Let's eat and travel without leaving home
August 13, 2010 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend books, movies and TV shows about food and travel.

I'm looking for books, movies and TV shows which involve both food and travel. I want something which have a certain feel and mood about them - I'm not sure if there is a word for it, though, but I'm sure you know this: like time stops, like you're in the right place and there's no where else you'd rather be, like everything is luscious and peaceful and beautiful and goddamn-I-wish-this-is-my-life kind of feeling.

To give you some background, here are some of what I've read/seen and liked, not necessarily favourites, but based on my criteria above:

- It Must Have Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten
- Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
- Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik

Here are some suggestions for fiction; they're great, but I wonder if there is something that combines both food and travel? Maybe memoirs? Non-fiction?

- Under the Tuscan Sun
- Something's Gotta Give
- Sideways

Okay, some of these don't consist of both food and travel at the same time, which is why I am wondering if such exists somewhere, and if you guys can help me out :)

For TV shows it's more apparent. I like the following and if you can suggest more, I'd appreciate it:
- Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten
- French Food at Home with Laura Calder
- No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain
- Chef at Home with Michael Smith
- and that Spain special where it has Mario Battali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman and one other woman

I am a writer, in my middle-20s, and I dream of traveling someday and maybe finding a lovely place where I can settle down, write, cook, and whatnot. Probably plant herbs or something. Invite friends over every night. Looks impossible right now from my end, but hey, one can dream, yeah?

P.S. Cookbooks are nice, but I'm not exactly looking for something to cook. Other AskMefi threads I've checked out are about farming, cooking and history, world cuisine - but I guess I am just looking for something more.

P.P.S. I might have a special place in my heart for France, though I've never been there. I grew up listening to Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet and Jacques Brel. I also love wine and poetry, if that would help. But please feel free to suggest other places, settings and cultures! :)
posted by pleasebekind to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Jamie Oliver did some cool cooking shows, and has a good cookbook too, on Italian food.

Also, I recommend some of Bourdain's books. He writes at least as well as he narrates his show.
posted by bearwife at 4:57 PM on August 13, 2010

Oh, and you probably know this, but Rick Steves always highlights food in his travel shows.
posted by bearwife at 4:58 PM on August 13, 2010

Bill Buford, Heat

Julia Child, My Life in France
posted by scody at 4:59 PM on August 13, 2010

A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain.
posted by Artw at 5:13 PM on August 13, 2010

- Jamie's Great Italian Escape
- Jamie's American Road Trip
- Jamie Does (Marrakesh, Andalucia, Stockholm, Venice, French Pyrenees, Athens)

There's also the Hairy Bikers, they travel everywhere.

And if you want to be retro, Keith Floyd.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:16 PM on August 13, 2010

Anything but especially The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher.
posted by Lisitasan at 6:11 PM on August 13, 2010

A Room with a View, it's a book and movie.
posted by deborah at 6:12 PM on August 13, 2010

The Soul of a Chef isn't about travel and cooking, but it is one of the best books about cooking and personal dedication I have ever read. The best part is the section about Thomas Keller, how he became a chef, and his philosophy about food, life and cooking. It is such a great book. Michael Ruhlman's other book, The Making of a Chef, is great too.

Julia Child's My Life in France is pretty fantastic too.
posted by apricot at 6:20 PM on August 13, 2010

Under the Tuscan Sun is a much better book than movie, and the other is fairly prolific as I recall. I enjoyed the audiobooks but the narrator's (author's) voice takes some getting used to.
posted by Mertonian at 7:06 PM on August 13, 2010

Best answer: Tampopo may be one of the best movies made about the pursuit of perfection in a food. Funny, charming, touching --a Japanese comedy in the style of an Italian spaghetti western featuring two traveling truckers pursuing the perfect noodle and finding both love and the "noodle". With just an appropriate taste of adventure and eroticism. I don't know if it meets your criteria but it does have road trips, food and subtitles.
posted by rmhsinc at 7:41 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Chocolat ?
posted by beccaj at 7:58 PM on August 13, 2010

