If you like books about food, why not read about some of those staples of the Thanksgiving day dinner table? For example, I happen to reading Elaine Khosrova's Butter: A Rich History(an advance copy that I won from Library Thing; the actual book is due out Nov.15) and it runs the gamut from why cow's milk makes butter taste the way it does to the various methods of making butter around the world and a section devoted to recipes of creating numerous butters at home.
It's an engaging book so far and already I've learned that Sumerians were among the first to create butter churns, there is a museum in Cork,Ireland dedicated to butter and that, yes, Virginia, people can make horse milk butter. I am eager to get to the chapters on margarine, as that whole butter battle show that when it comes to taste, there is no true substitute:
Another common kitchen item that has it's own savory story to tell is Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. One of the oldest preservatives in the world, this simple rock mineral has been the cause of wars, the maker of family fortunes and even determined who would be included in the ruling classes of many nations.
Kurlansky is well known for his micro histories(other titles of his include Cod and The Big Oyster) and if you're looking for a smartly written account of something that's nearly taken for granted yet holds huge importance, he's the man to go to. Salt is that unique flavor that enhances any dish yet needs to be subtle about it, which this book does as well:
From becoming a cash crop as well as an alternative fuel source at times, potatoes are more that just quick and easy culinary fodder. Zuckerman traces the history of the spud's development from the 17th century right up to WWI and showcases it's edible evolution on the plate and society at large.
Recipes don't appear to be part of the book, which is a shame. As versatile a vegetable as it is, having a few tips about proper preparation would be a plus. Nonetheless, The Potato sounds like a good read about a good eat:
Finally, a book that gives a little perspective about a classic Thanksgiving dilemma-what to do with all of those leftovers? Sue Shephard chronicles the history of food preservation in Pickled,Potted and Canned, which may have you feeling extremely grateful for that overstuffed fridge of yours.
The book is jam packed with historical details, such as Attila the Hun's method of saddle side meat curing, how a Scottish housewife turned her husband's bargain buy of bitter Seville oranges into a marmalade empire and the rise of modern frozen food monarch Clarence Birdseye.
The author's experience in creating several British TV shows about foodie life clearly adds to the flavor profile of this book. Hopefully, more folks will increase their mental pantry of food knowledge by reading this and perhaps not be too quick to judge the value of certain canned goods there:
Whatever you choose to read nonfiction wise this month, I do hope that your books are both entertaining and educational. As for foodie fact reading, another good reason to engage in that is to have a solid base for any culinary debates that may crop up at your family Thanksgiving celebration. To deep fry or not to deep fry the turkey; that may be the question!: