Check It Out: Food and memories go hand in hand

Browsing cookbooks is a fun and useful way to find new recipes and ideas. But in addition to learning new ways to cook, cookbooks also are being published as combination memoirs and blogs. The Newport Beach Public Library has found them to be a popular source of nonfiction reading, especially for those who love to cook (and eat!).

Ree Drummond published her cookbook, "The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels — A Love Story" after her Pioneer Woman food blog became extremely popular. It relates the real life story of how she met and married her "Marlboro Man." Her stories about her husband, family and country living paint a warm and touching picture of life on an Oklahoma ranch.

Along the same line, Molly Wizenberg, author of the food blog Orangette, created, "A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table." In it she recounts a life with the kitchen at its center. From her mother's pound cake, a staple of summer picnics during her childhood in Oklahoma, to the egg concoctions she cooked for her father during the weeks before his death, food and memories are intimately entwined.

"Eating for Beginners: An Education in the Pleasures of Food from Chefs, Farmers, and One Picky Kid" by Melanie Rehak details her year working as an unpaid assistant in a Brooklyn restaurant while she researched the farm-to-table movement.

She approached suppliers, worked briefly on several small organic farms, helped with butchering, made cheese, and fished off the tip of Long Island. Throughout her narrative, she shares the story of her family, including how her toddler son became an increasingly picky eater despite his parents' obviously adventurous palates.

In Jay Rayner's "The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner," Rayner lives out every foodie's fantasy: to dine in the world's best restaurants, wolfing down master chefs' most prized products, quaffing the finest vintages, ordering the rarest and most expensive dishes menus can offer, luxuriating in sumptuous surroundings as staff hover solicitously. When award-winning British food journalist, culinary critic and novelist Rayner began to doubt the value of his restaurant reviews, he decided to challenge himself by spending a year searching for the "perfect" dinner.

He not only wanted to find a great meal, but he also hoped to test a few other culinary theories, including one that says globalization is ruining the art of cooking. From Los Angeles to Moscow to Tokyo, Rayner clocked up the frequent flyer miles as he ate in some of the most celebrated, Michelin-starred temples to haute cuisine as well as some truly remarkable (yet less famous) restaurants. His deliciously entertaining experiences with meals both exquisite and awful are a delight to read.

Reminiscent of Julie Powell's "Julie & Julia," "Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life" by Kim Severson captures the author's struggle to reframe her life, with a little help from her friends, all master chefs. The featured cooks are, for the most part, contemporary luminaries in the world of cuisine. The work of Marion Cunningham, Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Marcella Hazan, Rachel Ray, Edna Lewis and Leah Chase all offer significant life lessons to the author. Not to be forgotten, too, is Severson's mother. This is a scrumptious memoir which includes some delectable recipes.

Shauna James Ahern, aka gluten-free girl, has been blogging since 2004 about living gluten-free on her popular, award-winning food blog, Gluten-Free Girl ( Now the author of two cookbooks, Ahern weaves words and flavors for those living gluten free and those who are not.

Her first cookbook "Gluten-Free Girl" traces her journey from processed-food-fed child to gluten-free gourmet after her celiac diagnosis. In her second book, "Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes," not only does the author add more about gluten-free cooking but she introduces her husband and child to the mix.

The Newport Beach Public Library offers these cookbook/memoir/blogs for your reading — and eating — enjoyment.

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

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