2016 was a great year for books about food and drink, food-related issues, cooking techniques, and culinary history. The Splendid Table staff gathered some of our favorites. Some of them were featured in episodes this past year; others were simply enjoyed at our homes.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Host
Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes
by Ronni Lundy
Ronni Lundy is from Appalachia, a land of story tellers. I suspect she’s one of the extraordinary ones because this book is an epic, a grabber of a story of her people, their cooking and their ways. If I had to pick just one book from 2016, this would be it.
The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices
by Lior Lev Sercarz
Lior has to be a spice whisperer. He senses and nudges out dimensions of spices that are often unrealized. He is a master of spice blends. Essentially this is his idea book and if you cook or like to spike take out with something different, you’ll enjoy this.
Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees
by Mike Shanahan
This is a “who knew?” kind of book. Every chapter has at least one of that sort of nugget. The author has lived and breathed his subject for years. And who knew how important this fruit tree has been and still is. A bedtime read of the first order.
Sally Swift, Managing Producer
Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture
by Matt Goulding
This is the new model for the travel guide, an ambitious and sometimes left-of-center look at Japanese food, history and culture.
by Tal Ronnen
Vegan food simplified and elevated by one of America’s most inventive chefs.
Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Apertivo Cocktail, with Recipes
by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau
I am convinced we all need to s-l-o-w down and make time to sit and talk and sip with friends over a low-alcohol cocktail, every single day.
Jennifer Russell, Senior Producer
Far Afield: Rare Food Encounters from Around the World
by Shane Mitchell
This book quells my wanderlust, and sits front and center on my coffee table. Journalist Shane Mitchell and photographer James Fisher have traveled the world on assignment for a number of food and travel publications. The photographs are gorgeous, the stories are fascinating, and the book serves as a reminder that food is a global language.
Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients That Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss, and Transform Your Health
Drew Ramsey, MD
While I’m not a fan of “diet” books generally speaking, Dr. Ramsey’s book illustrates the important connection between food and brain health. Ramsey is a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and a strong proponent of incorporating a nutrition-based approach to clinical treatment. Check out his conversation with contributor David Leite.
Knives & Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos (with Recipes)
by Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton
For someone without a single tattoo, I have a very strange, longstanding obsession with food and chef tattoos. So of course I love this book, which really gets at the question, “What is it about chefs & tattoos?” Fitzgerald profiles dozens of chefs' personal stories that are accompanied by beautiful illustrations from MacNaugthon. Want to add some edge to your cooking style? Check out these Splendid Table temporary tattos.
Jenny Luebke, Editor & Technical Director
The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil
by Maya Shetreat-Klein, MD
Interesting reading from a pediatric neurologist who claims that modern food production and processing contribute to chronic disease by altering children’s gut microbiomes, immune systems and brains – and how fresh nutrient-dense foods can help.
Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
by Simran Sethi (in paperback this year)
An exploration of some of the world’s most beloved foods in the context of their place in our current culture of food homogenization – the outcome of which has been a steady decrease in the diversity of our food supply.
Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South
by Vivian Howard
In her interview on The Splendid Table, I was intrigued by how Chef Howard likened her hometown area in rural eastern North Carolina to “our most vibrant culinary regions in the world like Tuscany or Provence.” The food of her region is as “hyper-local” and steeped in tradition. Her book is scholarly but approachable and so interesting to read – and she will make you want to cook.
Courtney McKeown / Production Assistant
Cook Korean! A Comic Book with Recipes
by Robin Ha
Artist, blogger, comic lover, cook and one of my newest superheroes, Robin Ha created this “intersection of graphic novel and cookbook” that renders both visual and gustatory delight. Pick up this book, smile, cook through the easy-to-follow/fun-to-look-at recipes, read the accompanying stories, eat well, smile some more.
The 24-Hour Wine Expert
by Jancis Robinson
Jancis Robinson knows a lot and writes a lot about wine (see her multiple highly-regarded tomes on the subject). Here she brings us back to the basics, focusing on “what really matters” about wine in a clear, concise, fun, approachable way. She makes those of us who have nowhere near as much knowledge as she does feel like we can be experts too (or at least pretend to be).
The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem
by Marcus Samuelsson
Marcus Samuelsson’s ode to the people, culture, spirit, and, yes, food of Harlem. It's pure love.
Chip Walton, Associate Digital Producer
Something to Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs
Musician and inquisitive foodie Questlove interviews chefs for essays (including very stylish photography) on the creative similarity and connective nature between cooking food and making music.
The Old-Time Saloon
by George Ade
Originally published in 1931 and republished this year with modern footnotes and annotations, this book looks at The Noble Experiment of Prohibition in America during what would be its waning years before repeal. Ade delivers in personal detail his thoughts on the role of the saloon in turn-of-the-century America, and the efforts by “drys” and “wets” alike to use the saloon to justify their stance on Prohibition.
Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook
by Robb Walsh
An update to Robb Walsh’s original 2002 edition with new features include even more pitmasters and barbecue joints. Sure, this book is chock-full of wonderful recipes and advice from some of Texas’ most legendary barbecue bosses, but what I really love about it are the personal stories and anecdotes that introduce/accompany each recipe.