Hamptons Epicure: New Books for East End Foodies to Savor

Tea cups with teapot with red book on old wooden table. Top view.
Christina Ward’s "American Advertising Cookbooks," Image: Songsak Wilairit/123RF

It’s always sunny in the Hamptons. But, just in case a little rain—or snow—falls on your winter beach vacay, here are some recent foodie books that I highly recommend. They are all inspiring, informative and will have you running to the kitchen to try a few things. Then, as soon as the weather clears, you’ll be sure to head to your garden or local farmers market.

I’m still digesting Amagansett resident Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook The Clean Plate, which was released last month. My primary takeaway is that it’s probably a harbinger of the latest food-as-medicine trend. I was glad to find within it a succinct chart detailing what she regards as clean cooking, but I don’t know that I could eat that much chicken. I’m not crazy about smoothies, perhaps particularly a Strawberry Cauliflower Smoothie. But Paltrow’s Miso Soup was super easy to prepare and delish, so I might just try every recipe, smoothies and all. Paltrow asserts that in “writing this cookbook, the first rule was that everything had to taste really good.”

If you live in the Hamptons, you know that, though we have a reputation as a WASP enclave, really, we’re quite a heterogeneous bunch of people with uniquely differing backgrounds and experiences.

And if, like me, you travel in Hamptons circles that hold potluck dinners and read The New York Times, you’ve also discovered the joys of Christina Ward’s new book American Advertising Cookbooks.

First reported about by East Hampton’s Florence Fabricant in the Times, this deeply researched work explores an aspect of American culture that seems to hold a universal fascination among Hamptonites—inappropriate consumption and bad food. Specifically, things like “perfection salad,” Jell-O molded around a bevy of ingredients, including meat, and filling babies’ bottles with Coke.

As disturbing as it is entertaining, this exploration of how corporate America hijacked 20th century kitchens is lousy with hilariously outmoded images and slogans. It’s the talk at every gathering on the East End these days.

I read The New Farm, Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution by Brent Preston in two sittings. It’s not a short book. I did take breaks to make tea and to eat some raw carrots.

The minute I was done reading this book, I went out, turned my compost heap and then put a wheelbarrow load of compost on my garden. Compost is renewal and hope.

Preston tells the tale, warts and all, of how he and his wife started an idealistic, little organic farm on a hill two hours northwest of Toronto. And how, after 10 years, they transformed it into an organic farm that really worked. Through cold and muck, and encounters with varmints, and not a little marital strife, they found their sweet spot.

This is a great book to read if you’ve ever wondered where the red and purple carrots at your favorite high-end restaurant came from, or if you’ve ever dreamed of starting your own farm. If it’s possible, I have even more respect for the work of organic farmers now.

As Americans, we may not be able to identify with the degree of excitement Preston experienced when The Tragically Hip performed a concert in his barn, but Preston’s invitation to learn from his mistakes offers a wealth of gardening tips that apply here on the East Coast.

Sadly, this book demonstrates why Canada is a much more hospitable social environment for legal migrant workers and for organic growers.

It’s a lot to chew on.

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