This fall, Food Tank is recommending 23 books that can broaden and deepen everyone’s understanding of food systems and the power of storytelling. Books like Taras Grescoe’s The Lost Supper, Sarah Lohman’s Endangered Eating, and Slow Food’s The Ark of Taste highlight the future of food through the preservation of traditional foodways and practices. Laura Tillman’s The Migrant Chef and Curtis Chin’s memoir, Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant, highlight the challenges and resiliency of changemakers in the food industry. We’ve also included a dystopian novel, Land of Milk and Honey, to imagine a world after food systems collapse and spark motivation to avert such a future.
These 23 books will encourage readers to explore new flavors, deepen community-based knowledge, and vitalize change within the food system.
1. Appalachia on the Table: Representing Mountain Food and People by Erica Abrams Locklear
Appalachia on the Table unpacks the conception of Appalachia as a distinctly separate region from the rest of the South through the lens of food. After encountering the surprises within her grandmother’s cookbook, Erica Abrams Locklear sets out to understand where her own notions of Appalachian food traditions originated and why theories about the region’s lower culinary status have multiplied over time.
2. The Ark of Taste: Delicious and Distinctive Foods That Define the United States by Giselle Kennedy Lord and David S. Shields
Created by Slow Food USA, The Ark of Taste serves as a catalog of the nation’s food heritage and a movement to preserve the culinary legacies handed down between generations. Readers can learn about the foods that distinguish the culinary landscape of the United States in this visual encyclopedia tailored for both consumers and food producers.
3. At the Table by Katherine Miller
At the Table considers how chefs and other leaders in the restaurant industry can be some of the most powerful agents of advocacy and change in the food system. Katherine Miller recounts the techniques she developed for the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change and shares the stories of chefs who used these skills to foster impact.
4. Beyond the Kitchen Table Edited by Priscilla McCutcheon, Latrica Best, and Theresa Ann Rajack-Talley
Beyond the Kitchen Table is a deep analysis into Black women’s roles in food and agriculture systems in the Caribbean, Africa, and the United States. Through examining matrilineal food-based education and Black women’s social, cultural, and families’ networks, the authors address the ways in which Black women, both now and in the past, have used food to build community.
5. The Core of an Onion: Peeling the Rarest Common Food by Mark Kurlansky (Forthcoming November 2023)
In The Core of an Onion, Mark Kurlansky dives into the science and history of the only sulfuric acid–spewing plant, exploring the onion’s twenty varieties and the cultures built around them. Including a recipe section featuring more than 100 dishes from around the world, Kurlansky celebrates the onion in all its forms, from a base for stews and sauces to metaphors and folklore.
6. Cracked: The Future of Dams in a Hot, Chaotic World by Steven Hawley
Steven Hawley examines the history of damming rivers to identify the short- and long-term impacts of leveraging the power of water for urban and agricultural growth. Cracked gives technical context of water scarcity in the American West, leaving readers with a sense of urgency to protect rivers, the biodiversity they sustain, and communities they feed.
7. Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant a memoir by Curtis Chin
In this memoir, Curtis Chin shares how he learned to embrace his gay, American-born Chinese identity in the safe haven of Chung’s Cantonese Cuisine. Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant highlights the challenges of life in Detroit in the 1980’s, and reveals how Chinese restaurants, both then and now, present an opportunity to engage in important conversations with people from different racial, socio-economic, and religious backgrounds.
8. Endangered Eating: America’s Vanishing Foods by Sarah Lohman
Sarah Lohman sheds light on the urgency of safeguarding Indigenous culinary customs through her tales of traversing America in search of endangered foods. In Endangered Eating she highlights the influence of colonization upon foodways, and also advocates for the localization of food systems and greater support for food producers and community organizations.
9. Feeding Each Other: Shaping Change in Food Systems through Relationship by Nicole Civita and Michelle Auerbach
Feeding Each Other argues that current solutions to feed the world are only accelerating the collapse of environmental, economic, and social structures. Authors Nicole Civita and Michelle Auerbach use a blend of research, insights from diverse thinkers, and their own lived experiences to encourage us to focus on ‘feeding each other.’
10. Junk Food Politics: How Beverage and Fast Food Industries Are Reshaping Emerging Economies by Eduardo J. Gómez
Junk Food Politics reveals a two-way street where industry and political leaders work together to launch well-meaning social programs—but also work around regulations that might harm industry profits. According to Eduardo J. Gómez, this has led to a world in which beverage and fast-food industries thrive in low resource countries, causing long-term health problems for low income communities.
11. Kings of Their Own Ocean: Tuna, Obsession, and the Future of Our Seas by Karen Pinchin
Kings of Their Own Ocean is an urgent investigation into how human obsession with bluefin tuna has transformed a cottage industry into a global dilemma. Karen Pinchin explores the story of one Atlantic bluefish tuna as a symbol for the ongoing fight between a booming tuna industry and desperate conservation efforts.
12. Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam Zhang
This dystopian novel by C Pam Zhang centers on a young chef who is trying to survive in the wake of an environmental catastrophe that devastated earth’s biodiversity. Imagining how fine dining might persist after food systems collapse, Land of Milk and Honey celebrates the joys of food while also addressing its inherent disparities and our complex relationship with nature.
13. The Last Supper Club: A Waiter’s Requiem by Matthew Batt
This memoir shares the story of how Matthew Batt, a professor on sabbatical, found himself returning to a job waiting tables, and loving it. Detailing the challenges and satisfactions of meeting the demands of fine dining, The Last Supper Club is an ode to working in restaurants and the relationships you build along the way.
14. The Lost Supper: Searching for the Future of Food in the Flavors of the Past by Taras Grescoe
The Lost Supper introduces readers to the surprising and forgotten flavors whose revival is attracting food lovers across the globe. Taras Grescoe argues that the key to healthy and sustainable eating lies not in looking forward, but in looking back to the foods that have sustained the global population for millions of years.
15. The Migrant Chef: The Life and Times of Lalo García by Laura Tillman
The Migrant Chef encapsulates Mexico City-based journalist Laura Tillman’s five year immersion into Lalo Garcia’s story. As Tillman follows Lalo across the globe, she touches on themes including the history of Mexican food, farmworker conditions in the United States, Mexican politics and earthquakes, and the inequities and challenges of restaurant business.
16. The New Fish: The Truth about Farmed Salmon and the Consequences We Can No Longer Ignore by Simen Sætre and Kjetil Østli
The New Fish delves into the origins of salmon farming, tracing its expansion from coastal Norway to the United States and the many countries in between. Following a prizewinning five-year investigation, journalists Simen Sætre and Kjetil Østli discuss the adverse effects of sea farming and the unintended consequences of attempts to address global food needs.
17. No Meat Required: The Cultural History & Culinary Future of Plant-Based Eating by Alicia Kennedy
No Meat Required is a culinary and cultural history of plant-based eating in the United States that digs into the subcultures and politics that define alternative foods among a new generation. From the early experiments in tempeh production in the 1970s to the vegan cafes of the 1990s, Alicia Kennedy brings depth and context to vegan and vegetarian cuisine.
18. The Nourishing Asian Kitchen: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Health and Healing by Sophia Nguyen Eng (Forthcoming November 2023)
The Nourishing Asian Kitchen is inspired by the nexus of nutritional research, regenerative farming practices, and cultural food tradition. Reflecting on the Asian recipes that have been passed down through her family for generations, Sophia Nguyen Eng recreates her favorite dishes with an emphasis on food quality, ingredient sourcing, and seasonality.
19. Perfectly Good Food: A Totally Achievable Zero Waste Approach to Home Cooking by Margaret Li and Irene Li
Perfectly Good Food is a cookbook on a mission to eliminate food waste. With 80 recipes and150 ideas to transform fridge leftovers, chef-sisters Margaret and Irene Li celebrate the joys of saving food, reducing grocery expenses, and mastering the art of resourceful cooking.
20. Resilient Kitchens: American Immigrant Cooking in a Time of Crisis Edited by Philip Gleissner and Harry Eli Kashdan
Resilient Kitchens is a collection of essays about the lives of immigrants in the United States before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, told through the lens of food. The book brings together stories and recipes from professional food writers, scholars, restaurateurs, and activists to discuss the hardship and resilience of racism in the American food system.
21. The Salmon Sisters: Harvest & Heritage by Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton
The Salmon Sisters: Harvest & Heritage celebrates the seasons of Alaskan food and rituals through photography, illustrations, recipes, and traditions. Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton reflect on their values and visions inspired by their upbringing and summers spent fishing on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.
22. Secret Harvests: A Hidden Story of Separation and the Resilience of a Family Farm by David Mas Masumoto
Secret Harvests tells the story of a Japanese American family’s reunion after 70 years of being separated by racism and the discrimination of people with developmental disabilities. As David Mas Masumoto accounts the discovery of his lost aunt, he uncovers themes of resilience, identity, and family among farmers who forge forward in a land that historically did not want them.
23. White Burgers, Black Cash: Fast Food from Black Exclusion to Exploitation by Naa Oyo A. Kwate
White Burgers, Black Cash traces the evolution of fast food, uncovering its long history of racist exclusion to its current exploitation of urban Black communities. Naa Oyo A. Kwate contends that both sides of fast food’s racial spectrum—from exclusion to exploitation—underscore the deeply rooted presence of anti-Blackness within the industry.
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