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Journalist and Julia Child’s grandnephew Alex Prud’homme (My Life in France; The French Chef in America) has crafted a finely balanced, scrupulously researched account of gastronomy and culture, history and politics in Dinner With the President: Food, Politics, and a History of Breaking Bread at the White House.

Even for those of us who paid the barest of attention in history class, Prud’homme’s exceptional writing and good nose for a lively anecdote make the book’s portraits of 26 American presidents vibrant, entertaining and relevant. Food in the White House is both “sustenance and metaphor,” he writes. In a literal sense, these meals reflect the preferences of presidential palates. For example, George H.W. Bush despised broccoli; Barack Obama had a “global palate”; Richard Nixon didn’t care what he ate; Abraham Lincoln loved his cornbread; and Lyndon B. Johnson doted on Texas barbecue. In a broader sense, whatever food is served in the White House influences the nation’s economic, social, cultural and political climate. Food even has the power to bring together disparate parties for productive political debate, such as Thomas Jefferson’s “Dinner Table Bargain” and Jimmy Carter’s Camp David peace brokering efforts between Israel’s Menachem Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat. As the late chef and writer Anthony Bourdain put it, “Nothing is more political than food. Nothing.”

Prud’homme also gives credit to the less visible figures who have wielded food’s power, such as the many Black chefs and diverse cooks who have staffed the White House kitchen throughout history. He also shows the powerful influence first ladies have had over the presidential diet and their canny oversight of White House entertaining, from State dinners to receptions and more.

The book’s coda is a short curation of presidential families’ favorite recipes, including Martha Washington’s preserved cherries, Jefferson’s salad with tarragon vinaigrette, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “reverse martini,” Dwight D. Eisenhower’s steak and Lady Bird Johnson’s Pedernales River chili. A captivating epicurean history with a political twist, Dinner With the President is a fascinating look at life in the “People’s House.”

Alex Prud’homme’s exceptional writing and good nose for a lively anecdote make his 26 portraits of American presidents’ appetites vibrant and entertaining.
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Occasionally, a book appears like a shimmering treasure stumbled upon during a forest walk. This is certainly the case with Iliana Regan’s memoir Fieldwork: A Forager’s Memoir. Her first book, Burn the Place, was a finalist for the National Book Award, chronicling growing up gay on an Indiana farm and creating her own Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago. In both memoirs, Regan is a hypnotizing writer who speaks to readers in a deeply personal way, writing in a natural voice that artfully interweaves past and present.

Regan’s exquisite, carefully planned prose paradoxically feels like a casual chat, the sort that might unfold spontaneously during a long weekend visit. As it turns out, some very lucky people can experience exactly that, because in 2020, Regan turned over her restaurant, Elizabeth, to her employees, and now she and her wife run the Milkweed Inn bed and breakfast in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Deep in the Hiawatha National Forest, 10 guests are treated to Regan’s culinary magic each weekend. During that time, Regan hopes they will experience something similar to the “magic of the farmhouse I grew up in.”

Fieldwork invites readers into this world, as Regan explores and forages in the nearby forest and river for food to use in meals at the inn. She also forages in her own mind for childhood memories, including those of her beloved parents and her grandmother Busia, a gifted cook who emigrated from Poland. Busia’s duck blood soup, or czarnina, exists in the author’s memories as a sort of magical potion, something akin to Marcel Proust’s madeleines. Regan also shares her ongoing struggles with recovering from alcoholism, the difficulties of running an inn during the COVID-19 pandemic, her fears of losing her parents, her anxieties about the world and her desire and attempts to become a parent. Alongside these thoughts, she captures the great beauty and comfort of the outdoors with the voice of a naturalist.

Regan has led an intriguing, unusual life, which gives her memoir a unique and compelling perspective. She notes, for instance, “Sometimes I think I would still like to be a man because I don’t feel like a woman. But I don’t feel like a man either. I feel more akin to a mushroom.” With both Burn the Place and Fieldwork, Regan has earned her place as not only a world-class chef but also a gifted memoirist.

