It's not just students who feel rushed to finish their summer reading lists in the last few weeks of August: Adult readers who've lugged the same books back and forth from the pool are hurrying their way through the novels and memoirs they had every intention of reading this season.
But for readers who've worked down to the bottom of their book piles, after the jump City of Ate presents four newish food books to savor before summer's out -- or to add to your autumn reading list.
1. Last Call, Daniel Okrent (Scribner, 2010) Okrent's lively and remarkably well-researched history of Prohibition is a can't-put-down chronicle of the nation's worst idea. As Okrent shows, almost nothing happened in the Jazz Age that wasn't a salvo in the ongoing battle between wets and drys. The national income tax, for example, was dreamed up by scheming teetotalers who needed a way to supplant taxes on alcohol sales. Thanks, Carry Nation!
2. Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and People Who Cook, Anthony Bourdain (Ecco, 2010) Bourdain's latest book is all over the place, making inexplicable stops in France for a furtive ortolan feast and St. Barths for a remembrance of coke-addled exes. But Bourdain delivers what fans expect of the celebrity who admits he's more writer than chef: Culinary idol-smashing, performed with a pick axe instead of a hammer. Bourdain meticulously dismantles Alan Richman, Alice Waters and over-hyped food that's so rich it makes diners sick.
3. The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook, Robb Walsh (Broadway Books, 2010) I don't have a grill or a backyard, so I wasn't sure whether this latest book from Walsh -- a colleague of mine who spent the last 10 years at the Houston Press -- would prove very useful. It now sits in the center of my reference shelf. That's because the recipes, which certainly look excellent, are interspersed with oral histories, photographs and sidebars documenting the state's rich Tex-Mex tradition: Walsh ably explains why Tex-Mex aficionados cherish Velveeta and offers wise advice on which songs to request from Mariachi bands.
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4. Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, Paul Greenberg (The Penguin Press, 2010) Remember the unfinished reading I mentioned earlier? This book's on the top of my to-read stack, awaiting my imminent completion of Kathryn Schulz's absorbing Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error (Ecco, 2010). So I can't vouch it, but New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton -- among others -- has, calling the study of four over-fished fish "a necessary book for anyone truly interested in what we take from the sea to eat, and how, and why."
Have you read any great food books this summer? What are you planning to read next?