Robert Reid is the U.S. Travel Editor for Lonely Planet. In a column written exclusively for BookPage, he highlights terrific travel books, both old and new. This month, he selects some of the best books for foodies who love to travel—or travelers who love food!
I’ve long considered the bulk of travel itineraries—going to an art museum, seeing a monument, climbing a tower for a city view—as merely “the space between meals.” It’s the food that anchors the days, be it sit-down chic off the Champs d’Elysses or 50-cent noodles on plastic stools on a cracked sidewalk in Hanoi. To eat! That is to travel.
Before you set off, there are amazing food-related travel books that cover the world or focus on some of the world’s most interesting destinations.
Food Lover’s Guide to the World is an indispensable new pictorial tour through the great cuisines of the world, including travel tips and recipes if you want to bring the world back home to your kitchen. For a more literary choice, A Moveable Feast takes the Hemingway title literally, with a collection of bite-sized essays by well-known writers focused on the tasty fusion of travel and food experiences, including contributions by Anthony Bourdain, Pico Iyer and Elizabeth Eaves.
Italy always wins for foodie travel. Beth Elon’s A Culinary Traveler in Tuscany gives 10 off-the-beaten-track, recipe-filled itineraries around Italy’s most famous food and wine region. Elon arrives in lesser-known towns, like Filattiera during its July 1-4 festival La Fame e la Sete (the hunger and the thirst), where the aroma of sizzling meats hangs over the old village square filled with tables for that night’s feast.
Italian food continues in New Yorker staff writer Bill Buford’s Heat, which gives an illuminating behind-the-scenes look at a great New York Italian restaurant. After daringly inviting celeb chef Mario Batali over for dinner, Buford signs up to be a ‘kitchen slave’ at his acclaimed restaurant Babbo. The result is a fun and intimate book, where Buford learns to butcher a hog and jets off to Italy to learn more from Batali’s former teachers.
Pastry chef David Lebovitz had wanted a Paris home address since he learned that the French clip the tips of haricots verts (green beans) before tossing them in a pot—toujours! A couple of decades later his dream came true, when he left the restaurant business in San Francisco and moved to France. Lebovitz recounts his stumbles with life as an expat in Paris, along with dozens of new French-inspired recipes, in his memoir The Sweet Life in Paris. Warning: reading Lebovitz’s story may make you book a flight to the City of Light or induce uncontrollable chocolate urges.
Robert Reid is Lonely Planet’s U.S. Travel Editor. If he could choose his last meal on Earth, it would be a picnic lunch of Vietnamese imperial rolls at Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park.