Why Do We Love to Read About Food?

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I fly a lot! It is my happy place and my favorite time of the day. I crave being up in the air. The longer the flight the better. I never open my laptop. I do not connect to wireless. I think. I scribble. And I read. Inevitably, about food.

What is it about the topic of food that brings us such joy and solace? I could go all M.F.K. Fisher on you and get technical and proficient and esoteric. She certainly was a pioneer in the food writing business and I am 1/16th of the way through THE ART OF EATING. It is, indeed, inspiring.

But I think the modern day salve to our tortured culinary souls began with another classic: Elizabeth Gilbert’s EAT PRAY LOVE. It’s been a while since I thumbed through that liberating tome, but the subtitle is “One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.” Lotta good food in those countries and I believe the author gave us a taste of quite a bit of it – along with permission to find ourselves somewhere other than where we were at the time.

In contemplating this piece I did a quick browse through my “favorites” bookshelf in the apartment. Even I was surprised by all that culinary Klonopin for the soul. TRAIL OF CRUMBS, BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER, JULIE & JULIA, THE PECULIAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE, and MY YEAR OF MEATS. You don’t even need to separate them out by fiction or nonfiction. Each and every one delved into how food intricately, sensually and inevitably weaves itself into every nook and cranny of our life. Like dripping melted butter on a lightly toasted english muffin. You just can’t help but take a large satisfying bite!


A recent edition to the collection that pretty much left me wrecked and sated, all in the same breath, is Emily Nunn’s THE COMFORT FOOD DIARIES: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart. I mean doesn’t that say it all? Whether you have suffered a recent loss, had your heart trod upon, or just find yourself sitting up night after night listlessly staring at cable news and wondering when our national nightmare will end, while scarfing down an entire half-gallon of Breyer’s Raspberry Vanilla Gelato – Ms. Nunn taps into that fat bulging vein where food and comfort intertwine, and in her pain we all become sisters and brothers as one.

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They say the Internet is replacing the cookbook for home chefs, but we writers are a resourceful bunch. Where we once used to serve up a tbsp of EVOO and salt and pepper to taste, now with our books you get a healthy dollop of life experience and 75 recipes to cure whatever ails you.

Pain and appetite are inseparable today and a good cookbook/food memoir provides more comfort than a visit to the doctor – and you don’t need to figure out healthcare to get an ample dose of relief. My last co-written food book was called THE HUNGER. I’ve got the next entrée all queued up, awaiting that hungry agent to bring it home. I still haven’t settled on a title. Maybe I should just call it THE CURE.

Ken Carlton co-wrote THE HUNGER (Ecco) with Chef John DeLucie and writes the Man in the Kitchen column for INSPIRELLE PARIS. 




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