Coming Up: New Food Memoirs & Other Treats

Food memoirs form just one of many research items on the list of materials used by culinary historians. In rounding out the larger picture of just what was going on in a specific time in history and related to the life of a specific individual, food memoirs cannot be beat.

Why Italians Love to Talk About FoodThe following memoirs and other food-history tomes will be out and on shelves soon:

  • La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy (Rizzoli) — quite similar in a way to Mark Kurlansky’s bringing together the WPA’s* project on American food in The Food of a Younger Land. Only it’s Italian.
  • Jason Epstein’s Eating (Knopf). Who? Well, for those in the know, Epstein served as editor for a slew of literary AND culinary luminaries, such as “Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, Gore Vidal, and E. L. Doctorow,” as well as “Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck, and Maida Heatter.”
  • Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Confections of a Closet Master Baker (Broadway). Happiness is a warm cookie or cake, far from the madding crowd of the author’s former glam Hollywood life.

A quick look at the rest of the cookbooks on offer this fall (2009) reflect very much the current obsession with local foods and the usual health/food concerns of the American public. Canning, preserving, and locavorism underlie most of the upcoming cookbooks, while celebrity chefs still try to maintain a presence by grabbing the golden ring on the merry-go-round of cookbooks by producing family-oriented recipe collections.

It’s not hard to imagine a WorldCat search a few years from now, focusing on locavores or local foods; the search results might appear as the following example shows:

Search term: SU = “local foods” and SU “cookery” (The numbers refer to titles with those subject assigned to the cataloging record, and don’t necessarily mean that there weren’t more books on the same subject, only assigned different subject headings.)

2009  5
2008  7
2007  4
2005  2
2003  1
2002  1

Using WorldCat like this shows trends in cookbook publishing/writing over the years, which in itself provides some interesting data.

* Works Progress Administration under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.

© 2009 C. Bertelsen