Eyyyyyy, New Year, New Us, right??? And while we’re not usually the type to do resolutions at the outset, we do enjoy some good goal-setting to get our heads right, and one of those goals just happens to be more reading.
So hey, we figure, why not we take yall along, loyal readers? 2018 is set to be a great year for food writing, headlined by debuts from some of our favorite New York chefs and bolstered by some food history releases that will have you buying the bar at Trivia Night.
So pull out your calendars and mark these down: it’s the 10 Food Books of 2018 That We’re Most Amped To Read:
Alexander Smalls, JJ Johnson
Especially close to our hearts is chef JJ Johnson: arguably one of the most prominent and creative vehicles for African diasporic fusion in the game. Johnson credits his appreciation of African, Asian, and Latin American culinary symbiosis to childhood visits to the Caribbean and a residency at the Villa Monticello hotel in Accra, Ghana, where he collaborated with chef Alexander Smalls. The dynamic duo would go on to apply their vision to the menu at The Cecil, in Harlem, which while defunct will live on with the pair’s tributary book, due February 6, 2018. According to Chef Pierre Thiam, Between Harlem is “more than just a cookbook” and promises historical context tracing all the way back to pre-colonial West Africa, mapping of the Asian influence on the cuisine, and essays on the evolution of Harlem as cultural melting pot. For those literally hungry just for recipes, you’ll get more than 100, from grilled watermelon salad with cornbread croutons to feijoada with spicy lamb sausage.
The partial restoration of U.S.-Cuban relations in 2016 refreshed for many the stark contrast between Cuban food in the States vs. Cuban food on the island. It’s an old joke that bears repeating: that the Cuban revolution got three things right (health, education, and sports) and three things wrong (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), but as writer/photographer points out in Cuban Flavor, also due out February 6, the island is at a momentous point of transition and growth, and its cuisine reflects it. Through more than 50 cuisines, Gershman introduces us to the new frontier in Cuban cooking – “from the succulent spiced meat of the national Ropa Viejo…to the sweet and sticky Arroz con Leche” – with breathtaking photography to match.
Part memoir, part cookbook, Buzzfeed- and Boston Globe-featured food writer Jerrelle Guy brings to life the breads, sweets, and pastries of her childhood with health-conscious touches in Black Girl Baking, available on Amazon February 6. The concept is an extension of the blog she founded, Chocolate for Basil, which she authors with mixology contributions from beau Eric Harrison. From orange peel pound cake, to Rosketti cookies, to plaited dukkah bread, each recipe Guy features tells a story and promises a “sensual baking journey of the five senses.” Are they still considered healthy if we cook and eat them all in one day? We’ll report back and let you know.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a résumé we at Rum & Biscuits are more inspired by than Von Diaz’. As a food writer, radio producer, and self-taught cook, the Puerto Rican-born Atlanta-raised Diaz cooked her way through Cocina Criolla – considered the “Bible of Puerto Rican Cuisine” – in an attempt to modernize and lighten classic recipes from the island. Now, the exercise evolves into Diaz’ debut cookbook, Coconuts and Collards, expected February 15. Interwoven with tales from her childhood in the South and the important role that women (and their cooking) played in the family will be fresh takes on Puerto Rican staples, including alternatives for hard-to find ingredients, vegetarian options, and some twists you might consider more waist-line friendly.
The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats
While not diaspora- (or Oregon-, or alcohol-) specific, few books slated for the upcoming months epitomize culinary cross-culturalism like this wild, hardly-known story from National Geographic staff writer Daniel Stone, on shelves February 20. In The Food Explorer, Stone follows nineteenth century botanist David Fairchild, who in the course of hunting down international foodstuffs that could profit American farmers ended up changing the American palate forever: introducing things like mangoes, avocados, pomegranates, and hops from across the globe. Written like an adventure novel and packed with history, this is the food book for those looking for an exciting intermission from the more reflection- and recipe-focused read.
Deborah M Gray
You know what they say: give a man a bottle of wine, he drinks for a day; teach him to import wine, he drinks for a lifetime. While we largely avoided non-first editions for this list, so extensive were the updates from the 2011 original that we bent the rules for Gray’s guide, anticipated in early March. Additions for 2018’s will cover everything from changing federal and state regulations, to the impact of social media, to appealing to Millennials. As with Edition #1, case studies – both of successes and failures – will be included throughout, all with particular emphasis on the critical element of distribution.
Heather Arndt Anderson
For our food history buffs out there, good luck finding a better series than Andrew Smith-edited Edible – as the owner of a dozen, we’ll add that it also looks mad handsome as a collection on your bookshelf. But quality and aesthetics aside, you can only imagine how some berry-heads like those at this blog reacted to learn of an addition to the series expected April 15th focused on our beloved fruit, and authored by a Portland resident, no less. Even if you’re not ready for the full library yet, the trivia packed into just this installment – from the fact that strawberries aren’t actually berries but oranges and tomatoes are – is almost certainly worth the buy.
Rum & Biscuits readers don’t need more reasons to love eating goat (“delicious” is covered), but we’ll give you three: low in fat and calories, high in protein, arguably more ethical and environmentally friendly than beef. But overcoming the obvious question – why has goat never caught on in America? – and the intimidating follow-up – how do I get it and cook it? – is a bigger challenge. Enter James Whetlor, former chef and founder of major British goat meet supplier, Cabrito, who offers an insightful narrative regarding the development of food culture in the West (sadly, largely goatless) and showcases 100 recipes putting the meat center stage. For folks like us, looking for some resolution for our bitterness at not being able to find goat but also fascinated by our options beyond the typical curry or stew, Whetlor’s contribution – anticipated May 1 – will be particularly welcome.
Marc Vidal, Yann de Rochefort, Zack Bezunartea
Also due out May 1 is the eponymous definitive cookbook from the team behind New York/DC’s standout tapas staple, Boqueria. Ever since we first visited their Flatiron location (late) in 2012, chef Marc Vidal and restaurateur Yann de Rochefort have transformed how we see Spanish food – and in fact, even how we eat, period, having introduced us to tapas culture. Most recently, we spent New Year’s Eve trying to track down a bomba in San Francisco that was anywhere near as good as the one at Boqueria (we failed). Apart from the incredible food this book no doubt guarantees, we’re also especially looking forward to learning more about the origin story of the restaurant, who will have grown from two locations in 2008 to six by the end of this year.
Arthur Le Caisne
In an age where accountability for meat-eating is increasingly respected, we’ve always been a bit anxious that if we ever managed to kill our own food, we’d be pretty helpless once the animal was down. But no longer. Secrets of the Butcher – on shelves, you guessed it, May 1 – promises to do all that and more. Overwhelmingly more: readers will emerge knowing the best breeds, cuts (and why they’re the best), cooking type, cooking temperatures, recommended seasonings, maybe even social security number of six different popular livestock animals. If that sounds O.D., we get it, but here’s the kicker: the book comes from a designer and is stocked full of clear, beautiful illustrations, which only has us all the more pumped. God bless you, infographics!
So that’s our list! Are there any other’s you’re excited about that we may have missed? Be sure to reply and let us know. In the meantime, we wish you all a happy 2018, and may we all be carving pristine goat shanks in our vineyard kitchens by this time next year!