As I was one of the lucky people who get to stay safe at home this spring, I was able to catch up with my list of books that I wanted to read. Unsurprisingly wine and food themes were the first on my list, but I also added some lifestyle books to learn more about different cultures and a self-improvement book. Here comes the list:
1. Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure, by Donald and Petie Kladstrup
Finally finding a chance to read this book, on a paperback as it deserves, meant traveling back in time with for a good cause. One can easily imagine this book would be a good one for wine and history lovers to enjoy reading it laying on the couch with a glass of wine in one hand. But for me it was not exactly the case. I was most of the time on my desk reading it, since I wanted to pay attention to each page, taking notes with hand and investigating further the information and the related people. Amount of information and stories in the book make a deep dive to the history. Each story takes place different wine regions of France, such as Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, and others, under Nazi occupation in World War 2.
Along with the historical side of the occupation, part that stroke me more was the stories of the people, who are the founders of the most famous French wine brands that we know today. They indeed suffered and struggled during those times, but stayed brave, moved as one, wisely and strategically, and made possible to bring the wine industry of France where it is today.
2. Veuve Clicquot: The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It, by Tilar J. Mazzeo
The story of the Champenoise woman that I admire the most. The book tells the biography of Veuve Clicquot, starting from very beginning of her life. Although it is business centered, it also includes her personal life; how she started to be passionate on Champagne making, how she got married and became widow. Along the difficulties brought by becoming a widow, it explains how Veuve Clicquot took a huge risk, sacrificed from her own life to build this champagne company, which is now one of the strongest brands in wine world.
Along with giving me inspiration as a woman winemaker, I was happy to travel back in time and go deeper in the wine-centric history of Champagne. It definitely did a huge difference on how I perceive this product, after reading all the work and effort being down since centuries.
3. Harvests of Joy, by Robert Mondavi
Everybody has a “comfort” book, and mine is this one. First time I read it was in 2016, when I was working in an amazing winery in Napa Valley. I borrowed this book from the library in downtown Napa, the one that had a very rich wine books section, where wine people like me feel themselves like a kid in a candy shop. Reading it for the first time inspired me so much. As I wanted to go back and read it again, I bought the Kindle version. It became very handy during the pandemic, for finding some more inspiration. In this book, Robert Mondavi doesn’t only tell his story, he takes me inside of the story, makes me find many different angles to tackle and think over and over about the wine industry at first, but also about life and family relations.
In Harvests of Joy, Robert Mondavi will tell you all the details about how he went into wine business, how he worked hard for his vision of adding Napa Valley as a great wine-producing region on the map, how he put a lot effort to educate local people to add wine in their tables… And he will also give you a lot of good advice about life. I know this one by heart:
“If you want to succeed, you have to listen to yourself, to your own heart, and you have to have the courage to go to your own way. If I had listened all the skeptics and naysayers I’ve met along my chosen path, not just that first year but all along the way, you know where I’d be today?
4. Street Foods of Turkey, by Hande Bozdogan
Missing my home country, I have been searching some English resources about its cuisine. As I saw this book at the library in Halifax, I found myself at the self-check-out kiosk borrowing it. So happy that I did it, I felt like I was in the streets of Turkey and remembered how the food culture spreads to each of those streets in a unique and traditional way.
What I loved the most about this book was that it was divided into seasons, and it was explaining what is sold in each season at the streets in Turkey. More than the cooked food, the focus was on seasonal fruits and veggies, for example watermelons in summer, quince in winter, pumpkins in autumn and artichoke in spring… After every fruit and vegetable some local recipes with these fruits and veggies were given.
Another interesting part of the book was the stories of the vendors. The story of the vendor who carries a big basket of quince in his back and walk around the city was very impressive: He would sell different produces each season and provide them from where they come the best. Overall, it was a very interesting book to learn more about the rich agriculture produces of Turkey, and how the momentum is on the streets.
