A steady diet of reading about food world

By Amy Sutherland
Globe Correspondent / April 24, 2011

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Noted chef Ana Sortun is owner of the Mediterranean-inspired restaurants Oleana and Sofra, both in Cambridge. She is also author of the cookbook “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean.” The Seattle-born Sortun lives with her husband, Chris Kurth, and 5-year-old daughter, Sienna, on their farm in Sudbury.

What are you reading currently?

I am just finishing “Blood, Bones & Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton. That’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. The thing about “Blood, Bones & Butter”: I couldn’t wait to get home and read.

I don’t read a lot. I just don’t have time. And I can only read a few pages before I fall asleep. There are some nights especially after it’s been busy, when you’re over-tired and the adrenaline kicks in. Those are the nights when I get some reading in.

Are you drawn to books that have to do with the food world?

That’s all I read. I read plenty of cookbooks and am really lucky to get in a couple of novels a year.

Do the novels have to do with food too?

Not necessarily. The next one on my list is “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan. It’s about Frank Lloyd Wright. My dad was a really big Frank Lloyd Wright fan.

What else is in your reading pile?

One of my husband’s favorite books, “A Garlic Testament” by Stanley Crawford. It’s about the seasons on a small farm in New Mexico. There’s one I started reading and lost interest, and that’s on the bottom of the pile. It was a little too heavy duty. I need something a little more light to escape into.

Then I have a million cookbooks. I have most of them in my office at work. I have the very special ones at home. I probably have, I don’t know, 500 or 600 or 800. I’ve been collecting them from when I was 15 or 16 years old. I used to spend my money on cookbooks when my young friends spent their money on CDs and music.

My new most favorite cookbook is “Saraban” by Greg and Lucy Malouf. It’s a Persian cookbook. It’s half reading and half recipes. I particularly like cookbooks that involve culture.

Do you also collect autobiographies by chefs?

Only if I’m particularly interested in their sort of angle. I never read Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential.’’ I started to read it, and I hated it so much I put it down. It’s not because I hate him, but chefs were striving so hard to not be associated with that kind of culture, that we were more sophisticated than that.

Have you had books that have sat in your reading pile for years?

Yeah, they’re usually those educational books like how-to-raise-your-kids kinds of things.

Do you read to your daughter?

We just finished the first in the “Little House on the Prairie” series, “Little House in the Big Woods,” and are halfway through “Farmer Boy.”

I think the reason I cook today has to do with reading the series when I was a kid. The food descriptions, of how they used to make maple syrup, the mother always cooking and preserving, and how celebrated every single meal was, is incredible.

Then we just read this Australian book, “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie” by May Gibbs. It was so good. That was another one I couldn’t wait to read each night. And I’ve really not enjoyed some of the children’s books. It’s hard to find good kids’ books. Some of them are really bratty, just full of brats.

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