Alford was born in Laramie, Wyoming  and graduated from high school there in 1972. He earned a master's degree in creative writing at the University of Wyoming.  After leaving Wyoming, he lived in Ireland and traveled the world.
He met Duguid on a bike trip in Tibet in 1985, and they were married in early 1986. They had two sons, and lived in Toronto, Canada. The couple separated in 2009, and Alford now lives in a small village in Northern Thailand .
- Flatbreads and Flavors: A Culinary Atlas (ISBN 0-688-11411-3, 1995)
- Seductions of Rice (ISBN 1-57965-234-4, 1998)
- Hot Sour Salty Sweet (ISBN 1-57965-114-3, 2000)
- Home Baking: Sweet and Savory Traditions from Around the World (ISBN 1-57965-174-7, 2003)
- Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent (ISBN 1-57965-252-2, 2005)
- Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China (ISBN 1-57965-301-4, 2008)
- Kramer, Jane (24 November 2008). "Profiles: The Hungry Travellers". The New Yorker 84 (38): 100–106.