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Reading Up an Appetite

From meditations on milk to an ethnic-menu-decoding primer, there’s a book out there for every foodie on your list.


For the Common-Sense Cook
It’s one thing to pen what’s been called “the most useful cookbook of all time.” It’s quite another to attempt to break your own record with a sequel, which is what Simon Hopkinson has done with Second Helpings of Roast Chicken (Hyperion; $24.95). Like Chicken No. 1, it’s organized alphabetically by ingredient (beans, pancakes, tongue), and is as fun to read as it is to cook by. This one, though, is bigger—47 ingredients versus its predecessor’s 40—and thus 17.5 percent more useful.

For the Cream-on-Top Crowd
Whole versus skim. Raw versus pasteurized. Anne Mendelson’s scholarly Milk (Knopf; $29.95) weighs in on those conflicts as it thoroughly explores the myriad forms the “First Food” has taken throughout the world (with recipes). Even the lactose-intolerant will find it fascinating—especially the section on yogurt, Mendelson’s primary passion.

For the Lard Brigade
In Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient With Recipes (Ten Speed Press; $32.50), Jennifer McLagan sets out to prove what our ancestors instinctively knew: that fat is good for you (not to mention delicious), and offers some science and history to back it up. But mostly Fat is a celebration of the stuff, with sidebars and recipes for everything from homemade butter to bacon mayonnaise.

For Those Who Dream of Ordering Off the Special Chinese Menu
In Asian Dining Rules (William Morrow; $15.95), eGullet founder Steven A. Shaw defends MSG and sushi during pregnancy, offers tips on tackling Chinese buffets, and paints a clear picture of the often pushy, aggressively schmoozy alpha Asian-food eater: He’s the one ordering for the whole table.

For the Food Lover’s Food Lover
We know people who’ve crossed Central Park in a snowstorm for a quart of Fairway orange juice, and others who worship in the stinky shrine that is the cheese department. That’s a tribute to our New Yorkiest grocery store, a place with all of the city’s energy and not a small measure of its native hubris. Master buyer Steven Jenkins tells the store’s story (and his own) in The Food Life (Ecco; $29.95), with recipes by Fairway Café chef Mitchel London.

For the Slutty-Cake Aficionado
In Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin (Knopf; $24.95), the dyspeptic fry cook reveals all, including why cooking is like sex (you should approach it each time as if it were the last, he says) and why perhaps he might want to reconsider that last statement (“… my cooking philosophy is to get the job done with as few ingredients, as little effort, and in as short a time as possible”).

For the Space-Deficient Realist
Faced with some downtime between gigs, Andrew Carmellini did what no New York chef has ever done: He started cooking in his tiny apartment kitchen (someone had to—his wife and co-writer, Gwen Hyman, has a genetic predisposition against it). What came out of this cramped hiatus were the many excellent recipes in Urban Italian (Bloomsbury; $35), and a terrific introductory series of vignettes describing the Cleveland-born Carmellini’s food-world education.

For the Inveterate Mediterranean Dieter
After an itinerant Mediterranean childhood, including landings in Cyprus and Tuscany, Sara Jenkins has become one of New York’s foremost Greenmarket goddesses, and her Olives & Oranges (Houghton Mifflin; $35) advocates improvisational cooking with a rustic, seasonal slant.


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