The food memoir could be the perfect genre: There’s gossip; there’s drama; there’s transformation—there’s food. These are some of the ones that came out this year, all telling wildly different tales of being women who cook and eat. If you’re looking for something to give the chef in your life who also likes to relax with a nice read, here are a few good ones.
Out of Line: A Life of Playing With Fire, Barbara Lynch
Lynch has led a very improbable life, and she knows that. It’s what makes reading her very self-aware memoir of growing up poor in Boston and becoming a lauded restaurateur with multiple must-visit spots under her name such a compelling read: Lynch is a character, and this memoir was earned about ten times over.
I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, Jen Agg
The Toronto-based restaurateur never minces word, whether it comes to starting a food business without without experience or what it’s like to be a woman in an industry dominated by men who think they know everything. This book is both a crash course in running a restaurant group and a look at how being unapologetically brash and uncompromising can pay off—if your taste and talent measure up to Agg’s.
Fermentation on Wheels: Road Stories, Food Ramblings, and 50 Do-It-Yourself Recipes from Sauerkraut, Kombucha, and Yogurt to Miso, Tempeh, and Mead, Tara Whitsitt
Whitsitt’s voice provides a gentle and wide-eyed tour through fermentation. The book follows her year on the road in a school bus turned fermentation lab, during which she taught workshops and met up with various geniuses of the craft around the country. Follow along and find yourself making miso, inspired by her openness and sense of adventure.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay
This is a very personal story with incredible potential to change how you relate to eating and weight. Gay takes us through the most painful moments of her life, providing incredible insight into life as a black woman of size in a world built for the opposite. There are moments of light, too, such as when she talks about the importance of Ina Garten as an icon.
My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir, Dr. Jessica B. Harris
Here we learn about the life behind the genius of Harris, whose work on the food of Africa and the African diaspora has become indispensable (see: High on the Hog). Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and James Baldwin are the co-stars in this gorgeous telling of a food-focused immersed in literature.
Give a Girl a Knife: A Memoir, Amy Thielen
Thielen’s fumbling road through some of New York City’s most serious kitchens toward becoming a Food Network host and cookbook author is refreshing and relatable. Give this book to that person with a knife in your life.