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 Carrie Vasios

Born Round: A Story of Family, Food,
and a Ferocious Appetite

by Frank Bruni
Penguin reprint, June 2010
Paperback 368 pp., ISBN: 978-0143117674

Everything on the menu is so cheap, I reason, that it just makes sense to order the dumplings and the noodles. And their special is the basil tofu, which reheats so nicely over rice, that I’ll order one of those too, with the intention of saving all but a bite for lunch the next day. I phone in my order and then practically have to sit on my hands to stop myself from snacking until the food arrives. Finally the doorbell rings and the large brown paper bag is on my counter. Then, only because I don’t know which food is in which white paper carton, I open them all at once. Once the food is staring me in the face, it’s impossible not to jump back and forth between all four cartons (dumplings, noodles, tofu, rice), mixing flavors, slurping noodles, taking dumplings to where they’ve never been before.

The leftovers hardly qualify as lunch.

This sort of out of body experience, the one where you finally stop eating because you realize that you’re actually short of breath, is only too familiar to Frank Bruni, a journalist most famous for his tenure as chief food critic for the New York Times. His memoir, Born Round: The Secret History of a Full Time Eater, actually spends little time discussing this particular job (though the pages are justly proportional to his life; he was only the NYT food critic from 2004-2009.) I’ll admit that I picked up Born Round in order to hear the secrets of that mysterious man or woman who can make or break a restaurant in one of the best restaurant cities in the world. Bruni does indulge his readers’ interest, taking us in the final chapters on a little Behind the Scenes Making of a New York Times Restaurant Review type adventure. The real story in this book, however, is not of Frank Bruni, restaurant critic, but of Frank Bruni, over-eater.

But don’t dismiss Born Round as another story of "the fat kid," because Bruni’s journey through life with food is anything but cliché. As a toddler, baby Bruni would eat until he threw up, and then cry until he was allowed to eat some more. As a teenager, he often came home from dinner and clandestinely cooked up three hamburgers on the grill in his garage, eating them rare as a "matter not of taste but of haste." Even readers who have overindulged more than once at the Thanksgiving table or eaten an entire pizza after a night of drinking will stand in awe of how much food Bruni was able to pack away.

Not surprisingly, Bruni was often overweight and hyperaware of this fact. He describes his debilitating self-consciousness and shame in a way that is honest and sometimes heart-breaking. He was the "fat kid." Then he was bulimic. He wore nothing but stretched out corduroys and large t-shirts to hide his love handles. He canceled dates because he was afraid that he had gained weight since the initial invitation. We see him get caught in such a spiral of over-eating and self-loathing that by the time he’s driving to Tijuana to buy the Mexican speed he uses as a weight loss pill, you’re begging him to stop the madness.

But it’s not all bad. His family, headed by his Italian grandmother, understands the joys of food. There are bowls of sauce-covered, thumb-molded strascinat (a pasta similar to orecchiette), and platters piled high with balls of fried dough ready to be dragged through an adjacent pile of sugar. His mother makes him snacks of hotdogs wrapped in bacon, light-as-air manicotti, even homemade egg McMuffins. Frankly, when reading about the glories of the Bruni table it’s hard to imagine growing up there and not becoming a bit overweight.

It’s also evident that his background in food, and more precisely all that delicious food made by loving family members, gave him the skills he would need to get that coveted job at the New York Times, to experience life as the bottom line in New York restaurants. His life wasn’t always as enviable as I had imagined, but Bruni’s way with words truly makes reading about his life in food as rich as his mother’s lasagna. And if he wants to write a follow up, I’ll definitely have a second helping.


October 8, 2010