Talking Food Writing
If you’re in New York, please come out to Housing Works Bookstore Café’s “Word of Mouth: Online Media and The Future of Food Writing” panel discussion this Thursday, January 7, at 7:00 PM. I’ll be moderating a conversation about culinary writing for the web between Julie Powell, Amanda Hesser, Merrill Stubbs, Ed Levine, and Cathy Erway.

Chang-rae Lee and Jane Smiley Would Ditch Cookbooks First

Last week, the New York TimesRoom for Debate blog asked a panel of bookish types what tomes they could stand to live without. Novelist Chang-rae Lee said, “Cookbooks with a spiral binder; these are usually distributed by P.T.A., Rotary clubs and voter groups, perfectly wonderful organizations that are perhaps too willing to include really anybody’s recipe for pasta carbonara; also, cookbooks featuring the words easy, delicious or light in their titles.” Jane Smiley also puts cookbooks high on her list of books to toss.

Alice Waters Returns

Just days before Christmas, Clarkson Potter’s Emily Takoudes signed up Alice Waters’s newest tome, Classic Chez Panisse. The book is set to pub in fall 2011, in time for Chez Panisse’s 40th anniversary, and will use memorabilia, pics and menus to celebrate the restaurant’s history. Panisse aficionados, take note: is currently selling a first edition of the 1999 Chez Panisse Café Cookbook for $13.99.

WSJ and GMA Pick Best Cookbooks of ’09
Two late additions to the end-of-the-year lists: the Wall Street Journal picked “five of the best cookbooks of 2009,” admitting it has a soft spot for “cookbooks that owe their design aesthetic to Gourmet magazine, and come filled with sumptuous photos, full-color pages and mini-narratives that allow us to daydream about winters in Vermont.” On the list: Roast Figs Sugar Snow, Everyday Harumi, Baking Kids Love, Buonissimo! and Vintage Cocktails. Also, Sara Moulton picked her 15 faves for Good Morning America. They include Momofuku, Golden Door Cooks, My New Orleans, The Entertaining Encyclopedia, Serious Barbecue, You Don't Have to be Diabetic to Love This Cookbook and others.

Escoffier to Star in Novel
Novelist and short story writer Nicole Kelby has sold an untitled novel about food, inspired by the life and passions of French gourmand Auguste Escoffier to Amy Cherry at Norton. The book purports to examine the idea of the private versus public life while illuminating the “spiritual and sensual nature of food and the decadent joy of unruly hearts.”

This story originally appeared in Cooking the Books, PW'se-newsletter for cookbooks.