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Three book covers – Salt Fat Acid Heat, Blue penguin book and Notes from a young black chef with red cover

Best foodie books for summer

Published: August 9, 2020 at 11:24 am
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From food-focussed memoirs to cookery handbooks and essay collections – this batch of tomes will open your eyes and get your stomach rumbling in no time

Looking for some summer reading from the best food writers? Check out our pick of the best food books to take on your summer holiday, whether that's getting some fresh air on a seaside staycation, curling up for the weekend in a cosy cabin or relaxing on a foodie European trip.


Best food books for summer reading

The Cooking Gene

In this illuminating read, Michael Twitty picks his way through his African-American ancestry, mapping out the journey with food. Here, memoir blends into journal, history book and recipe collection. Michael shares his family tree and then builds a culinary equivalent of sorts, unearthing the roots of US cuisine and discovering the ways in which enslaved African communities and their American descendants have contributed to and shaped today’s food. An eye-opening, educating read that explores race, culture and the concept of the kitchen. (£13.17, Amistad Press)

Cooking Gene Michael Twitty

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

In this wedge of a book, Samin Nosrat takes the science behind great cookery and reduces it down to create a digestible read that’s rich in insights and moreish for the mind. Arguing that salt, fat, acid and heat are the four key factors of great-tasting food, this chef guides us through each element’s different guises, and how they affect ingredients, as well as covering basic skills and techniques. Demystifying and animating the science of cookery with her trademark warmth, Samin’s created a bedtime read that’ll easily steal zeds from you. (£30, Canongate)

Salt Fat Acid Heat Cover (1)_preview

Table Talk

No one can put a meal into words quite like the late AA Gill, whose way of dissecting a restaurant experience – often hilariously, always evocatively – was second to none. This collection of his writing on food and restaurants, taken largely from his Sunday Times column, covers topics from politics to pomegranates, picnics to pubs, interspersed with witty, scathing passages from restaurant reviews. The potency of his words will have guffaws falling out your mouth and rumbles rolling around your belly – not to mention planting future plans for eating out in your mind. (£9.99, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Table Talk AA Gill

Kitchen Confidential: Insider's Edition

First published 20 years ago, this profoundly influential book from the late Anthony Bourdain gives us an all-access, behind-thescenes pass to the restaurant industry. Anthony lays bare the intense, adrenaline-spiked world of the professional cook (spoiler: don’t expect the documented antics to draw parallels with the demeanours of on-air celeb chefs) with wit and character. Gritty and gutsy, it’s delivered with humour, designed to entertain and spark any restaurant-goer’s imagination as to what really goes on behind the pass of their favourite hangout. Get the Insider’s Edition for retrospective, hand-written annotations by Anthony himself. (£10.99, Bloomsbury)

Kitchen Confidential

The Flavour Thesaurus

In an age where an infinite recipe bank is but a swipe and tap away, this book by Niki Segnit – like her second, Lateral Cooking – aims to bolster cooks’ confidence and intuition by profiling 99 flavours and their complementary pairings. This year marks a decade since its release, with chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi among its fans, in light of the ingenious concept and witty, relatable writing. A great kitchen companion but also a fascinating, anecdote-packed read that’ll teach you not only that vanilla and coffee are a match made in heaven, but exactly why they are. (£20, Bloomsbury)

Flavour thesaurus

Be My Guest

This slim, digestible book by Priya Basil is made up of stories and essays strung together with the motif of hospitality, in its many and varied forms. They’re delivered in conveyor belt style – one after the other, continuously, with no titles to divide them – and explore the cultural and social power of food, be it by way of a short musing on what the concept of hospitality would look like as a diagram, or a meditation on her experience working with refugee women. A book that’s as comforting and addictive as Basil’s beloved dish kadhi. (£12.99, Canongate)

Be my guest

White Heat 25

This iconic cookbook – written by Marco Pierre White, the disruptor of the British food scene and perhaps the first contemporary celebrity chef – was originally released 30 years ago but still stands its ground in the rather saturated cookbook landscape. While recipes comprise its bulk, it’s not so much their practical applications that create such cultural weight and readability – rather, the no-holds-barred writing and evocative photos that accompany them, not to mention their collective significance in the turning point of British food. This 25th anniversary edition includes input from the chefs that this enfant terrible forged the way for: think Jason Atherton, Sat Bains, David Chang, Tom Kerridge and Gordon Ramsay. (£30, Mitchell Beazley)

Book Cover White Heat 25 Anniversary

Signature Dishes That Matter

Every so often, a dish proves itself to be much more than a meal. The most remarkable act as landmarks along the path of culinary history, influencing, with a butterfly effect, how we cook and eat centuries later. That makes this hefty tome, put together by Susan Jung, Howie Kahn, Christine Muhlke, Pat Nourse, Andrea Petrini, Diego Salazara – group of international food critics and editors – a fascinating read. It uncovers stories of 200 of the world’s most significant dishes from the past four centuries – from the 1686 invention of gelato to the meat pies Calum Franklin still cooks at the Holborn Dining Room, via the 1967-born Big Mac. (£35, Phaidon)

signature dishes that matter

A Half Baked Idea

In this moving read, barrister-turned-chef Olivia Potts uses food as a base from which to explore the knotty and tangled topics of grief, love and healing. We meet a 25-year-old Olivia on the night of her mother’s death. We track her emotional journey from there, charting her blossoming relationship with food and seeing her swap the courtroom for Le Cordon Bleu, where she trains as a pastry chef. This award-winning memoir is written with such warmth and honesty that you might easily devour it in a couple of sittings – there are even plans afoot to turn Olivia’s story into a TV show. (£8.99, Penguin)

A Half Baked idea Olivia Potts

Summer's Lease

This book is Thom Eagle’s follow-up to the award-winning First, Catch – a book that blends practical cookery (there are recipes here, although they aren’t the focus) with prose to create “a study of a spring meal”. Summer’s Lease is similarly styled, exploring various techniques of cookery – think salting and ageing – that don’t require cooking. What could be technical, dry subject matter is softened with Thom’s soothing, alluring writing style. (£16.99, Quadrille)

Summers Lease

The Ten (Food) Commandments

If it’s a light-hearted, food-packed read you’re after, then you could do a lot worse than turning to this fun paperback, penned by restaurant critic-turned-culinary prophet Jay Rayner. Soak up his irreverent teachings on food envy, stinky eats and worshipping at the altar of leftovers. Each chapter is dedicated to a new 21st-century food commandment, with anecdotes, observations and musing all woven into sharp and canny essay-style pieces. There are a few recipes too, giving you the push to put each new law into practice in the kitchen. (£6, Penguin)

The Ten food Commandments

Notes from a Young Black Chef

So powerful is this memoir by Kwame Onwuachi that, weeks after its release, news broke that it was to be adapted for film. In it, Kwame crafts a picture of how he became one of America’s best-loved chefs: his upbringing in the Bronx, time spent in Nigeria living with his grandfather, and how food became a gateway to an alternative life. He depicts with candour what it’s like to be a person of colour breaking into the world of fine dining, illuminating the barriers built by racism. In tracking his journey from cooking on a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship to appearing on American TV show Top Chef, this young chef crafts a sincere and profound story of determination and passion in the face of adversity. (£13.43, Penguin)

notes from a young black chef

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