The latest installment of editor Holly Hughes’ “Best Food” writing series — “Best Food Writing 2014” (DaCapo, $15.99) – continues the tradition of curating the finest in culinary prose from the previous year’s books, magazines, newspapers and blogs.
This year, Hughes called out writers with their fingers on the pulse of the current food conversation. Some discuss the latest food trends without succumbing to their hype: John Gravois takes on $4 toast in “A Toast Story,” while Kate Krader questions the desire to make everything spicy in “Are Big Flavors Destroying America’s Palate?” and David Sax’s “Baconomics 101” looks inside our bacon mania.
Meanwhile, others tackle food-related social justice: Eli Saslow follows a family on food stamps in “Waiting for the 8th” and John T. Edge discusses working wages in “Debts of Pleasure.” Ultimately, though, good food writing boils down to the same things it always has: honest, real food, good ingredients and the personal stories of the people behind it all. This year’s edition strikes an even deeper emotional chord for the author who edited the book while monitoring the declining health of her sibling.
“As I read bits of these stories out loud to distract my brother, I think we both knew he’d never see this year’s edition,” said Hughes. “In fact, he died in March, his suffering finally over. But as I went on reading over throughout the spring, I kept judging everything with him in mind. He was my ideal reader in many ways — not a fussy cook or a food snob, but fascinated by the interplay between the way we eat and our personal relationships, our sense of self and even our role as stewards of this planet. And somehow, that perspective felt just right to me. For at its best, isn’t food writing just another lens through which to view the human condition? In a season of grief and eventual acceptance, pondering about food and pondering it deeply offered its path of healing ... and comfort. And, if there’s a chocolate-chip cookie [or two or three] involved, even better.”