My Top 12 on Food Literature

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image via GOOD magazine

There are so many lists on food literature, both non-fiction and fiction, this list is by no means exhausive. Here are some recent 12 I’ve read and really enjoyed.

A year or so ago, I was planning to do a masters course in gastronomy at the Slow Food university, UNISG founded by Carlo Petrini who came to give a talk in Fabrica in 2006 when we first launched Benetton Talk. Then I changed my mind after reading the students blog as 7/10 were Americans and blog entries read like “then we had dinner with people from all around the world, Philadelphia, California, Texas and Italy”.

I decided it made more sense to take a sabbatical and work on a cheese farm/vineyard to learn the ropes, since it definitely isn’t worth the exhorbitant school fees if I was going to be in Yankee Doodle town with other students from all over the world. Very clever marketing strategy for educational commerce. Additionally, younger students are given priority over the selective placements, which would inevitably mean people with more work experience would be bringing more to the table than getting more out of the course.

So anyhow, one of the texts they had to read is a classic: The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin written in 1825.

Here’s my top 12 of fiction and non-fiction.

1. The Physiology of Taste by by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin : free download on Kindle
2. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
3. Fortune Cookies Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee, don’t be misled by the title, this book is brilliant and so much more than fortune cookies!
4. All books by Ruth Reichl, particularly Garlic and Sapphires
5. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Road Dahl – oldie but goodie
6. All books by M.F.K Fisher, especially The Art of Eating
7. Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran
8. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol – tea party scene and more
9. Cooking: The Quintessential Art by Hervé This (the father of molecular gastronomy long before El bulli)
10. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri: one of the shorts revolves around the kitchen and the routine task of cooking delicious Indian food
11. The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones
12. Sharksfin and Sichuan Peppers by Fuchsia Dunlop (leading Chinese food authority)


  1. alex
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 02:29:30

    There are some books that i’ve read too. Some of my favourites

    Cooking for Kings – The Life of Antonie Careme : Great book about the first celeb chef. Loved reading about the history of the cooking in Europe.

    Made in Italy by Giorgio Locatelli : Its actually a cookbook, but the bio and the history of italian food and cooking styles are so well detailed that its a novel in and of itself.


  2. baobabs
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 02:54:21

    Thanks for the tip! I’ve heard of Made in Italy, but haven’t read it. Am so thankful for the HKG Central Library, it’s full of gems given my box of a studio has no space for shelves!


  3. Heidi Leon Monges
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 00:42:27

    wow Jules, I´m impressed. You are a walking food library! which is awesome and a quality (reading) that I admire so much. Unfortunately, I haven´t read many books on food (at least on English) and to be honest I cannot recall any that I could consider my favorite or a top read.

    At this moment I am combining my reading of Fuchsia´s sharkfins and sichuan.. with Helene Dujardin´s plate to pixel (on food photography and styling). Both equally delicious.


  4. baobabs
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 02:10:03

    Thanks Hedi! I hope you enjoy Sharksfin & Sichuan Peppers, it’s missing something — that personal element of herself, that love story we all anticipate! I interviewed Fuchsia in Beijing and she’s really amazing, the wealth of knowledge for Chinese food. I’m also currently reading AA. Giiles is away and Food in Chinese Culture, really interesting anthropological details relating culture. Recently finished fortune cookie chronicles, it’s brilliant, you should read it! I love the Guardian food critic Jay Rayner’s reviews, but his book was abit of a letdown.


  5. mae
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 06:42:15

    I’ve read 9 of your 10 books. All good. But I think it’s too bad to skip all mystery novels — so many have great food scenes, including Robert Parker, Elmore Leonard, even sometimes Agatha Christie.

    mae at


  6. baobabs
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 09:10:41

    Thanks for the tip Mae! love your blog content! there are also classics that have descriptive food scenes like Mark Twain, Dickens etc and I love how food is reflective of moods, joy, sorrow and seasons. Have a post on best food films due, will share soon and would love to hear your input!


  7. mae
    Oct 22, 2011 @ 13:11:41

    I finally read the last book that I was missing — I wrote it up here:


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