Sunday, August 14, 2011

Virginia Willis, What Are You Reading?

Virginia Willis’ book Bon Appetit, Y'all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking appeared in 2008, and her new book Basic to Brilliant, Y'all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company will be on shelves next month. A graduate of L'Academie de Cuisine and Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne, Willis’ wide and varied food career started in Atlanta as an apprentice to Nathalie Dupree. She worked with Dupree on four PBS series and cookbooks, including the James Beard award-winning Comfortable Entertaining. She also spent several years as an editorial assistant with culinary authority Anne Willan on various projects including Cook It Right. Willis honed her attention to detail as the Kitchen Director for Martha Stewart Living Television where she supervised the food segments for the Emmy-award winning television show. As Executive Producer for Epicurious on The Discovery Channel, she traveled the world taping fantastic stories about food. You can find her product line My Southern Pantry on her site and follow her blog for great recipes and stories. She currently has a proposed TV series Starting from Scratch as well. I managed to steal a moment from her busy schedule to ask what are you reading?

1491 - about life before Columbus --I started reading this because my friend, Chef Deb Snow owner of the Blue Heron, told me about it. A lot of this book is not about food so far, but so much of it in terms of culture, politics, and anthropology does involve food. The most intriguing parts of the book are about corn and other vegetables from South America vs those from Europe. I've learned from this book that old world vs new world doesn't really work anymore. That kind of language is indicative of prejudice. The "new world" had been a world for at least as long as the "old world."

I've purchased, but not yet started Tomatoland (by Barry Estabrook).

Also on my bedside table:
Good Fish (by Becky Selengut) Beautiful, beautiful book about sustainable seafood of the Pacific. Sustainable seafood is a passion and a cause for me. I was designated a seafood ambassador with Seafood Watch this year. I am thrilled to be a small part of a greater cause for improving the situation and educating readers about why sustainable seafood is so important.

Ideas in Food (by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot) I mostly shy away from molecular gastronomy, but I am somewhat curious about it. And, for those folks completely dragging their heels, my question is would you prefer calves hooves instead of gelatin sheets? As cooks, as people, we should always strive to learn and grow.

Speaking of...
The Spirituality of Imperfection (by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham) As I grow older I find it increasingly necessary to find more balance and focus. One practice I have returned to doing is saying a prayer of thanks before eating a meal. Even if someone has an issue with traditional religion, I think it is important to take a moment. To seriously, just take a moment in your day out of this busy, hectic world we occupy. In that moment I think it is important to give thanks for the food one is about to receive, the hands that put it in front of you, and the hands that grew or harvested the food. It takes a lot of work to get that food on your plate.

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto I was fortunate enough to spend time with Julia Child when I lived and worked in France. It's a real pleasure to see behind the scenes of the making of one of the greatest culinary educators and culinary icons of our time.

Thank you for participating, Virginia. Check back to see who answers the question next time and what other books are recommended.

Previous WAYR posts:
Jaden Hair
Michael Ruhlman
Monica Bhide
Michael Natkin
Sara Roahen
Andrea Nguyen
David Lebovitz
Rick Bayless
Tara Austen Weaver
Mollie Katzen
Deborah Madison
Soup Peddler
Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan
Robb Walsh
Kim Severson
David Leite
Dan Lepard
Carolyn Jung
Joan Nathan
Melissa Clark
Dianne Jacob
Zoë Francois
Yotam Ottolenghi
Lucinda Scala Quinn
Barbara Lynch
Addie Broyles
Cheryl Tan
Joanne Chang
Kim Boyce
Barry Estabrook
Gesine Bullock-Prado


  1. Nice post Lisa, I really love to read, and these sounds amazing, gloria

  2. Lovely post! I just finished reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Not a food book, but still a good read!

  3. Thank you for introducing us to the great books! I love reading and I can't wait to add more to my reading list. Can't wait for her new cookbook either!

  4. Interesting read. Lately I've been reading Eric Ripert's book On the Line.

  5. I have "Ideas in Food" on my wish list, exactly to balance my resistance against molecular gastronomy... (Coming from a molecular biologist it sounds quite silly ;-))

    Some other books escaped my radar, good to learn about them.

  6. That book 'Good Fish' is in my list for a long time now. Thanks for all the links!


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