I am not a foodie, I don t watch cooking shows and only rarely read Vogue I had no idea who Jeffrey Steingarten was when this book was loaned to me The title and the recommendation from a friend were enough to convince me to give it a shot, though I had little idea what I was in for Steingarten is many things witty, clever, simultaneously pompous and self deprecating, obsessive and thorough Above all he is interested, which is what kept me interested He s curious about the way foods are made and how to make or find the very best of a certain thing, how and why we consume certain things and what that says about us And he apparently has unlimited time and resources to carry out his impulsive research and experiments, which is both amusing and somewhat irritating He writes about a French fad diet, his pursuit of the perfect fill in the blank bread, ketchup, pie crust , microwaving fish and trying to live on a welfare diet one of my favorite essays Some sections drag when he gets bogged down in the scientific details of a recipe or technique although I suspect these may be fascinating to other readers and by the time I got three quarters of the way through the book, I began to find him a bit tiresome But overall, the essays are engaging and informative and often full of hilarious little gems, like his description of a Delta in flight meal and his wife s reactions to the experiments he conducts in their apartment I don t recommend plowing through the book at once, cover to cover, but each essay is a fun and educational read on its own. Steingarten s compilation of essays on a wide variety of food related subjects written in the late 80s and 90s seems like it might be an interesting read for someone who likes food and cooking HOWEVER, the man s ego astronomical, of untold proportions, seriously it can be seen from three planets over is a bit of a turn off Its fun to read about someone experimenting with the many ways you can use a particular kitchen appliance or how best to prepare a particular cut of meat, but in all the book was a struggle to get through Add to that the fact that some of the essays are dated, especially the ones about nutrition do you know how much has changed in the debate about weight loss, chocolate, butter, and red wine since this was published in the mid 90s and it was a bit of a disappointment. Jeffrey Steingarten Is To Food Writing What Bill Bryson Is To Travel Writing Whether He Is Hymning The Joys Of The Perfect Chip, Discussing The Taste Of Beef Produced From Japanese Cows Which Are Massaged Daily And Fed On Sake, Or Telling Us The Scientific Reasons Why Salad Is A Silent Killer , His Humour And His Love Of Good Food Never Fail The Questions He Asks Like Why Aren T The French Dropping Like Flies Will Challenge Everything You Assume You Know About What You Eat, Yet His Characteristic Wit Imparts Masses Of Revelatory Information In The Most Palatable Of Ways A Must For Everyone Who S Ever Enjoyed A Meal This Book Contains Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Food, But Were Too Hungry To Ask Probably not going to finish this one I am not going to make it to book club, and, frankly, I don t like the book, or the author He can be witty and smart enough at times, and I liked it for a while, and maybe it s just the bar study grumpiness talking, but I really resent that large chunks of this read like a dieting memoir, and that if it were written by a woman it would not be considered some kind of clever high mindedness, but rather just some woman ranting about weighing herself four times a day Why do I want to read about him weighing himself four times a day and buying multiple scales and whether the crazy diets work I do not Incidentally, it all feels incredibly dated, as conventional wisdom about nutrition has most certainly moved on from where it was when he was patting himself on the back for being sooooooo much smarter than those dumb professional nutritionists I mean, they didn t even go to Harvard Law School, you know Hmph Okay, maybe it is indeed the bar grumpiness But also he apparently just wrote a somewhat skeevy and totally fawning article about Gwyneth Paltrow that contributes to my finding him pretty annoying I don t even know. Or nearly everything, since it seems unlikely that anybody who had ever had a good nolen gurer shondesh would so summarily dismiss all Indian desserts as being reminiscent of highly perfumed creams fit only for the boudoir But yes, Jeffrey Steingarten, once the monthly food correspondent for Vogue, does seem to have pretty much eaten the best and the worst of most of the highly acclaimed cuisines, at least as far as the Western world is concerned In this interesting and very eclectic collection of essays on food, Steingarten discusses just about everything related to food, from the sad decline of French haute cuisine to the best way to make everything from French fries to American pies specifically, fruit pies to the perfect mashed potatoes He takes his readers to far flung places, he