Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

Cooked
by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide


Reviews


REVIEW by Jason Bell

Best Food Writing 2009
Edited by Holly Hughes
Da Capo Lifelong Books, November 2009
Paperback 368 pp., ISBN: 9780738213699

Nothing is more right than a barbecued rib barbecued right.

Sitting cross-legged in the grass, I watched the Weber barbecue grill silently smoke. Before I left home for the first time, moving away from the Midwest and my family, I intended to engorge myself on a meal supposedly extinct in New York City: a slab of St. Louis style ribs. Rippling with sauce, gelatin, and sweet sweat, a barbecued rib, I believed, would beat any celebrity chef’s creation. And as I ripped my teeth right up next to the bone, I suddenly realized that this moment, this rib, this home, would reside only in my memory.

By its very nature, food exists in a transitory state, only appearing briefly on the plate before disappearing at the hands of some ravenous diner. Even those dishes that require time’s transforming power to reach perfection, like country cured ham or raw cheese, exist entirely on the conditional whims of time. At the end of a decade, Best Food Writing 2009 speaks with a melancholy sense of loss, one based in a movement away from a glorified past towards a more sad, more homogenized future. In this collection of essays, Holly Hughes has assembled an overall narrative that describes a beautiful era of innovation and tradition that, like my rib, seems increasingly demoted to mere memory.

Divided into seven sections, Best Food Writing 2009 reflects larger trends in the world of culinary journalism over the past year; more than ever, food writers appear fixated on examining the histories of particular ingredients, illustrated in sections such as “Stocking The Pantry” and “The Meat Of The Matter.” From Tamasin Day-Lewis’s essay “Summer’s End” to Jason Sheehan’s piece “The Last of the Great $10 Steaks,” these foodstuff-centric articles reject romantic hopefulness. Instead, Day-Lewis chooses to highlight a late summer harvest bounty, symbolic of dying local foodways and farms. Similarly, Sheehan waxes nostalgic for a more perfect past, describing how customers frequent the Columbine Steak House because they “remember when most restaurants were like this one, before everyone started putting wasabi or truffles or lemongrass in everything.” While slow food and sustainable agriculture make appearances, sentimentalism overshadows optimism.

This profound sense of memory extends to the multitude of articles considering regional food cultures. For example, Ruth Reichl writes in “The Last Time I Saw Paris” of “a sudden yearning for a longtime favorite” restaurant and her rediscovery of “the Paris [she] once knew.” Josh Ozersky describes how “it seemed to us then that Atlantic City could never change,” lamenting the “dozens of towering casinos and sleek restaurants” in his work “Eternal City.” Francis Lam revists “a place in [his] memory, a Hong Kong that was, for a boy from the New Jersey suburbs, a pinball machine of noises, colors, and flavors” in “Getting to Know Him.” Profoundly longing, wistful, but never schmaltzy, these essays memorialize and protect a dying gastronomic world.

Although Best Food Writing 2009 seems dangerously mired in recollection, the writing never devolves into outright negativity. The essays emphasize the emotional potency of food, reveling in those culinary treasures that stay hidden—and perhaps preserved—from the mainstream American gaze. As a result, the true importance of food and food writing appears evident: to capture transitory moments, like one last bite of barbecue, before they fade forever.




February 18, 2010