As Iliana Regan forages in the forest for food to use in the meals she serves at her inn, she also forages in her own mind for shimmering, moving childhood memories.
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I don’t believe I’ve ever met a pasta I didn’t like. There are, however, many pasta shapes I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting—yet. In An A–Z of Pasta, Rome-based author Rachel Roddy introduces readers to 50 of them, some of which, like brichetti, are not often found beyond specific Italian regions. (As if I needed another reason to visit Italy someday.)

This is no mere collection of dishes, however; it is a specific window into Italian history and geography, thick with sense of place. Take fregula, little balls similar to couscous. “A tiny shape . . . particularly stout and . . . nutty,” they are native to Sardinia, where women have traditionally been tasked with making them (not a small job, despite the small shape). Roddy is a knowledgeable storyteller and low-key witty. Of fusilli, she writes, “One day I will watch an extruder forming fusilli while smoking a joint and listening to the Incredible String Band. As with any invention that has become commonplace, we take a pasta machine that can extrude perfect spirals for granted.”

Roddy’s lamb ragu with lots of herbs, “a Friday night dish,” sounds amazing, as do numerous other recipes included here. This book is essential for anyone passionate about Italian cooking.

In An A–Z of Pasta, witty and knowledgeable author Rachel Roddy introduces readers to 50 essential pastas and the recipes you might use them in.
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Did you know that the margarita is a “tribute cocktail,” a drink named in honor of a person? In this case, the honoree is Margarita Henkel, daughter of a German ambassador. In Buzzworthy, Vancouver-based author Jennifer Croll (Free the Tipple, Art Boozel) builds on this concept, introducing cocktails inspired by female writers from the 19th century to the present, from poets to graphic novelists and everything in between.

Each recipe is paired with a brief bio of the writer, so you’ll get a dash of literary trivia with your tipple. The book is forward-thinking in its inclusion of low- and zero-proof options, as well, such as the Louise Erdrich: muddled strawberries, juniper-cardamom syrup, lemon juice and soda.

Between Rachelle Baker’s punchy illustrations of the literary ladies with their eponymous drinks and book covers, and the “tipsy” typeface, the whole effect is effervescent, with the final section, a curated TBR list of the writers’ works, acting as the ideal digestif.

Buzzworthy features cocktails inspired by female writers from the 19th century to the present, from poets to graphic novelists and everything in between.
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Cooking for the Culture is the first book from Toya Boudy, a spirited celebrity chef whose New Orleanian heritage shines through in everything she does. I sheepishly admit that I’d never heard of Boudy before her cookbook landed on my desk—I’m not fluent in TV, see—but her keep-it-real approach and candid family stories sucked me right in, and the voice that (I’m certain) comes through so winningly on screen is front and center here, too. For example: “If you’re going to jump out the gate slanging tartare on the table, you’d better come out swinging.”

Some of Boudy’s food is delightfully simple: shrimp on a bun, fried okra and red beans (served with fried chicken, her favorite meal). But some recipes are marvelously extra, like her praline sweet potatoes with whiskey mallo cream, or her “Expensive Ass Salad” (the best-titled recipe ever) featuring lobster, crab, scallops and a champagne caviar vinaigrette. And you best believe there are all the Cajun and Creole classics you could dream of in these pages.

Chef Toya Boudy’s New Orleanian heritage shines through in everything she does, from red beans and fried okra to praline sweet potatoes with whiskey mallo cream.

Jamie Loftus is a comedian, podcaster, animator, Emmy-nominated TV writer and performance artist. She’s joined MENSA as a joke, has seen Shrek the Musical 10-plus times and, in 2017, ate a copy of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

Now, with the release of Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, the prolific creator and debut author takes readers on a cross-country road trip that is by turns eye-opening and gut-clenching, hilarious and poignant, scatological and existential.

In the summer of 2021—aka “Hot Dog Summer”—Loftus, her boyfriend and their dog and cat left their home in Los Angeles and set off to eat and critique a ton of hot dogs. Along the way, she interrogates our national affection for the iconic tubed meat, noting that hot dogs are “high culture, they’re low culture, they’re sports food and they’re hangover food and they’re deeply American for reasons that few people can explain.”   

