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food writing

Nov 3 2010

Culinary Goddesses

by Dea Anne M

Anyone who knows me knows that I am very interested in food. I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur of fine dining per se, although I do love eating a good meal. What I actually enjoy more than eating is putting food together. I love the process of constructing a pan sauce, roasting vegetables and watching them caramelize, using spices and herbs in a way that makes a balanced and satisfying soup. Most days of the week find me cooking something from scratch simply because, for me, it is such a pleasure.

Even more enjoyable than cooking though is reading about cooking. I devour cookbooks, so to speak, follow a number of cooking blogs, and Bon Appetit is my favorite magazine. My favorite writing though has to be a species known as the “culinary memoir,” and while I have enjoyed the muscular prose of writers such as Anthony Bourdain and Jacques Pepin, my favorite writers of this sort are women. Here follows a casual “pantheon” of those who I most admire…at least this week.

First, here’s some of the newer voices. All three of these women have been strong voices in the culinary world for some time now but I think you could say that each one is still testing her powers.

Julie Powell (above left) is the author of  Julie and Julia a book that grew out of a blog she started in order to record her struggles and triumphs to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s hugely influential Mastering the Art of French Cooking within the space of one year. The book has, of course, since been adapted into a film starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.  Since then, Powell has published Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession an equally absorbing, though to my mind much darker account, of the aftermath of her publishing success and the changes that have taken place  in her marriage.

Amanda Hesser (above center) is a former food editor for the New York Times and is the author of Cooking for Mr. Latte, a compulsively readable (and re-readable!) account of the courtship between herself and her husband. Hesser now runs, with Merrill Stubbs, the food website food52. At DCPL check out  The Cook and the Gardener, Hesser’s story of a year she spent as cook at a chateau in France and the interesting friendship that developed between herself and the estate’s gardener.

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