I just came across this list and thought of your question. Some of the books listed sound like what you're looking for. I would like to un-recommend Trail of Crumbs though, which is on that list. That book was too much self-pitying whinging for me.
posted by apricot at 9:26 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto by Victoria Riccardi. Everyone keeps telling me to read A Year in Provence and its sequels, by Peter Mayle, but I haven't read them yet. (I asked a similar question of my friends when I was recovering from an illness last year, actually. In the same thread, they recommended Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India and Jen Lin-Liu's Serve the People, which I haven't read yet, and On the Narrow Road: A Journey Into Lost Japan by Lesley Downer, which I did read, doesn't involve food as much, but is very good.)
posted by wintersweet at 9:41 PM on August 13, 2010

Two For the Road by Jane and Michael Stern

Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes

Extremely Pale Rosé by Jamie Ivey

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:08 PM on August 13, 2010

For travel writing, I have always sort of enjoyed Geoff Dyer. A little too introspective and meta at times, but he also does some excellent travel writing.

I also must take this moment to say that I absolutely loathe Bourdain. Kicking him in the shins is on my bucket list.
posted by broadway bill at 10:34 PM on August 13, 2010

Best answer: Like Water For Chocolate is a magical-realist book (and later film) about food that takes on the feelings of the cook.

Also, Nigel Slater - his recipe books are great, but his biography, Toast, is tender and funny. He had a series where he would cook with a celebrity and ask them about their memories of food. Check out his writing in the Observer and see if you like it. You'd also perhaps like Heston Blumenthal's programmes - he created themed dinner parties around molecular gastronomy - and The Supersizers, a series where two presenters ate as one would in the French Revolution, Tudor times, the Seventies and others, then get a health-check afterward to see if they would really have been healthier on those diets.
posted by mippy at 3:45 AM on August 14, 2010

Best answer: This question is sort of up my alley. I tend to like these sorts of books too. And my wife and I sort of collect books on food. Anyways, here goes. All books:

Anna del Conte's Risotto with Nettles: A Memoir with Food
She is a well known cookbook writer who writes engagingly about her life growing up in Italy, during the war, and then moving to England. It is all about food too, including a couple recipes at the end of each chapter.

Aldo Buzzi's A Weakness for Almost Everything and The Perfect Egg and other secrets.
Mostly books of anecdotes about his travels and about food. Really entertaining.

Clementine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain
The protagonists here are an American family, living in France, and their French cook Clementine. She and her ideas on French food are the focus of the book. They also move back to the U.S. and bring Clementine along. This book is a classic.

M.F.K. Fisher, as already recommended above.
I really enjoyed Serve it Forth, which is an Aldo Buzzi like collection of short pieces on Food.

The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook
If you want to envy someone's life, this is it. Despite the title, this is more memoir than cookbook. She describes all the fantastic meals her and Gertrude Stein ate in France and also discusses food and travel in general.

Tasting Tuscany by Beth Elon
The subtitle of this is Exploring and Eating off the Beaten Track. If you do go to Tuscany, this is the one book I recommend for truly going off the tourist track and discovering what rural Tuscany and Tuscan cuisine is like. It is a mix of travel guide, anecdotes, and recipes.

Choice Cuts by Mark Kurlansky
This is subtitled as A Miscellany of Food Writing. It should give you more avenues to explore should you wish to pursue this.
posted by vacapinta at 6:06 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes

I am reading this for maybe the 20th time this weekend.
posted by elizardbits at 7:08 AM on August 14, 2010

+1 Clementine in the Kitchen. That's one of my favorites.

Jacques Pepin's autobiography The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen describes his youth in rural France, his mother's restaurants, his time cooking in Paris, and then his move to America. It's fantastic.

Hotel Bemelmans is a funny Europe/New York service industry memoir by the illustrator of the Madeline books.

Have you watched Two Fat Ladies? Clarissa and Jennifer tool around England on their Triumph (Clarissa's in the sidecar) visiting various locations from grand homes to dairy farms, cooking whatever occurs to them, usually involving shocking amounts of butter. Absolutely classic.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:49 AM on August 14, 2010

Response by poster: > Under the Tuscan Sun is a much better book than movie, and the other is fairly prolific as I recall.

