Tuesday, October 30, 2007

For Your Review

The number of books Sam buys on food, wine and cooking is more than you would believe is actually in print. Calvin Trillin? MFK Fisher? We got it. Need a cookbook on eggs (just eggs, no other ingredients)? Got my tea cup sitting on one right here. I would venture to say that food books outnumber fiction books in our house, 3 to 1.

Not being a foodie really (only by marriage), I occasionally find one of these books moderately entertaining-- still, it's pretty rare that I actually sit through an entire book about food without giving up. It can be done though: I thought Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires, for example, was fascinating.

In it, she describes the characters she embodied to go undercover as a restaurant critic for the New York Times. Her goal was to totally become someone else so she can she could go incognito to restaurants she was writing about without receiving special treatment. This process that took her months to develop included coming up with not only a costume, but often an entire persona . You think I'm into costumes? This woman once dressed up as her dead mom to review a restaurant. Seriously.

Unfortunately, they can't all be Ruth. It's hard to make food writing interesting to non-foodies I think. At best all you do is make me hungry, at worst, you can cure a two week bout of insomnia. Take for example, Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter
by Phoebe Damrosch.

Dear sweet Jesus what a boring book. It has a really promising idea behind it--she worked at Thomas Keller's New York Restaurant Per Se as a backserver then a captain, but then that's the last little bit I can tell you without yawning because somewhere in there she starts waxing on and on about how sexy she thinks the wine guy is and how her parents got divorced and how salmon cornets are hard to create and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz snorfle wha? Where was I?

Here's a tip: go to the bookstore, flip through to the back page of each chapter and read her little tips on how to behave like a good customer when fine dining. You will save yourself $24.95 and about 5 days of trying to read this without conking out after two minutes. All I'm saying is I was having trouble sleeping there for fourteen days and this book cured it.

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