Ah, the joys of summer. Aside from gorging on peaches and nectarines, you have some beach, lake or cabin time coming up, right? At the very least, there’ll be a plane ride or a few stolen hours in the sun where you can dig into a book.
Yes, you’ll want to take your trashy novel, but how about an anthology ? Anthologies are simply a collection of short stories. There’s no reason to think they’re academic or stuffy.
Plus, you don’t have to read the book from start to finish, because it’s a group of stories (although that’s what I do, because I don’t want to miss anything.) Just select the essays that appeal to you, and dip in and out whenever you want.
Here are four anthologies about food, for your perusal:
In 1997 I quit my job as an editor in chief and leapt into freelance food writing. My first gig was for a custom food magazine managed by Sunset. I got assignments for almost every issue, writing cover stories, how-to pieces about such subjects as hosting buffets and serving wine, and an advice column on making dishes with packaged ingredients.
What inspired me most about food writing, though, was the stories in Through the Kitchen Window, a book of essays I found in a used bookstore.
Here are powerful, affecting stories about who taught the writers to cook, how they learned, and the value of passed-down recipes. There are essays about family dynamics, class, race, and the place of women — all within the context of food. Famous authors Marge Piercy, Maya Angelou and Dorothy Allison contributed pieces, which amazes me still. But then there are tales that resonate from writers you may not recognize, about body image, hidden hungers, and families at the table. You will recognize yourself, your family, and your loved ones over and over again.
Kitchen Window has never lost its relevance for me. It’s a collection I still dip into over the years, and when I do, the strong writing provokes a range of emotions, everything from laughter to fear to a tear. But mostly, it’s a smile of satisfaction from a tale skillfully told.
(The link above is to a used version. There’s also a new edition, here, but it’s more expensive.)
Here’s the new kid on the block, where 29 clever essayists share their relationships to food within the family. These contributors are mostly screenwriters, freelancers, novelists, and memoirists. You probably haven’t heard of them, but no matter. You’ll relate to the content, which focuses on their love of good food at the family table.
Many are moms, so the anxiety of feeding children is a common theme. I loved the honesty and tenderness in many of the essays, particularly when trying to control what their children eat. If you are a parent, you will recognize yourself here.
As the editors say at the end of their introduction, “All our writers are saying one important thing: ‘This is what food means in our families.’ What does it mean in yours?”
I’d like to recommend this collection of blog posts from BlogHer, but it’s only available on Kindle and I don’t have one. Here’s Rita Arens, the anthology’s editor, on the process of selecting blog posts from BlogHer members. If you have a food blog, you might want to see what BlogHer has deemed as the best blog posts on the Internet.
4. Best Food Writing Anthologies
Have you read this annual collection of essays? If not, why not? They’re fun, inspiring, and show you what good food writing’s all about. Here’s a refresher about their content.
Happy summer reading!
(Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.)