Oh I have the book as well. Forgot to mention it. Have you read other Frances Mayes book? Has she written anything similar?

> Tampopo may be one of the best movies made about the pursuit of perfection in a food.

Thanks. I remember watching a similar movie once starring Brittany Murphy. It was about making noodles and my friend recommended this to me; just haven't gotten around to it.

> Have you watched Two Fat Ladies?

Not yet but it sounds interesting!


Seems like there are a lot of great books out there I've yet to discover. Thanks for the suggestions :)

How about movies and TV shows? My friend has recommended No Reservations with Catherine Zeta-Jones but it was more of romance between two people who just happen to be chefs. It was a bit bland for me.

Another thing I remember liking are these Asian shows and I wonder if there are European/American equivalents, or at least, something similar?
- Cooking Master Boy
- Jewel in the Palace
posted by pleasebekind at 11:18 AM on August 14, 2010

Stuart Stevens' Feeding Frenzy (hiting 29 3star restaurants in Europe in 29 days, while driving a '65 Mustang) is a nice fun read. If you like this one, also check out "Night Train to Turkistan" and "Malaria Dreams" (not about food, but hellish/funny travel stories).
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 11:30 AM on August 14, 2010

There are a TON of Japanese cooking-related "dorama," though often without the travel aspect (except, I guess, in your mind, as you "travel" to Japan to watch them). Osen, My Little Chef, Bambino, Lunch Queen, etc. There are also a bunch of fluffier shows and cooking variety/cookoff shows, most of which don't fit your parameters. New Dotch Cooking Show might be worth a mention just because during each show they travel to a couple of places, usually tiny towns in Japan, to obtain special ingredients, and interview really passionate artisanal ingredient producers, farmers, fishermen, etc. That's the most interesting part of the show for me.

Most of the above shows are not available in English unless you're willing to delve into torrents and fansubs.

There's the British comedy Chef! (which is fun and has great stars), but its undercurrents/ultimate philosophy are almost the opposite of the Japanese and Korean shows.
posted by wintersweet at 1:43 PM on August 14, 2010

(I should note that there's nothing particularly difficult about torrents and fansubs--the "willingness" comes down to how you feel about questions of safety and legality, not any staggering level of difficulty. Jewel in the Palace is available in the US legally on DVDs, so you may have watched it that way--and I really need to see if my library can get it, because it costs a lot!)
posted by wintersweet at 1:49 PM on August 14, 2010

Response by poster: > Choice Cuts by Mark Kurlansky

My friend just gave me a copy of this book today so I'm looking forward to reading it. And I've included your suggestions to my list of to-reads, so thanks!

> Osen, My Little Chef, Bambino, Lunch Queen, etc.

Thanks for these! There aren't a lot of food/cooking-themed Hollywood movies, are there? I can only think of Ratatouille, Julie and Julia and No Reservations as the recent ones.

I think there's the one which stars Bradley Cooper but I can't remember what the title was or if it was interesting. I also remember watching awhile back Sarah Michelle Gellar, I think the title was Irresistible, it was a romantic comedy of sorts, and when she cooks there's something magical happens.
posted by pleasebekind at 1:40 PM on August 16, 2010

(Ahahaha. I was actually thinking of Simply Irresistible, but it's such a silly movie that I didn't mention it. In My Little Chef, the chef creates one meal per night, which allows the diners to work out their problems through evoking memories or emotions or whatever. No magic involved. For some reason, it reminded me of Simply Irresistible when I saw it, though. Man, I didn't think anyone else had seen that movie!)
posted by wintersweet at 3:49 PM on August 18, 2010

Did you know No Reservations is a remake of the German film Mostly Martha? You might like it better than the American version. I enjoyed it, but I don't know if it has the transporting quality that you're looking for.

You might like Bread and Tulips too.
posted by apricot at 6:20 PM on August 18, 2010

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