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Eat up: These food books are a feast for the senses

June 22, 2010 | 10:59 am

Books There's a Calvinist streak marbling the fat of any good American eater: One hand giveth and the other taketh away. I should. I shouldn't. Pleasure and pain. I want it but I shouldn't have it. This is a good time to reflect on just how American our obsession with food really is. And unlike television shows about food, which are for the most part fun and entertaining, and, yes, even informative, books about food cross a wide array of emotion, from memoirs dripping with nostalgia about Mom's kitchen to impassioned manifestos about changing the way we, the world, eat.

Look at the shelves at your local bookstore: There are relaxing volumes by foodies, amateur and professional, which are pure pleasure. Others, gently and not so gently, suggest other ways of eating, other lifestyles. Some draw out in more detail than you ever dreamed possible the myriad facets of an artisanal process. Then there are the books that make you feel scared and bad. Wrong living, bad for you, bad for the planet. Must …change … evil … ways. Terroir to terror.

While this season's crop of food books has a little bit of everything, it tilts heavy toward the personal: One man's search for the perfect loaf of bread to another's fascination for Barolo; a memoir in which the yearning for pushcarts of the Lower East Side at the turn of the last century sends a reader running to the corner taco truck. Books by veteran chefs like Anthony Bourdain and books for rank beginners and picky kids. The message is: You can have whatever you want. For the full story, "Food Books, a Feast of Ideas."

Credit: Food books by Paul Gonzalez / Los Angeles Times