Loftus digs into those mixed messages with sharp wit and righteous anger. After all, hot dogs are served at festive events but have long been made in places rife with animal abuse and worker exploitation. And while they’re the gleaming centerpiece of the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, she explains that the celebrated competition is actually tainted by “jingoistic marketing” and entrenched sexism.

As for the hot dogs themselves, dozens of vendors are duly visited, sampled and reported on—from Costco and Home Depot to independent hot dog joints and even a few ballparks. She traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, “to get diarrhea at ten in the morning at all costs” and therefore ordered a hot dog topped with onion rings and Spaghetti-Os. In Baltimore, she “deep-throat[ed] a Maryland hot dog swaddled in deep-fried bologna,” and in Chicago, she reveled in a filet mignon steak dog. All this while pursuing with alacrity the answer to an urgent question: “Are the people on the Wienermobile fucking?”

Raw Dog is a wonderfully weird and wild mashup of history, social commentary, personal revelation and food journalism. The author’s passion for her work shines through as she makes a compelling case for more informed hot dog consumption while maintaining her love for the quintessential cookout food.

Comedian Jamie Loftus takes readers on a hot dog-sampling road trip that is by turns eye-opening and gut-clenching, hilarious and poignant, scatological and existential.


Ice might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of coveted “luxury” goods. In fact, many Americans take ice for granted as a now-ubiquitous product that is dispensed out of their refrigerators and can be purchased in bags from nearly every grocery store, convenience store and gas station.

But as Amy Brady (co-editor of The World as We Knew It) explains in her new book, Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks—a Cool History of a Hot Commodity, ice has indeed been a very “hot commodity” throughout history. Flash forward to today on our rapidly warming planet, and ice is in even higher demand. This paradox was not lost on Brady. As she writes, “The irony lay in the fact that I was driven to seek out and consume ice because of a phenomenon that’s eliminating ice on the planet.”

Amy Brady, author of ‘Ice,’ recounts the lost history of the doctor who invented the ice machine.

Brady found ice to be an untapped subject and did enormous amounts of research to fill in the gaps in its history. Divided into four parts that each focuses on an aspect of ice—obsession, food and drink, ice sports, and the future—Ice outlines how frozen water “profoundly has shaped the nation’s history and culture.” Commentary from food writers, scientists, physicians and historians are interspersed with historic resources such as newspaper articles, diaries and journals, creating unique connections between the past and present.

Historical facts and statistics help contextualize the important role ice has played in events like Prohibition, when breweries pivoted to other business ventures that would make use of their existing ice cellars. (Yuengling opened a dairy, Anheuser-Busch made infant formula and Pabst sold cheese.) Another especially interesting chapter covers ice’s use as a medical treatment for injuries, chronic ailments and even cancer. Throughout the book, Brady uses timelines to help illustrate the trajectory of ice’s journey from an amenity to an everyday item, emphasizing how quickly it became mainstream. Taken all together, Ice makes an important case for securing the future of those freezing cold cubes in a warming world.

Amy Brady uses commentary from food writers, scientists and physicians to illuminate how something as commonplace as ice came to shape America’s history and culture.
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William Alexander delivers a tasty culinary chronicle with Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World: A History. With authority, humor and an instinct for flavorful anecdotes, Alexander tracks the evolution of the tomato from its first cultivations in the Americas to its first encounter with Europe via the Spanish in the 1500s to its current widespread popularity. Along the way, he considers tomato-related innovations such as the creation of ketchup and the rise of hybrid tomato specimens. Alexander touches on themes of contemporary farming practices and food production that will provide great talking points for book clubs.

Joshua Specht’s Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America is a surprisingly dramatic account of the rise of the beef industry and how the meat came to be an American favorite. Focusing on the 19th century, Specht explores the cattle ranches of the American West and the Chicago meatpacking industry and looks at how urban expansion affected production. His shrewd analysis of meatpacking practices, factory conditions for workers and labor developments underscores the impact of beef on American business. Specht’s nuanced account sheds new light on a mealtime mainstay.

In Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas, Mark Kurlansky traces the science, history and mythology behind the life-giving liquid. Fans of the author (who has also dedicated books to salt and cod) will welcome this study of a beverage that, as Kurlansky demonstrates, transcends cultures and eras. From milk production and dairy farming to the role of milk in economics and its significance in countries across the globe, Kurlanksy presents a multifaceted look at the vital beverage. Ever attuned to the offbeat factoid, he writes with typical crispness in a book that’s sure to intrigue readers.

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast delves into the fascinating past of a controversial crop. Millions of people around the world rely on the coffee industry for their livelihoods, and Pendergrast takes stock of how the little bean has shaped international commerce and politics over the centuries. He brews up plenty of tantalizing coffee lore, assesses the dominance of Starbucks and explores the worlds of coffee snobs and fair-trade advocates. Global economics and the centrality of coffee to our daily lives make for rich discussion topics.

Psst . . . pair them with thematic snacks and/or drinks!
Behind the Book by

“Why do I love ice? Why do I prefer—nay, need—my drink to be cold?” These were the questions that ran through my head in early 2019 as I filled a cup with iced tea at a gas station in Apalachicola, Florida, a tiny town on the Gulf Coast. The day was sweltering, and the thick scent of palm trees wafted through the air, mixing with the smell of melting asphalt. At the time, I was deep into writing my book Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks—a Cool History of a Hot Commodity, about all the unexpected ways ice has shaped America’s history and culture. I’d come here to learn more about the man who made the nation’s first ice machine.

That man was John Gorrie, a 19th-century, New York-born doctor who moved to Apalachicola in the 1840s to treat yellow fever, which plagued the region every summer. Without knowing that mosquitoes transmit the virus (no one knew that yet back then), Gorrie thought that ice might be a cure. After much trial and error, he succeeded at building a working ice machine, the nation’s first, but his invention didn’t receive the response he’d hoped for. This was an era of superstition and skepticism toward science. A man who claimed he could make ice? Why, only God can make ice! Or so went the thinking of the day.

Read our review of ‘Ice’ by Amy Brady.

Gorrie was ridiculed by his peers and eventually died a penniless laughingstock in his early 50s of the very disease he was hoping to treat. A mere decade later, his rediscovered ice machine patent would serve as the blueprint to build America’s first commercial ice plants. From then on, ice became not only a luxury but a necessity across the country.

I wanted to learn more about Gorrie, but despite his extraordinary contributions to science, hardly anyone then—or now—knew who he was. Few of his personal papers were saved after his death, and many more were lost in a fire. Writing Gorrie’s story—and the ways it intersected with the larger history of ice—was going to be a challenge, but the historian in me couldn’t have been more excited to take it on.

My trip to Apalachicola brought me first to the John Gorrie Memorial Museum, where I spoke with a staff member named Peggy. I thought I’d begin by asking her about what historians already know, but even the basics, I learned, are up for debate. Gorrie’s birth records were lost to history, she said, so no one knows for sure whether he was born in Charleston, South Carolina, or on Nevis, a small island in the Caribbean Sea. Almost everyone agrees on when Gorrie moved to Apalachicola (the 1840s) and why (to treat yellow fever), but no one knows for sure how a doctor of such little means (he was broke when he arrived and even more broke when he died) treated so many patients.

“Why do I love ice? Why do I prefer—nay, need—my drink to be cold?”

We know that he married the daughter of a wealthy hotelier not long after he arrived in Florida, but no one knows for certain why. I wanted to think it was for love, of course, but it was hard not to wonder how a woman of her social stature got away with marrying a poor, blasphemous doctor of ill repute at a time when women were rarely allowed to make significant decisions without input from their families. When I looked at their relationship from Gorrie’s perspective, I thought that perhaps Gorrie saw his wife’s family as a source of wealth to fund his ice-making experiments, but circumstantial evidence suggests that the couple barely had enough to live on.

Then there was the biggest question at the heart of my research: Why did Gorrie think that ice would cure disease? What possibly could have led him to that conclusion?

