1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die

A Food Lover's Life List


By Mimi Sheraton

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The ultimate gift for the food lover. In the same way that 1,000 Places to See Before You Die reinvented the travel book, 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die is a joyous, informative, dazzling, mouthwatering life list of the world’s best food. The long-awaited new book in the phenomenal 1,000 . . . Before You Die series, it’s the marriage of an irresistible subject with the perfect writer, Mimi Sheraton—award-winning cookbook author, grande dame of food journalism, and former restaurant critic for The New York Times.

1,000 Foods fully delivers on the promise of its title, selecting from the best cuisines around the world (French, Italian, Chinese, of course, but also Senegalese, Lebanese, Mongolian, Peruvian, and many more)—the tastes, ingredients, dishes, and restaurants that every reader should experience and dream about, whether it’s dinner at Chicago’s Alinea or the perfect empanada. In more than 1,000 pages and over 550 full-color photographs, it celebrates haute and snack, comforting and exotic, hyper-local and the universally enjoyed: a Tuscan plate of Fritto Misto. Saffron Buns for breakfast in downtown Stockholm. Bird’s Nest Soup. A frozen Milky Way. Black truffles from Le Périgord.

Mimi Sheraton is highly opinionated, and has a gift for supporting her recommendations with smart, sensuous descriptions—you can almost taste what she’s tasted. You’ll want to eat your way through the book (after searching first for what you have already tried, and comparing notes). Then, following the romance, the practical: where to taste the dish or find the ingredient, and where to go for the best recipes, websites included.


The World on a Platter

Odd as it may seem, this book is my autobiography, or at least a very big part of it. During the six decades I have been writing about food, I have gone in search of the world’s most outstanding dishes, ingredients, restaurants, farms, shops, and markets, and met with more chefs, home cooks, and food craftsmen and producers than I can count. Along the way, I have reaped many rewards by way of life experiences, especially in foreign countries, where I have found food to be a ready introduction to other cultures.

 Traveling to gather material for articles or books, I met many strangers who, because we came together on the common ground of an interest in food, often became fast—and, in many cases, lasting—friends. Quests for various ingredients and dishes have taken me to corners of the world that I would not have ventured into otherwise, teaching me much about social customs and attitudes, local celebrations, spiritual and superstitious beliefs, and the richness of human ingenuity that enables so many to make so much out of so little.

All of which should not be surprising, considering that food and the concerns surrounding it are central to life, simple sustenance being an essential aspect of all of our days. Such were the thoughts that guided me in making the selections for this book. I strove for an overall collection that includes not only the pleasurable—though that was my primary purpose— but also the unusual (the uninitiated might even say outlandish and bizarre)—Hirn mit Ei (scrambled eggs with brains, see page 295), Liang Ban Hai Zhe (Sichuan cold jellyfish salad, see page 772), Testina (roasted lamb’s or calf’s head, see page 244), and more. The aim was to curate a sort of jigsaw puzzle that pieces together a picture of what the world eats.

My unshakeable interest in food undoubtedly traces back to my Brooklyn childhood, growing up in a family where passion for the subject was always paramount, if not obsessive. My mother was an outstanding, ambitious cook and hostess who tried recipes clipped from newspapers and who judged all other women by their ability to cook, especially their prowess at chicken soup. My father was in the wholesale fruit and produce business in New York’s bygone Washington Market, then located in the now fashionable neighborhood known as Tribeca.

When we gathered for dinner each evening, not only would we discuss the details of the food before us, but my father would describe the various fruits and vegetables he had handled that day and assess their relative merits. Thus I gathered early that California oranges were more flavorful than those from Florida, but the southern state was the winner when it came to grapefruit. He considered apples from the West Coast inferior (not enough cold nights) to those from New York and Massachusetts, and as for peaches, none held a candle to Georgia’s Elberta freestones.

Not surprisingly, those evaluations have stuck with me through the years, but the most important lesson I took away was to practice discernment. Ever since then, I have paid close attention to the qualities of whatever I am tasting and have compared one iteration with another. Wherever possible, I have tried to hold the choices in this book up to the same standards, allowing that much has changed for better and worse over the years in the name of progress.

Coupled with my interest in food was my incurable wanderlust, the seeds of which I believe were first planted in me as I read a poem fittingly titled “Travel” by Robert Louis Stevenson in A Child’s Garden of Verses. The opening lines tempt me even today: “I should like to rise and go / Where the golden apples grow.” I have been rising and going in search of golden apples for many years, and, in the pursuit of food knowledge, have now visited nearly everywhere that I originally longed to see. Indeed, a savvy editor I worked for once accused me of being a person who appears to be doing one thing, but who is really doing something else. He sure had my number, as the food articles I proposed were invariably inspired by the places I wanted to see. (Want to visit southern Spain? Why not suggest an article on the growing, harvesting, and curing of capers? It worked for me and might for you.) That is one reason this book is organized geographically by cuisine, rather than by type of food. It is almost impossible for me to understand an ingredient or a dish without knowing its original context, much of which I tried to impart with each entry.

My problem was not arriving at a thousand entries but whittling down the final tally from twice that number. Almost every single one of the chosen thousand has a special meaning for me, due to my outsize and enduring love for it, fond memories of the circumstances under which it was first experienced, or the ways in which it has permanently influenced my taste.

Many of my thoughts and longings for individual foods and meals have been inspired by oblique or direct references in cultural works, including books, films, and paintings. Fiction such as Jorge Amado’s Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon and nonfiction such as Eleanor Clark’s Oysters of Locmariaquer; films that are all about food, such as La Grande Bouffe, and others in which food is just a detail, as in The Bicycle Thief; and so many still-life paintings— all these have started me dreaming of the feasts those works planted so firmly in my mind. Still, my reach has always exceeded my grasp, and I know more tastes and textures are in store for me.

