The 18 Best Food Books of 2012

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Hey, it's been a pretty good year for food books! Among the hundreds of new cookbooks, essay collections, and food memoirs that we read, here's a handful that really stood out:


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Eat the City, Robin Shulman (Crown)

This lovely essay collection was one of my favorite books of the year: Elegant, fascinating stories about New York's culinary geography with rich portraits of the people -- past and present -- who have taken part in its food production. There's so much depth and information here, but it's such a pleasure to read.










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Fäviken, Magnus Nilsson (Phaidon)

Never mind that the cloth-bound cookbook is full of dreamy half-thoughts and near-impossible-to-produce recipes (involving colostrum, for example). These eccentric recipes and spreads of fairy tale-wilderness photography are the closest many of us will get to dining at Nilsson's hideaway in Sweden, and it makes for quite a trip.








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The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green)

Fermentation in all its forms -- pickles, bread, booze -- has experienced a kind of revival in professional and home kitchens, and no one has done more to help us understand its history and science than Katz, champion of all things fizzy, moldy, and good. This isn't just a DIY guide (though it's a very useful, in depth-DIY guide), it's also a manifesto.






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The Hungry Ear, Poems of Food and Drink edited by Kevin Young (Bloomsbury)

Do poets make good dinner companions? Kevin Young thinks so. Though as Dwight Garner pointed out in his Times review of the book, Young could have explained more about his process when picking the 150-odd poems here, but that doesn't take too much away from this compact collection. It's an excellent gift for the literary food lover, and an ideal book to have sitting on your bedside (so the last thing you read before falling asleep can be Adrienne Rich on peeling onions!).






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Japanese Farm Food, Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Andrews McMeel)

Nancy Singleton was a California girl who fell in love with a six-foot-tall Japanese farmer named Tadaaki Hachisu, married him, and began a new life of collaborative cooking and seasonal farming in Japan. Her cookbook documents the last 23 years with stories and contemporary recipes, rooted in the traditions of the Japanese countryside.






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Ripe, A Cook in the Orchard, Nigel Slater (Ten Speed)

Slater is a fantastic writer. There's something about his descriptions of plums and figs that puts you in the mood to cook and care for people, and to eat. Though this enormous book about the fruit trees and berry bushes in his London back garden was out already in England, the 2012 American Edition (with cup and spoon measurements for the scale-averse!) gets it on this list.








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