Eat, drink and nourish the soul with these 10 inspiring reads.
Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend by Meryl Gordon (Grand Central, 528 pages, $36.50)
Bunny Mellon created the White House Rose Garden for her friend John F. Kennedy. Married to the fifth wealthiest man in the country, the avid gardener wore Balenciaga couture even to dig in the dirt—the designer made her custom gardening togs.
The Inviting Life by Laura Calder (Appetite, $30)
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to see friends more often, this is the book to read. Grand hosts like Bunny Mellon can no longer flourish in these times, but the gracious one can. “Standout entertaining doesn’t begin with a butler and three-star canapés, but with a state of mind, something that more or less anyone with the will to do so can adopt.”
The bestselling Canadian cookbook author Laura Calder trained at Le Feÿ in France and in this encouraging guide to hosting, discusses the how-to practicalities as well as the philosophy. From figuring out what kind of host personality you are – seated dinner, buffet, canapés/cocktail party – to planning meals and table seating. All of it to maximize enjoyment. And that the nervousness that comes with hosting is a good thing because it suggests we know we’re dealing with something in life that matters.
There are reassuring lessons about what cannot be bought: “imagination, a generous spirit, a genuine interest in other people, a willingness to be vulnerable, and an ability to put people at ease.”
The Wines of Gala by Salvador Dalí (Taschen, 296 pages, $77.95)
This lavish reprint of the Surrealist’s eccentric 1978 manifesto on viticulture is organized not by region but by sensation and effect. A glorious art book for when you’re feeling like the effects of chapter seven: Wines of Generosity.
The Bloomsbury Cookbook (Thames & Hudson, 384 pages, $46)
Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman (Chelsea Green Publishing, 384 pages, $34.95)
Cult following English cook Patience Gray, who died in 2005, is the most influential food writer most of us have never heard of. She lived a wild and provocative life in the Mediterranean, developing her philosophy of cooking and life — eating deliciously along the way.
The Grammar of Spice by Caz Hillebrand (Thames Hudson, 224 pages, $39.95)
Unforgettable by Emily Thelin (Grand Central, 336 pages, $45.50)
A biographical cookbook of Paula Wolfert, the indomitable culinary legend who, since 2013, has been public about her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Fifty of the food writer’s iconic dishes are mixed in with moving biographical portions, the result of Wolfert spending time with her former Food & Wine editor Emily Thelin.
What She Ate by Laura Shapiro (Viking, 320 pages, $36)
The relationship to food is a lens for considering the life and times of six famous women, while making a meal of culinary biography. For Helen Gurley Brown it’s a torment of self-denial (her problematic body image is internalized misogyny and meant she survived on tuna salad and vitamin pills).
The Wine Lover’s Daughter by Anne Fadiman (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 272 pages, $32.50)
Nobu: A Memoir by Nobu Matsuhisa (Atria, 224 pages, $34)
Nobu Matsuhisa’s memoir is as much about his Japanese cuisine as about the life lessons and entrepreneurship that lead to his Hollywood hotspot restaurants.