With so many holes in the doctor’s story, I realized that archival research—my favorite kind!—would be most useful. Back in my hotel, I revisited what I knew. I had Gorrie’s basic timeline and at least a few names and locations. I pulled out my laptop and searched newspaper databases to find articles related to 1840s Apalachicola. An hour later, I stumbled across a notice of Gorrie’s marriage in the Apalachicola Gazette. Interestingly, the bride’s father didn’t attend the ceremony. (So the union had caused a familial stir!) Next I turned to a database of 19th-century medical journals, where I learned about the leading theories of the day surrounding the dangers of heat. As a doctor, Gorrie would have read those journals and learned that too high of a fever could damage a patient’s internal organs. That’s probably at least one reason why he sought to create ice: to cool his feverish patients.

“That’s the power of archives, I thought. They hold our stories, even if in pieces, until someone puts them back together.”

Finally, I turned to digitized records housed at the Library of Congress, where I discovered a series of articles that Gorrie wrote under a pen name about the use of ice to cure yellow fever. His argument aligned with the one in the medical journals, further confirming my suspicion that he believed ice cured yellow fever by lowering patients’ body temperatures. I also found a letter he wrote to a fellow doctor about his ice machine. The letter’s uncertain tone painted a portrait of a man in the throes of self-doubt and frustration and would serve as the emotional centerpiece for my chapter on Gorrie. At long last, the ice doctor’s story was revealing itself more fully.

On my last day in Apalachicola, I stood across the street from the museum where Gorrie was buried and thought about how his story was spread across time and space like a thousand puzzle pieces. That’s the power of archives, I thought. They hold our stories, even if in pieces, until someone puts them back together.

Headshot of Amy Brady by Cate Barry Photography.

The author of Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks—a Cool History of a Hot Commodity recounts the lost history of the doctor who invented the ice machine.
Review by

In a follow-up to his fascinating Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, multifaceted writer and chef Michael Ruhlman applies that concept to cocktails. Even more so than culinary creations, boozy drinks “are fundamentally defined by their ratios, rather than by a unique combination of ingredients,” he writes in The Book of Cocktail Ratios: The Surprising Simplicity of Classic Cocktails.

Ruhlman explores this thesis through six classic tipples—the Manhattan, the Negroni, the Daiquiri, the Margarita, the Martini and highballs, with a few outliers thrown in for good measure (the Paper Plane, the Hot Toddy, etc.). For example, a Martinez, which likely predated the Manhattan, swaps gin for the Manhattan’s bourbon or rye in a 2:1 ratio of spirit to vermouth. Sub bourbon in for gin in the 1:1:1 ratio of a Negroni, and boom, you’ve got a Boulevardier—or try mezcal, if you dare.

I’m not much of a numbers person, but this simplification of the sometimes-arcane world of mixology goes down easy and pairs well with sweet watercolor illustrations by Marcella Kriebel. Ruhlman suggests that the art of the cocktail is rather forgiving, a place to mess around and find out. Just commit a few basic ratios to memory first.

Even if you’re not much of a numbers person, this guide to the ratios involved in six classic tipples goes down easy.

There’s a conversational charm to Jamie Loftus’ narration of her book, Raw Dog (9.5 hours), in which she shares the results of her travels around the United States, one hot dog at a time.

The history of the hot dog is rich and filled with surprises, from its European roots as wienerschnitzel to its iconic status at Coney Island and baseball games. Loftus gives advance warning about the book’s discussion of slaughterhouses and how hot dogs are made, but even with such unsavory topics, there’s something terribly irresistible about her narration, which is often incredibly funny. In addition to offering a unique glimpse at the hot dog’s impact on Americana, Loftus provides much food for thought about the people and places that have contributed to its ability to transcend socioeconomic levels, as its appeal ranges from affordable meal to gourmet delicacy. 

This is an ideal listen for those who enjoy the frank food truths of Mark Bittman’s Animal, Vegetable, Junk and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation.

Read our review of the print edition of Raw Dog.

Even when discussing unsavory hot dog-related topics, there’s something irresistible about Jamie Loftus’ narration, which is often incredibly funny.

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