Also of food pursuits

Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller; Bread: A Global History by William Rubel; Balzac’s Omelette by Anka Muhlstein; Mycophilia by Eugenia Bone

Extra Virginity

by Tom Mueller

(Norton, $26)

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That olive oil in your kitchen cabinet might not be as chaste as it claims, said Curtis Cord in Tom Mueller’s “compelling” look into the centuries-old and current practice of passing off adulterated oil as first-rate stuff is an important work. “Mueller is driven by a profound respect for the dedicated people who make good olive oil and a disdain for the fraudsters.” I, for one, “tore through the book, then went back to the beginning and tore through it again.”

Bread: A Global History

by William Rubel

(Reaktion, $18)

William Rubel’s “sprightly primer” on the epic history of bread will leave you hungry, said Steven L. Kaplan in The Wall Street Journal. Bread has served as a “symbol of spiritual as well as temporal power” and as “a marker of social distinctions,” and Rubel touches on such big ideas, though too briefly. But “there is much else in Bread that is engaging as well as controversial.” And when it comes to discussing baking practices, his “visceral passion for bread-making” translates into mouthwatering prose.

Balzac’s Omelette

by Anka Muhlstein

(Other Press, $20)

“Like any good Frenchman, Honoré de Balzac loved his food,” said Timothy R. Smith in The Washington Post. His eating habits, however, were strange. While writing, he was an ascetic, subsisting mainly on fruit and strong coffee. When finished, he would binge—once polishing off 100 oysters, a dozen lamb cutlets, and four bottles of wine in a sitting. Anka Muhlstein’s use of Balzac as a guide to the 19th-century French culinary scene makes for an “original, delectable, and entirely readable” book.


by Eugenia Bone

(Rodale, $26)

Eugenia Bone’s sojourn in the rarefied world of mushroom hunting is “one of the most beguiling books I’ve read this year,” said Miranda Seymour in The New York Times. Seeking out commercial and amateur pickers who hunt out harvests of porcini, matsutake, and “hawk’s wings,” Bone captures the life of the mycophile in brilliantly evocative prose. Weird details about candy caps and other fungal varieties “brighten even the most rambling passages.” If only the author shared more details about herself.

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