Books

The Meaning of Rice

Michael Booth

'The next Bill Bryson.’ New York Times

In this often hilarious yet deeply researched book, food and travel writer Michael Booth and his family embark on an epic journey the length of Japan to explore its dazzling food culture. They find a country much altered since their previous visit ten years earlier (which resulted in the award-winning international bestseller Sushi and Beyond).

Over the last decade the country’s restaurants have won a record number of Michelin stars and its cuisine was awarded United Nations heritage status. The world’s top chefs now flock to learn more about the extraordinary dedication of Japan’s food artisans, while the country’s fast foods – ramen, sushi and yakitori – have conquered the world. As well as the plaudits, Japan is also facing enormous challenges. Ironically, as Booth discovers, the future of Japan’s culinary heritage is under threat.

Often venturing far off the beaten track, the author and his family discover intriguing future food trends and meet a fascinating cast of food heroes, from a couple lavishing love on rotten fish, to a chef who literally sacrificed a limb in pursuit of the ultimate bowl of ramen, and a farmer who has dedicated his life to growing the finest rice in the world… in the shadow of Fukushima. They dine in the greatest restaurant in the world, meet the world champion of cakes, and encounter wild bears. Booth is invited to judge the world sushi championship, ‘enjoys’ the most popular Japanese dish you have never heard of aboard a naval destroyer, and unearths the unlikely story of the Englishwoman who helped save the seaweed industry.

Sushi and Beyond was also a bestseller in Japanese where its success has had improbable consequences for Booth and his family. They now star in their own popular cartoon series produced by national broadcaster NHK.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People

Michael Booth

The Danes are the happiest people in the world, and pay the highest taxes.

'Neutral' Sweden is one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world.

Finns have the largest per capita gun ownership after the US and Yemen.

54 per cent of Icelanders believe in elves.

Norway is the richest country on earth.

5 per cent of Danish men have had sex with an animal.

Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians, on and off, for over ten years, perplexed by their many strange paradoxes and character traits and equally bemused by the unquestioning enthusiasm for all things Nordic and hygge that has engulfed the rest of the world.

He leaves his adopted home of Denmark and embarks on a journey through all five of the Nordic countries to discover who these curious tribes are, the secrets of their success and, most intriguing of all, what they think of each other. Along the way a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of a region plagued by taboos, characterised by suffocating parochialism and populated by extremists of various shades.

'The next Bill Bryson.’ New York Times

Winner of the Best Narrative Travel Book Award from the British Guild of Travel Writers

Eat Pray Eat

Michael Booth

'The next Bill Bryson.’ New York Times

World-weary, distracted and more often than not the worse for wine, Michael Booth really needed to make some major changes to his life. Instead, he embarks on an over-ambitious, self-indulgent attempt to write the definitive book on Indian food, taking his wife and two young children in tow.

They criss-cross India, from mist-shrouded Delhi to Mumbai and the slums of Dharavi, meeting the locals and samplying different cuisines along the way. However, his plan is derailed as he spirals deeper into his metaphysical middle-aged malaise, finally unravelling amid the sweltering heat of the Keralan backwaters.

Fortunately, his wife takes control and enrolls her disintegrating husband in a hardcore yoga boot camp, enlisting a wise meditation guru who helps him chart a path towards enlightenment. But will Booth's cynicism and untrammelled appetites prove his undoing? Can he regain his balance, conquer his anxieties and face up to life as a husband and father?

Sushi and Beyond

Michael Booth

‘His account of their “foodie family road trip” establishes Booth as the next Bill Bryson.’ New York Times

Japan is the pre-eminent food nation on earth. The creativity of the Japanese, their dedication and ingenuity, not to mention courage in the face of dishes such as cod sperm and octopus ice cream, is only now beginning to be fully appreciated in the sushi-saturated West, as are the remarkable health benefits of the traditional Japanese diet.

Food and travel writer Michael Booth sets of to take the culinary pulse of contemporary Japan and he and his young family travel the length of the country - from bear-infested, beer-loving Hokkaido to snake-infested, seaweed-loving Okinawa.

What do the Japanese know about food? Perhaps more than anyone else on earth, judging by this fascinating and funny journey through an extraordinary food-obsessed country.

Winner of the Guild of Food Writers Kate Whiteman Award for the best book on food and travel.

Doing without Delia

Michael Booth

'The next Bill Bryson.’ New York Times

Michael Booth has had his fill of celebrity chefs and their 'on the table in five minutes' recipes. He wants to learn how to cook properly, so he burns his cookery books and, together with his young family, heads for a new life in Paris - reasoning that, if anyone can be trusted to make food complicated, it's the French.

Embarking on the ultimate foodie's fantasy, he enrols at the world's most famous cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, where wise and battle-scarred French chefs commence their transformation of him into a professional cook.

Along the way Booth shares the insider tips and secret techniques of classical cuisine. His odyssey takes him from trauma to triumph, ending in the white-hot heat of the Michelin-starred kitchen of the greatest chef in France.

Just As Well I'm Leaving

Michael Booth

'The next Bill Bryson.’ New York Times

Having been dragged against his will to live in Denmark, Michael Booth discovered one of the great secrets of travel literature - Andersen's A Poet's Bazaar - a fascinating travelogue through a Europe on the cusp of revolution, by an author who invented children's literature. He discovered, too, his chance to escape Denmark.

In 1840 Andersen was also desperate to flee, writing as he sailed: 'It is just as well I am leaving, my soul is unwell!' In Germany he was enraptured both by steam travel and the fiery Franz Liszt. In sultry Naples this latent bisexual wrestled with his erotic demons before travelling to Athens (little more than a village), seeing the dervishes dance in Istanbul, and sailing home up the Danube. Booth follows him every step of the way, reflecting on Andersen's life, work and pathological self-obsession, encountering his own cast of characters, from an accommodating Hamburg prostitute to a bemused Danish Ambassador to the first ever female dervish, who whisks him off to meet her guru.

Biography

Michael Booth is the author of five books, including the international bestseller, The Almost Nearly Perfect People, winner of the British Guild of Travel Writers award for Book of the Year, and Sushi and Beyond, which won the Guild of Food Writers award