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

The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand

 

by Jim Harrison
Grove Press, 2002
288 pages
ISBN: 978-0802139375

Review by James Miranda

As a kid, I was obsessed with Roald Dahl's (dare I say?) masterpiece of a children's book, Danny, The Champion of the World. Part of this infatuation may have been the sad romance of a boy and his father living alone in an old gypsy vardo somewhere in the English countryside—a two-person family in desperate need of maternal touch whose daily regiment consisted of fixing old cars and poaching fat pheasants from the estate of a vile and unpredictable landlord. This sounds like something that would have attracted a pre-adolescent me. But in retrospect, when I consider my eclectic and at times regrettable eating habits—habits that started at a young age—it may very well have been the promise of raisin-stuffed pheasant that I found so attractive: the meal of crispy-skinned game bird cooked in its own bone-simmered stock that made all that risky poaching worthwhile.

This may also explain the latter-day, gastro-literary hero that I found in Jim Harrison. In the age of molecular gastronomy and celebrity chefs, local food movements and the chic city stylings of comfort-food bistros, we would do well to revisit an early master of the literary food craze, a man with a flare for the bacchanalian, and the iron gut and Epicurean wit to back it up. Though Harrison has penned a dozen novels, another dozen novellas ("Legends of the Fall" being perhaps the most well-known), seventeen collections of poetry, three works of nonfiction, a children's book, numerous screenplays, as well as articles and essays which have appeared in newspapers and magazines around the globe; it is to the larger-than-life personality and appetite found in his food-writing that I find myself drawn again and again. The bulk of this writing can be found in his collection The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand. Equal parts cookbook, correspondence, travelogue, memoir, ecological/political musing, and overall shrine to excess; The Raw and the Cooked is a testament to the ways in which food (and drink) can fuel a writer's life, both literally and figuratively.

It's hard not to take an immediate liking to a man who, in an article for The New Yorker, once wrote: "If I were given the dreary six months to live, I'd head at once to Lyons and make my way from bistro to bistro in a big stroller pushed by a vegetarian." What we find in The Raw and the Cooked is a cavalier Harrison who never flags in his reverence for what sustains and spoils us. Harrison's recurring mantra, "Eat or Die," serves as both his black-and-white summation of the human condition and a challenge to the reader—a pithy, swashbuckling koan of the kind that might make for epic nights if not bleary-eyed next mornings. In this challenge, Harrison comes fully prepared, his freezer inventory a testament to his quest for a life well-lived:

local barnyard capons; the latest shipment of prime veal from Summerfield Farms, which includes sweetbreads, shanks for osso bucco, liver, chops, kidneys; and a little seafood from Charles Morgan in Destin, Florida—triggerfish, a few small red snapper, conch for chowder and fritters. There are also two shelves of favorites—rabbit, grouse, woodcock, snipe, venison, dove, chukar, duck, quail—and containers of fish fumet, various glacés and stocks, including one made from sixteen woodcock that deserves its own armed guard. I also traded my alfalfa crop for a wild steer, which is stored at my secretary's home due to lack of space.

Granted, no pheasant, but maybe it was just a slow season that year. These mouth-watering inventories come full-bore in a collection that chronicles thirty-course meals and mythic bouts of wining and dining.

But perhaps what is most compelling about Harrison's writing in The Raw and the Cooked, what legitimizes a revisit nearly a decade after it was first made available in paperback, is his acute awareness of how food, and all its attendant metaphors, shape our day-to-day perception of human existence. There are writers of late who can't help but dapple in this inviting trope (I think most recently of Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter or Bill Buford's Heat), but nowhere is this notion charged with the urgency that Harrison lends it. Thus lines like "Where have all the thighs gone? Where are the thighs of yesteryear?" in a tongue-in-cheek section lamenting the disappearance of the thigh (be it turkey, duck, or chicken) as a stand-alone entrée in restaurants, takes on a rueful, meditative quality, existential in scope. Or consider the following:

Lord Death is a real big eater. In dimmish moments when I think I will not be here with you always, it occurs to me you will not always be here with yourself. Simple as that.

Like many of the celebrity chef best-sellers churned out these days, there are star appearances, scandalous debacles, exotic locales, and the like in The Raw and the Cooked; but there is also, behind it all, a thoughtful and philosophical man who has spent a lifetime refining his craft and expanding his culinary knowledge of the world, a man who considers himself an adventurer and explorer "in the ordinary activity of what we do every day: eat and drink." It's well worth taking the time to see where those adventures have led him.

November 2012