Good reads for good eats 

Julia Child: Can anything new be written about Julia Child? I didn’t think so until I read Laura Shapiro’s slim volume in the prestigious Penguin Lives series. Shapiro, the author of two highly entertaining culinary histories, "Perfection Salad," about women and cooking at the turn of the 20th century, and "Something from the Oven," which looks at home cooking in the ’50s, took on the challenge of writing about Child’s life from her own point of view. She mined cartons of personal and professional papers Child donated to the Schlesinger Library at Harvard to find a lode of intimate "facts, inferences and quotations." But it’s Shapiro’s crystalline prose that makes "Julia Child" (Viking, $19.95) such a vivid, fast moving, revelatory biography. As a culinary historian with a feminist perspective, Shapiro is particularly interested in how Julia straddled opposing beliefs about what it means to cook and eat. Supermarket or farmers’ market? Recipe or instinct? Though every one of her fans thought they knew Julia, Shapiro deepens our relationship while explaining how we were changed by her.

Alice Waters

Thomas NcNamee’s biography "Alice Waters and Chez Panisse" (Penguin, $27.95) finally sets down the details about the rise of this revolutionary restaurant. Waters gave NcNamee access to documents, her inner circle, and herself. For those who have lived and eaten through it all, the account is a page turner. For others who wonder at the mystique, your answer is here.

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Patricia Unterman

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