5. Black Sea, Dispatches and Recipes Through Darkness and Light, by Caroline Eden
One piece of my roots on the Black Sea coast of Turkey. My grandmother, whom I take my first name from, is from Trabzon. For this reason, Black Sea region always amazed me with its particular cuisine, music and dance and its breathtaking natural beauty.
It was partly a mistake to put this book on “food” category, since it’s fused nicely with travel narration. Caroline Eden travels in four of the countries which has coast to Black Sea; Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Turkey, meets different local people along the way and eats in local restaurants. She captures the traditions, historical interactions but also personal stories of local people, along with recipe sharing.
What I like most about this book is how it blended the travel stories into food. The recipes are well integrated and made much more sense after learning about their background. This approach takes the recipe writing into a next level and adds a value to the food traditions. It was very inspirational for me.
6. Food for Change, by Massimo Bottura
While exploring some food related books in Kindle, I found this e-book by the famous Michelin starred Italian chef Massimo Bottura, where he wrote all about ‘Food for Soul’, a non-profit organization working for reducing food waste through social inclusion.
If you ever watched a cooking show, went to a food exposition, or simply went out for eating, you might have thought “What’s happening with the left over ingredients?” In this book, I found the best answer to that: Not just a classical solution of sharing the food as charity, but in addition to that, giving a value to left-over ingredients and showing their importance by preparing them with intelligence ideas.
Lifestyle & Self Improvement
7. Japonisme: The Art of Finding Contentment, by Erin Niimi Longhurst
I always had a deep interest to know more about Japanese lifestyle, especially since I learned about “ikigai”. As far as I explained to myself, ikigai is the reason of our beings in this life, and a balance between the things we do, including our work and our free time.
Browsing in a huge book store in Montreal, I found this book written by a Japanese-British writer who was raised by soaking both of these cultures and this gave her a great ability to appreciate them, and more importantly to communicate them so we can appreciate as well. This book had all about making our life more joyful: nature, thermal waters, decoration, houses, flower composition, calligraphy, tea ceremony and food.
From the food chapters, I got to learn different Japanese food, especially the fermented products, bento boxes, sushi, ramen and etc. Moreover, deeper meaning behind the tea ceremony and the necessary items were explained in detail. It is obvious that there is so much depth in Japanese culture, but this one was a solid start to learn about each aspect briefly.
8. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, by Meik Wiking
Borrowed this book from the library in March, and couldn’t return it until end of June for obvious reasons. Actually, it was a very good book to keep during self-isolation. I cannot imagine a better timing for learning about hygge. Hygge philosophy, which mostly involves enjoying yourself indoors, gave me some ideas on how to make the time that I spent home more meaningful and joyful.
Hygge itself is a difficult term to give definition, or translation – that’s why there’s a whole 287-page book to explain it. Some English translations of hygge include cosiness, or hominess. Its key points are light, togetherness, food and drink, clothing and home.
The best idea from this book, also to apply when under self-isolation, is to light a candle, keep warm with a soft blanket on your lap, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy a good book. If you have a fireplace, it would even increase the hygge effect, according to the book.
After reading the Little Book of Hygge under the circumstances we have today, I understand better the importance of feeling yourself safe. It allowed me to take a moment and spend it in a meaningful way, and appreciate my wellbeing.
9. Atomic Habits, by James Clear
Last but definitely not least, this book was definitely a game changer. I should thank again and again to my beloved mom for suggesting me this book.
Atomic Habits thought me how habits are formed in four steps and how to use this knowledge to break my bad habits and build better habits. Focusing on the long term systems and processed rather than goals, not only working for momentary changes but continuity were the highlights for me. After each chapter for the four steps, James Clear makes a summary for take home messages and action items to apply in the daily life. It makes it very easy to follow and implement. Everybody will have a different take from the book obviously, but I personally was able to use the systems make a difference in my daily habits.
With this one, I am finishing up all the nine books on my list. I hope it gives you some inspiration to read any of these books, or learn more about these topics. Let me know if you do so, or if you would like to share some thoughts.
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