Lately, I've been reading a lot more nonfiction than fiction. Earlier this year, I finished reading Ghost Map, which is a pretty interesting read if you're interested in cholera, epidemiology, or social history. I didn't think that most of you would be that excited about it, and frankly, there are enough serious flaws to the book that I can't recommend it. The parts about epidemiology are great, but I didn't find the author's pontification on urban life to be particularly interesting, or enlightening, and could have been edited out. The loss of focus to the book was a serious flaw in an otherwise interesting read.
However, I'm reading something now that I think would be of more interest to anyone coming by my blog. I don't consider myself a serious foodie, but I like food, cooking, and eating. I also really like reading books about the aforementioned topics. Heat is written from the perspective of a journalist and cooking enthusiast who somehow managed to get a job as an extern in Mario Batali's kitchen. Buford writes well, and has a good story to tell. It's compelling reading, and has not only managed to inspire me to spend more time in the kitchen, but also to look into Batali's recipes and techniques. I've had mixed opinions of Food Network celebrity chefs, but Batali comes across as a guy who genuinely has some technique, and is a lot more interesting than his TV image. (Speaking of which, I tried to watch Rachel Ray cook Thanksgiving dinner in an hour. Was flipping through channels and caught about a minute or two, after which I went back to cartoons. I find her voice grating, and my son commented that what she was making didn't look very good.)
Anyhow, the other book I'm reading, but left at home, is Spice: The History of a Temptation. It's not nearly as fast of a read as Heat, and not as much fun. It's interesting though, if you have any interest in the history of spices, and the role they have played in exploration and expansionism. I haven't gotten that far into the book, and I'm more interested in the role spices played in social history, but it's not bad so far. I'm not going to give it a hearty endorsement yet, especially as I haven't finished the book, but if you have an interest in the topic, it's not bad.
I've had a resurgence of interest in cooking, and have been playing with the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book. I'm a big fan of the basic bread recipe, and I enjoyed the olive oil dough, but I'm lukewarm on the brioche. I also decided it was time to toss out my old spices and start over with small jars from Penzey's. I've threatened to do this several times in the past, and after some really disappointing experiences, I decided it was worth the investment - and really, it's a lot cheaper than what I found at the grocery store. Speaking of which, I'm shortly off on my final run before Thanksgiving - I need about 4 things, as I'm testing some new recipes this year. I'll try to get some photogenic shots of anything that turns out particularly well. It's strange making a break from the Thanksgiving dinner I'm used to (my mom's), but I think it's time to try out some new traditions.