Lisa Waddle

As entertaining as it is informative, Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days is beautifully illustrated and full of much more than recipes or food lore (although it includes both). Written by PEN/Faulkner Award-winner James Salter and his playwright wife Kay Salter, the book has a short entry for each day of the year and is packed with fascinating tidbits.

The charm of Life Is Meals is the Salters' quirky selection and arrangement of facts. Although some entries offer a historical food fact (the menu on the Titanic on the night it went down), others are random observations (what makes a good waiter) or tips on throwing a dinner party, which fruits go with which cheeses (June 27) or the evolution of the fork (January 13). Difficult to put down, this is a book to keep by the bedside and give to every foodie on your list.

Lisa Waddle is a pastry baker and food writer in Nashville.

As entertaining as it is informative, Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days is beautifully illustrated and full of much more than recipes or food lore (although it includes both). Written by PEN/Faulkner Award-winner James Salter and his playwright wife Kay Salter, the book has a short entry for each day of the […]

Unlike the days when the European apprentice system was the only way to become an established chef, today there is no one route to the kitchen. Nowhere is that better illustrated than in How I Learned to Cook: Culinary Educations of the World's Greatest Chefs, a collection of essays by 40 acclaimed chefs. Edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Peter Meehan, the book is a satisfying follow-up to Don't Try This at Home, their collection of culinary catastrophe stories. While the first book was heavy on entertainment, this one delivers more in the practical wisdom department.

Each essay in How I Learned to Cook opens with a short bio of a chef, hardly necessary in most cases (Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan), essential in others (Raymond Blanc, Chris Bianco). Each chef takes a slightly different tack, telling about childhood experiences in the kitchen, early inspirations and mentors, twists of fate or epiphanies that came later in life. All the essays are less than 10 pages long and hold a reader's attention with their sheer diversity.

This is not just a book for culinary school students or aspiring professionals the inspiration in these chefs' tales works for the weekend cook as well. Despite the breadth of experiences recounted from cooking under the master French chef Paul Bocuse (Daniel Boulud) to deep-frying at the snack bar of the local swim club (Tom Colicchio) cooks of every ability level will recognize the one constant throughout: passion for good food.

Lisa Waddle is a pastry baker and food writer in Nashville.

Unlike the days when the European apprentice system was the only way to become an established chef, today there is no one route to the kitchen. Nowhere is that better illustrated than in How I Learned to Cook: Culinary Educations of the World's Greatest Chefs, a collection of essays by 40 acclaimed chefs. Edited by […]

The latest entry in the memoir-cum-recipes category is truly a mouthful. In Wrestling with Gravy: A Life, with Food playwright and New York Times food columnist Jonathan Reynolds recounts the delights and drama of his remarkable life through meals he's made and ingested. In each chapter, Reynolds offers a recipe or two to go with the narrative of his life. The wonderful thing is that these recipes which are all over the map as far as cuisine and complexity are directly relevant to whatever tale he's telling, and not just tacked on as an afterthought. For example, there's the Tournedos Rossini Reynolds that was served onboard the S.S. France during his college graduation cruise. Then there's the Monterey County Jail Oatmeal, which Reynolds experienced in his 20s after trespassing at Kim Novak's house.

What makes this memoir worth reading is that it offers a peek into a life far different than most, and lived with gusto. Reynolds was raised on Manhattan's Upper East Side, a privileged child who decided to become an actor. His career path was far from straight, and included working on Eugene McCarthy's 1972 presidential campaign, writing a book on location during the filming of Apocalypse Now and producing The Dick Cavett Show. Reynolds has lived on both coasts, traveled extensively, divorced and remarried (to scene designer Heidi Ettinger) and has two sons and three stepsons. It's appropriate that this rich life is filled with rich dishes like Fontainebleau Lobster and Cinderella Truffles.

Lisa Waddle is a pastry baker and food writer in Nashville.

 

The latest entry in the memoir-cum-recipes category is truly a mouthful. In Wrestling with Gravy: A Life, with Food playwright and New York Times food columnist Jonathan Reynolds recounts the delights and drama of his remarkable life through meals he's made and ingested. In each chapter, Reynolds offers a recipe or two to go with […]

The mystique and attraction of Mary Poppins, written in 1934, appear stronger now than ever. Television shows like Nanny 911 and Supernanny feature British nannies coming to the rescue of American families. Last year's Nanny McPhee featured a British nanny with magical powers. And a theater production of Mary Poppins, co-produced by Disney, opens on Broadway this month. Yet the irony is that most people's impression of the famous nanny comes from the 1964 Disney film, not from the series of books written by Australian-born writer P.L. Travers. In Mary Poppins, She Wrote, journalist Valerie Lawson does an admirable job of recounting Travers' life and sorting out the Poppins created by Travers and the one distorted by Disney. Travers' Poppins, seemingly a composite of different people from her restless life, rarely cracked a smile and tended toward mysticism and religious symbolism rather than song. The original Mary Poppins was never charming. . . . Almost sadistic at times, Mary is never really nasty but often very sharp. She is a controlling force, making order from disorder, making magic, then never admitting magic took place, writes Lawson.

