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Food for Thought

These days, simply everyone — from Ratatouille‘s titular rodent to chipmunk-cheeked Rachael Ray — is a foodie. Stars as diverse as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Adam Sandler have donned chef’s whites on the silver screen; television offers couch potatoes an endless menu of top chef, iron chef and hellish-kitchen shows. Magazines promise us the best recipes and tempt our taste buds with glossy photographs of fulsome foodstuffs so ripe they verge on the pornographic. Gourmet grocery stores package obscure ingredients with daunting suggestions about how to serve them. Restaurant critics have given up dining in disguise, and food blogs abound.

Even reference books have a seat at the table: the New Oxford American Dictionary recently named “locavore,” a term describing a person who eats only food grown or raised locally, its 2007 Word of the Year — perfect timing in an age when you can’t grab a bite at your favorite neighborhood eatery without first being told about the virgins who harvested the sea salt and which Montessori school your lamb attended before it graduated to your plate.

Then there are the books — talk about an omnivore’s dilemma. Think of this eMusic Bookshelf as a tasting menu of six of the best. So cue up one of these audiobooks while you’re searching for that elusive ingredient, deciphering a food-stained family recipe while the clock is ticking, or preparing to break bread and make small talk with someone else’s family. There’s a reason Proust’s multivolume reverie began with biting into a cookie. Bon appétit.

Married to her high-school sweetheart, but childless and staring down her thirtieth birthday, disgruntled outer-borough secretary Julie Powell was in a serious funk. To pull herself out of it, she decided to devote a year to cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's 1961 classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The author later admitted that the life-changing project was "like doing Thanksgiving every day for a year" — especially if your... idea of Thanksgiving involves many pounds of butter. Powell risks her marriage, her job and her sanity as she tackles omelets and offal in her tiny kitchen, and chronicles her successes and failures in a blog that eventually became this book. Listening to the frequently foul-mouthed author describe sweating over broken mayonnaise — all the while staying well-lubricated with cocktails or red wine — is a tonic, the perfect soundtrack for any stressed-out cook short of time with company on the way.

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