Shaw, Lee, Williams, Austen, Woolf, Plath, and Melville have gone to great lengths to use food or cooking as a literary tool. Quite literally, they have used food for thought! Herman Melville for instance devotes an entire chapter in Moby Dick to the description of clam chowder. Melville has done such a fantastic job describing the clam chowder that the reader begins to savor it too.

The art of writing cookbooks has become increasingly popular too. Many recently, released cookbooks are not only great nonfiction reading but pieces of visual art and literature as well. Below are some of my favorite pieces of gastronomic literature:

  • The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays: 135 step-by-step recipes for simple, scrumptious celebrations by Ree Drummond

Rating: 4/5

Book Jacket

Blogger turned author, Drummond has a very folksy style of writing, much like Garrison Keillor. She uses brilliantly staged, step-by-step photography to guide even a novice cook through the process of creating some hearty delicacies. As most know, cooking for the holidays can be a daunting task and this book a great job to remove some the angst of menu planning. Some of my go-to recipes from this book are broccoli-cheese soup, turkey pot pie, spicy whiskey bbq sliders, and Arnold Palmers.

  • The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Rating: 5/5

coverBorn from Perlman’s blog, the lavish color photographs of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook make this book a work of art and literature. The friendly writing style, devoid of stuffy culinary formality, is laced with whimsy and practicality, which makes this a very readable cookbook. For the author, cooking is a series of exciting experiments. Her excitement is contagious. The cookbook contains many vegetarian recipes, that are surprisingly beautiful and tasty even for the most hardened carnivore. My favorite recipes so far are the cinnamon toast french toast, butternut squash and caramelized onion galette, gnocchi in tomato broth, sweet peas and shells alfredo, and mom’s apple cake.

  • Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking: 150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich Book Jacket

Rating: 3.5/5

These stick to ribs Italian recipes are sure to keep one warm this winter! Bastianich, the matriarch of italian cooking, has put together yet another masterful cookbook outlining the steps for creating an outstanding meal. Reminiscing throughout the book, Bastianich waxes on about her grandmother and others whom helped to inspire her love of cooking. And really, anyone who has ever cooked with another person can relate to the community and love that is grown between family and friends when gathered together to share the art of cooking great food. I recommend inviting some friends and family to make the following recipes, potatoes baked in beer, carrot and apple salad, basic risotto, and zucchini parmigiana.

  • One bowl baking : simple, from scratch recipes for delicious desserts by Yvonne Ruperti

Rating: 3/5Book Jacket

Whether you are a bonding in the kitchen with family, have a tiny kitchen, or just want recipe that is quick and easy, this book fills the bill. An added bonus is the fact that all the recipes are kid friendly, simple, and can be accomplished without fancy kitchen equipment. The book’s head notes impart insight into the author’s life making the book fun to read as well as follow. Unfortunately, unlike the other cookbooks in this review, this book could use more gastronomic art to accompany the charming literature to make it a complete package. Must make recipes are double chocolate muffins, chunky peanut butter jar shortbread cookies, and macadamia white chocolate chunk cookies.

Reviewed by: Valerie

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