Like a diligent therapist, Lawson who corresponded with Travers and was allowed access to her papers after Travers' death in 1996 at the age of 96 digs into Travers' past and speculates about the origins of the characters populating her memorable books. She tells of Travers' start as an actress and poet, her study of Eastern religions and her tangling with Walt Disney himself over the making of the movie. In a letter to her London publisher, Travers wrote that the film was Disney through and through, spectacular, colourful, gorgeous but all wrapped around mediocrity of thought, poor glimmerings of understanding, and oversimplification. Ironically, the huge Hollywood success overshadowed the complex story of Travers' own life.

Lisa Waddle is a writer in Nashville.

 

The mystique and attraction of Mary Poppins, written in 1934, appear stronger now than ever. Television shows like Nanny 911 and Supernanny feature British nannies coming to the rescue of American families. Last year's Nanny McPhee featured a British nanny with magical powers. And a theater production of Mary Poppins, co-produced by Disney, opens on […]

Dylan Schaffer knows how to hook a reader. Not really a surprise, given that his previous two books were mysteries. But his latest book, Life, Death &andamp; Bialys: A Father/Son Baking Story, is a departure from the legal thriller genre; it is instead a memoir focused on dysfunctional parents, midlife reconciliations and making crusty artisan bread.

Schaffer sets up his premise quickly, in a three-page prologue: His dad, who walked out on Schaffer and his mom 30 years ago, calls him and proposes that the two attend a week-long bread-making class at a top New York culinary school. What is never mentioned during the phone call is that his father has end-stage lung and bladder cancer and according to the doctors, long before [my dad] can discover the secrets of baking beautiful and distinctive artisan breads, he will be dead. Amazingly, Schaffer's father, Flip, survives to attend the class at the French Culinary Institute. The book tracks their seven days of learning the intricacies of yeast, starters, kneading, shaping and baking. It also documents their nights together eating, walking the city and attempting to come to terms with their pasts. Schaffer is clearly on a mission to gain information from his father, mainly an explanation for how his father could abandon him to the care of his mother, who was mentally unwell. Flip is also on a mission, to say goodbye to his son, as well as finally learn to make his favorite bialy.

Schaffer's lively writing and sense of humor (often black) keep Life, Death &andamp; Bialys from becoming maudlin. But the second half of the book bogs down when he abandons the framing device of the baking class and focuses almost entirely on the psychological underpinnings of his relationship with his parents. Most of the classmates so colorfully described in the beginning of the book, as well as the baking instruction, are pushed to the back burner as Dylan's anger and barbed wit take over. Although uncomfortable to read at times, this is a book that offers a realistic glimpse at coming to terms with a parent's death. Lisa Waddle is a pastry baker in Nashville who knows her bialys from her bagels.

Dylan Schaffer knows how to hook a reader. Not really a surprise, given that his previous two books were mysteries. But his latest book, Life, Death &andamp; Bialys: A Father/Son Baking Story, is a departure from the legal thriller genre; it is instead a memoir focused on dysfunctional parents, midlife reconciliations and making crusty artisan […]

In Chew on This, Eric Schlosser expands on his best-selling exposŽ of the fast-food industry, Fast Food Nation, this time seeking to get his message to the industry's biggest consumer group: children and teens. Aimed at 11- to 13-year-olds, Chew on This uncovers the fascinating and often frightening truths behind the sesame bun, exposing the business and health realities of fast food that kids may never have considered.

Although the research and behind-the-scenes revelations in this book are similar to those in Fast Food Nation, Schlosser and co-author Charles Wilson have attempted to recast the information to appeal to the younger set. They start with a historical look at the beginnings of the fast-food industry and delve into the ways these restaurants are marketed to children (Happy Meals, anyone?). The authors keep their focus on kids by telling stories of teens who work for or have protested against the industry. As in Fast Food Nation, some of the most compelling writing is found in reportage on the mistreatment of animals in slaughterhouses that provide the meat for fast-food restaurants, and the health effects of too much fast food on growing bodies. A particularly poignant chapter is devoted to the story of Sam and Charlie Fabrikant, two teen brothers who undergo gastric bypass surgery in an attempt to lose some of the 300 pounds they piled on from a steady diet of fast food.

Chew on This is an eye-opening book with a worthy message. The authors do a good job of uncovering facts that will particularly appeal to teens and pre-teens such as the fact that the pink, red and purple color of many processed foods comes from an additive made from ground-up bugs. However, for the complete message of fast food's high cost to our society, health, communities and the earth, this book should be consumed with adult assistance.

In Chew on This, Eric Schlosser expands on his best-selling exposŽ of the fast-food industry, Fast Food Nation, this time seeking to get his message to the industry's biggest consumer group: children and teens. Aimed at 11- to 13-year-olds, Chew on This uncovers the fascinating and often frightening truths behind the sesame bun, exposing the […]

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!