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Beach Reading for Food Nerds

It's August, which means many of you lucky bums beloved readers are off lounging in beach chairs and hammocks and such. In case all the actual eating and drinking that usually comes with vacation isn't enough to satisfy your appetite, here are some good food-themed books to digest.We've written abo...

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It's August, which means many of you lucky bums beloved readers are off lounging in beach chairs and hammocks and such. In case all the actual eating and drinking that usually comes with vacation isn't enough to satisfy your appetite, here are some good food-themed books to digest.

We've written about all of these in recent months; you can click on the highlighted links to revisit those posts. Just for fun (and because I liked this little game when my friends played it on Facebook), I'll also give you a random excerpt from each book—whatever happens to be the second full sentence on page 22.

1. The Hamburger, by Josh Ozersky, Caravan Books, 2008.
"The day of the dirty, greasy hamburger is past."
2. Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, by Mark Bittman, Simon & Schuster, 2009.
"Raising more animals than your family could use was always a way to augment the family income; but it was to feed an increasingly urban population in the twentieth century that farmers started raising chickens for meat as well as eggs, and moved cattle and pigs into feedlots, the progenitors of the modern confined and feeding operations (CAFOs)."
3. The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread, by Maria Balinska, Yale University Press, 2008.
"For the Jewish community the pull of pastures new was enhanced by the push of the increasing precariousness of life in Germany and France."
4. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human, by Richard Wrangham, Basic Books, 2009.
"Their foods were the typical products of modern farming—fruits, seeds, and vegetables all selected to be as delicious as possible."
5. Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine, by Gary Paul Nabhan, Island Press, 2009.
"The enduring image of a goat's horn overflowing with fruit, flowers, and grain has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks and up through Vavilov's era and our own to signify abundance, prosperity, and food security."
6. Potato: A Brief History of the Propitious Esculent, by John Reader, Yale University Press, 2008.
"Among cereals, for instance, the edible grain amounts to only about one-third of the mature plant's weight, while edible tubers comprise more than three-quarters of the potato plant."
7. The Devil's Food Dictionary: A Pioneering Culinary Reference Work Consisting Entirely of Lies, by Barry Foy, Frogchart Press, 2009.
"Biscuit: Many scholars trace the origin of the popular phrase: 'Mmmm...biscuits!' to this item."
8. Chicle: The Chewing Gum of the Americas, by Jennifer P. Mathews, University of Arizona Press, 2009.
"Older trees are easily identified by the diagonal scars that run the length of their trunks indicating that the tree was tapped for latex."
9. The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the American Appetite, by David Kessler, Rodale Books, 2009.
"Science seemed to suggest it was my destiny."
10. The Food of a Younger Land, by Mark Kurlansky, Riverhead Hardcover, 2009.
"It is this perspective that gives the work the feeling of a time capsule, a preserved glimpse of America in the early 1940s."
What food books have you read lately? Share your own random excerpts---say, the third line of page 33---in the comments field.
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About Amanda Bensen

Amanda Bensen is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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