The Ten Best Books About Food of 2022 | Arts & Culture

This year’s titles include Watermelon and Red Birds, To Boldly Grow, Budmo! and Diasporican.
Illustration by Emily Lankiewicz

Food continues to be a source of comfort, creativity, nostalgia and education, and 2022 brought about some stellar writing on the topic. This year’s crop of best food books runs the gamut of African American, Ukrainian, Chinese and Puerto Rican cookbooks, uniting across cultures, and includes a memoir that exposes the underbelly of the French restaurant kitchen, history books on fermentation and pies, and a searing account of the loss of our food diversity and how we can save it. All told, these ten favorites will inspire and ignite, while teaching us about the importance of diversity and respect.

Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew by Michael W. Twitty

What do Jewish and African diaspora food have in common, and how do they combine to create a unique cuisine? Culinary and cultural historian Michael W. Twitty’s follow-up to his James Beard Award-winning The Cooking Gene examines the intersection of these two dynamic identities and presents an analysis of dual diasporas, a cultural history, and an upsetting examination of bigotry. The personal narratives of Twitty and other Black Jews offer a rich background for 50 innovative recipes, such as Caribbean compote, kosher-Cajun rice dressing and Louisiana-style latkes, although to categorize this as a cookbook would be to deny its cultural and historical significance—and Twitty’s evocative and poetic writing style.

Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations by Nicole A. Taylor

Now that the holiday of Juneteenth, celebrating the emancipation of Black slaves, has cemented its place in the national conversation—and become a federal holiday as of last year—this cookbook by James Beard Award-nominated food writer and home cook Nicole Taylor couldn’t be more timely. As she writes, “I’m a Southern woman, born into a working-class family when crisp white churchgoing gloves and Sunday beer bootleggers (my hometown didn’t have alcohol sales until 2012) were in serious fashion and full deep freezers were a status symbol.” Taylor has always celebrated the holiday

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Six of our critic’s favorite new food books

At year’s end, with the all-consuming project — our annual guide to L.A.’s 101 best restaurants — behind me and some holiday downtime forthcoming, it’s a pleasure to turn my attention briefly from restaurants to excellent, recently published cookbooks and food-focused literature. There are many, and I’ll continue to highlight standouts in this space in the coming months. Here are six favorites that are as immersive and rousing to read as they are to cook from — ideal for last-minute gifts, or as a personal escape in these exhausting times.

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Food stylist, photographer and culinary tour guide Hisham Assaad wrote his first cookbook, a celebration and archive of the foodways of Beirut, during two catastrophic years in Lebanon: an ongoing economic and political unraveling that accelerated in 2019 (and continues today), followed by the pandemic and worsened by the explosion in the Port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020. Assaad doesn’t sidestep or sugarcoat these realities as he illuminates the cultural fundaments that endure. Reading the introduction, you want to amble the city’s streets with him, studying the pastiche of architecture, maybe stopping for soujouk (Armenian sausage) and ending with a drink in Mar Mikhael. The recipes include the street foods closely associated with Lebanese cooking (falafel, shawarma, savory pies). Even more valuable for home cooks are the sustaining family-style dishes that express the soul of the cuisine. Start with the simple fasoulya wa riz (fragrantly spiced lamb stew with rice) and an autumnal variation of kibbeh made with pumpkin.

"Black Food" by Bryant Terry

“‘Black Food’ is a communal shrine to the shared culinary histories of the African diaspora,” Bryant Terry writes as a preamble to the absorbing anthology with recipes he edited. The book, beautifully photographed and illustrated, overlaps essays, poems and dishes from more than 100 contributors; it’s a collection into which you can disappear for a long afternoon, gripped by one clarion voice after another.

Chapters have powerful, self-evident themes (their subjects deepened by the pandemic and 2020’s

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