What We’re Reading: March 31 2015

A roundup of what’s currently got our attention.

Gabrielle Langholtz: “Gardening in the Digital Age: A Meditation
A year ago my brother had a pretty extraordinary experience while using technology to plan his backyard garden. Here’s his story, a meditation on why the best food system borrows from both the past and the future.


Emma CosgroveSoul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family
After hearing this mother and daughter team of authors interviewed on NPR, I coudln’t get my hands on this cookbook fast enough. Allison Randall and Caroline Randall Williams have put their family’s soul food recipes into historical and cultural context, making observations about women and body image and health in a fresh and delicious way. Their perspective on desirable female figures in African American communities and how that coexists with modern health crises is nuanced and so necessary. I’m a sucker for a cookbook with gorgeous narrative in tow.

Talia RalphDown and Out In Paris and London
I’m wrapping up my Masters in food studies, and my thesis is focused on restaurant workers, which means I’ve been reading lots of nitty-gritty tales of life in the service industry. There’s no better, rawer look into the world of hotels and kitchens in some of Europe’s most grandiose cities than this Orwellian classic. I’d go so far to say he’s the original Kitchen Confidential (Sorry, Anthony Bourdain). Come for the an insider look into the restaurant industry, stay for the wise musings on inequality.

Sari Kamin1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die
I’m on the Subway — cheeks flushed, eyes wide, possibly licking my lips. I pull my book in closer to my face so the other straphangers can’t see the small beads of sweat forming above my upper lip. No, I’m not reading 50 Shades of Grey — I am fully engrossed in 1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die by gastro legend Mimi Sheraton. I’m currently in the “France” section of the book and Sheraton spares no details when describing a particularly unctious Saint-Necatre fromage. Even the most basic of foods — salt, baguette, mustard, eggs — sound decadent as told through her delicious prose. I am determined to read the book food by food, resisting the urge to skip around countries and cuisines. It is the ulitmate way to fill up without ingesting a morsel, however you will find that reading it induces dizzying hunger and fervent food fantasies.

Ariel Lauren Wilson: Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City
As New Yorkers add more green space and seek ways to protect the local commons, there seems to be a growing desire to conserve what’s not concrete in our jungle. It’s easy to perceive this built environment as being fundamentally opposed to its natural foundation, but in his book, landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson insists on observing them as one and the same. He and a team of researchers analyzed historical and scientific data to reconstruct what New York City was like the day a certain Henry sailed up the Hudson. Sanderson ultimately uses this illustration to argue that for the sake of New York’s future, the cityscape must be sustained as a habitat for people where, like any animal in any ecosystem, we need reliable food, water, shelter, reproductive resources and meaning to thrive (that last one’s unique to us homo sapiens). I now think this book should be a required read in city schools, but it’s  especially for anyone interested in how New York’s past and present ecology can inform its future environmental resilience.

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