Critics disagree about the exact way to define this genre, although in a nutshell a food memoir consists of a writer's experiences with food as told from his/her memories and imagination. Others define the genre as the foodoir, which you can learn more about here.
Barbara Frey Waxman, in her article on food memoirs, defines the genre as "a culinary memoir that chronicles the growth and development of the memoirist through the lens of food memories, in narratives that either begin with childhood or that interpose frequent flashbacks to earliest formative experiences" (364) - Waxman, Barbara Frey. "Food Memoirs: What They Are, Why They Are Popular, And Why They Belong In The Literature Classroom." College English 4 (2008): 363. JSTOR Arts & Sciences III. Web. 30 July 2014.
She differentiates between adult autobiographical writing about food experiences and the true food memoir, which shows the formative authorial memory associations with food from childhood to adulthood. So while there is disagreement on the exact definition of the food memoir, for the purposes of this LibGuide I am including a wide latitude of writers that are commonly associated with this genre and may or may not transcend strict classifications.
To give a sense of some of the most popular authors in this genre, here is a list from Grub Street, and you can learn more by viewing the slideshow on their site:
25. Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang
24. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
23. The Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White
22. The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti
21. A Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
20. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
19. Born Round by Frank Bruni
18. Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen
17. The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin
16. Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey
15. Shark's Fin & Sichuan Pepper by Fuschia Dunlop
14. Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
13. The Raw and the Cooked by Jim Harrison
12. The Man who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
11. Alice, Let's Eat by Calvin Trillin
10. California Dish by Jeremiah Tower
9. When French Women Cook by Madeleine Kamman
8. Heat by Bill Buford
7. Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
6. Between Meals by A.J. Liebling
5. My Life in France by Julia Child
4. The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher
3. Toast by Nigel Slater
2. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
1. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Many TV shows also have helped popularize the genre, such as Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations or Parts Unknown and Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods:
Food memoirs and autobiographical writing continue to be very popular, along with the more traditional genre of recipe and cookbook writing. The key to memoirs is the author's literary incorporation of memory and imagination into their experiential view of food. All of us have memories of food, and the visceral responses to food can form lifelong memories. This genre will continue to increase in popularity as people become aware of more global food types and enhance their gastronomic experiences.
Famous Food Memoirs