The world of food has never been as exciting as it is now, as I hope the choices for this book indicate. Mass travel and mass communication have hastened fusion, something as old as mankind but never before occurring so rapidly and on so vast a scale. That acceleration sometimes created difficulties in determining which cuisine to categorize a dish in—for example, is chakchouka Tunisian or Israeli? But people have been wandering far from home ever since they could walk, and along with military conquests and the resultant colonialism, changing methods and equipment, and simply a hunger for variety, natural fusions were fostered long before intellectual chefs began consciously doing the same. I did my best to properly classify them all here. So bon voyage and, especially, bon appétit. May your senses and stomach be strong and your pleasures great.


  •  “Mimi Sheraton was one of the few critics or writers on food who, had she expressed displeasure with me, would have caused me to consider quitting the business. As a chef, I feared and respected her. As a writer and observer and enthusiast—as someone who travels largely on his stomach—I can tell you that what Mimi doesn't know is hardly worth knowing. This fat, comprehensive guide to the 1,000 foods to eat before dying is just that: 1,000 foods you NEED to try, urgently. Read ... and seek.”
    Anthony Bourdain, author, host, enthusiast

    "Her voluminous guidebook is an alphabetical cornucopia of food types and sources..." 
    The New York Times 
    "From abalone to za’tar, Zingermans to Achatz, and lampascioni to lasagna, Mimi Sheraton has scoured the world—both cerebral and physical—to discover the most delicious and thoughtful comestibles. Her taste is intuitive, her curiosity insatiable,  and the breadth of her knowledge, research, and experience is encyclopedic. A perfect book for expert and neophyte, it’s the definitive roadmap to gustatory revelations, wherever you are." 
    Mario Batali, chef,  author, restaurateur, philanthropist

    “If you love food, this is a book to read before you die! Mimi Sheraton’s knowledge of the world’s foods is legendary, as is the sharpness of her opinions. On nearly every page of 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die I’ve learned something new or honed my own judgment on hers. And with its links to sources and resources all over the world, I'll be dining in and out on it for years to come.”
    Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen and Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Food and Recipes
    “There is no one more authoritative than Mimi Sheraton to help you discover 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die. And that’s because she has actually eaten each and every one of them with gusto, and with one of the world’s most discerning and educated palates. This book may just become my go-to source for new menu ideas at our restaurants!”
    Danny Meyer, restaurateur and author of Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business
    “Informative, evocative, and entertaining. It’s a pleasure to check off the foods you’ve eaten and to plan to try the ones you haven’t yet enjoyed.”
    Marcus Samuelsson, cookbook author, chef, owner of Red Rooster Harlem
    “Few people in the world have the experience that Mimi Sheraton brings to the subject of food.  I’ll be spending the rest of my days knocking off dish by dish in 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die.
    Bobby Flay, chef, restaurateur
     “We are forever grateful to the incomparable Mimi Sheraton for her knowledge and certainty as a journalist and critic.”
    Thomas Keller, chef/proprietor of The French Laundry
    “I’m in awe of Mimi’s ability to compile such a beautiful and insightful book, again proving why she is one of the most important food writers of our time. This book is a gift to all food lovers, a thorough, delicious guide on the best dishes and ingredients around the globe.”
    Daniel Humm, chef/owner, Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad
    “Who else would you trust on topics ranging from English jellied eel to hokey pokey ice cream from New Zealand and everything in between? Only the well seasoned Mimi Sheraton.”
    Grant Achatz, chef/co-owner Alinea, Next, the Aviary
    “Mimi Sheraton has always reminded us that eating is an activity as much of the imagination as of the palate and the tongue. In 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die, she reaps the rich harvest of her prodigious gifts of endless curiosity, lightly worn knowledge, and elegance of style. She has provided us with a feast to be tasted and savored with the greatest pleasure.”
    Mary Gordon, author of The Liar’s Wife and Final Payments
    “Gargantuan in its appetite and encyclopedic in its scope, this is the most comprehensive book ever written on the great foods of the world.  The book every food writer dreams of writing. A tour de force.”
    Steven Raichlen, author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbooks and host of Primal Grill
    “Mimi Sheraton has written the definitive international guide for food lovers. Each page is filled with culinary treasures and surprises, presented in an engaging and entertaining manner. Reading and dining pleasure awaits you!”
    Drew Nieporent, restaurateur, Tribeca Grill, Nobu, Bâtard
    "This book reads like a map to many of the great food experiences the world has to offer. A valuable addition to any food library.”
    Eric Ripert, chef, Le Bernardin, author Avec Eric: A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert

    "To this non-foodie, 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die was a revelation—perhaps the most useful travel guide on my shelf. I'm heading to Marrakesh for tagine right now."
    Andrew McCarthy, travel writer, actor, director

    "Mimi Sheraton is a national treasure. Her knowledge of food can't be beat—if anyone knows the 1,000 foods of a lifetime, it's Mimi."
    Daniel Boulud, chef, Restaurant Daniel, New York City

    “An epic to-do list, compiled over a lifetime of eating and traveling.”

On Sale
Jan 13, 2015
Page Count
1008 pages

Mimi Sheraton

About the Author

Mimi Sheraton is a journalist, restaurant critic, lecturer, IACP and James Beard Award–winning cookbook author, and the woman about whom famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten declared: “Her knowledge knows no bounds, her glossary of flavors is ultimate. Her opinion is like gold.” The former restaurant critic of The New York Times, she’s also written for The New Yorker, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Food & Wine, Smithsonian, and more. In April 2016, the Culinary Institute of America honored her as a Legend of New York Dining. Ms. Sheraton lives in New York City.

Learn more about this author