Chew On This

Chew On This: Summer reading suggestions for foodies

aweigl@newsobserver.comJune 10, 2014 

Summertime conjures one of my favorite activities: sitting in a beach chair, my toes in the sand, the murmur of the waves in the background and a book in my lap.

While my upcoming beach trips will likely involve playing with a toddler in the sand and the sea rather than the tranquil scene in my imagination, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a couple of my beach reading recommendations.

‘Fresh Off The Boat’

Eddie Huang’s memoir (Spiegel & Grau, 2013) is one of my favorite books from the last six months. Huang owns Baohaus, a Taiwanese bun shop in New York City. Huang’s memoir chronicles his upbringing and delinquent adolescence in Florida, his brief career as a lawyer, his dabbling in stand-up comedy and pot dealing and his life now as a successful restaurant owner.

What I loved about Huang’s book is the exploration of his struggle with racial and cultural identity. He writes about being an outsider as the son of Tawainese immigrants in America and then refusing to be what his parents and other Asian immigrants expect their children to be: well-mannered, straight-laced A students. Instead, he became a mischief-making hoodlum. He was the other within the other. His book is a fascinating, thought-provoking read.

While Huang’s book is peppered with hip-hop culture references that I did not get, they did not detract from my enjoyment.

‘Slices of Life’

The book I’m savoring at the moment is Leah Eskin’s “Slices of Life: A Food Writer Cooks Through Many a Conundrum” (Running Press, 2014). It is a collection of Eskin’s “Home on the Range” columns, which have appeared in the Chicago Tribune since 2004. I feel like I’ve discovered a treasured writer who I didn’t know existed, on par with Laurie Colwin and M.F.K. Fisher.

For me, reading Eskin’s essays is like taking a graduate course in creative writing. I keep studying her sentences, dissecting her use of personal pronouns and marveling at her choice of words. She’s just writing about her life, with recipes: making her daughter’s first birthday cake, her husband’s obsession with cycling, the chocolate chip cookies she made after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Here’s an excerpt:

“Yoga, through long practice and deep concentration, achieved the status of yogurt. Ubiquitous.

“Once yoga had been an exotic import, full of multisyllabic contortions. It was practiced by high-minded sorts with bare feet. Who, in all likelihood, liked yogurt.

“Back then yaourt, or worse, yoghurt suffered from a surfeit of vowels and a deficit of sugar. It was sour. Bulgarian. It contained bacteria, with names like Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus acidophilus. On purpose.”

I’m purposely only picking up Eskin’s book every once in a while. I want to linger over her sentences. I want it to last all summer. I know when it comes to an end, I’ll be sad to see it go, like a long day at the beach.

Weigl: 919-829-4848 or aweigl@newsobserver.com; Twitter: @andreaweigl

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