shares interesting information for example, did you know that saliva is salty Or that zabaglione was invented as a result of a mistake in 17th century Turin, and was named for San Giovanni Baylon, the patron saint of pastry I didn t even know pastry had a patron saint Or that in Sicily home to the best granitas in the world granitas are often eaten with cream and a brioche He goes into the science of food Of what makes the best pastry and why Of how to pick the best fruit from the markets, and why some fruit tastes just as good if it s been artificially ripened as it would if ripened on the plant, while others are awful if picked raw and ripened in transit or storage He takes you, along with him, on journeys of culinary exploration, from Tunisia to Venice, from a pork barbecue competition in Memphis to the hunt for the finest tartufi bianchi d Alba white truffles from Alba in Italy He painstakingly describes a very refined kaiseki ryori meal, the finest of fine dining in Japan, and just as painstakingly goes about replicating dishes from recipes off the backs of cartons He discusses the French Paradox that the French, despite consuming the vast quantities of cream, butter and cheese they do, still come only behind the Japanese when it comes to cardiac health He discusses fats and fads, diets and equipment, and well, just about everything related to food The Man Who Ate Everything is informative, and in a chatty, easy to read way Steingarten is funny, like when he talks self deprecatingly about his attempts to make the perfect pie crust or the perfect pasta with the eggs sliding happily into an open drawer of silverware , and is an obviously dedicated foodieWhenever I travel to France, I like to hit the ground eating The bulk of this book consists of essays written before 1995, so you do get some sections that are outdated for instance, very few food writers would think it necessary today to explain what umami means and fewer would actually write that our taste buds can only sense sweet, sour, salty and bitter There are also a few questionable assertionsThe sale of chickpeas is illegal in many states in India, where they would otherwise completely dominate the diet of the poor, who make chapati out of chickpea flour, which is ground from raw chickpeas. , and occasional sections which go on and on the dictionary of Venetian seafood, for instance And the long and detailed section on pheromones, while interesting, actually ends up having very little to do with food or at least the way Steingarten explains it On the whole, though, a book well worth the read if you happen to find food interesting. He is an excellent writer with a sharp sense of humor and a great palette My favorite part is when he forces himself to eat all the foods that he grew up hating to get over his aversions He comes across as much like able on paper than during his live appearances on Iron Chef Steingarten married a Utah girl from an LDS family and he delights is weaving Utah into his food articles for Vogue magazine It made me smile to read the later chapters which salute the home cook and house wife and the wisdom of some cooking traditions over science and fads Usually science corroborates the traditional cooking methods once he digs deeperbut so many food fads have snuck into our brains that we treat them as fact He s a nut for research and experimentation And I love nuts I m hungry already An I d say that this deserves a 3.5 star rating, but I really like food writing Some of these essays, particularly the introduction, were really fabulous Rather of them I wish I d skipped I read through the entire thing cover to cover, though I didn t cook any of the recipes I picked it up looking for something that I could read on my morning train, so I enjoyed the format. This book represents to me a lost way of life It s a life in which I would read books like this, slowly, with particular pleasure, laughing out loud at regular intervals Afterwards, I would have time to write about them all, and share some of my pleasure I almost did this today but that s because I am on holiday The Man Who Ate Everything is a book of essays, and really each one should be savoured at length No rushing Gentle but steady progress is the thing I am at an age where I no longer need to read the recipes which shortens the book by about ten per cent because I have no intention of attempting to make them It s enough to read about Jeffrey Steingarten s noble culinary inventiveness, the people he meets, the morsels he tastes, the trips in taxis to find ingredients, the joyous errors, the fabulous achievements, the wonderful life of a professional food writer.Good cookery books tend to make me salivate, which I imagine is a good sign Sometimes I have to resort to a savoury snack because the whole business of FOOD starts to get too much for me But here, if I resisted the early instinct to eat, I found there there was a counter effect By the end of most of the essays, I felt pretty full In fact, once or twice, I felt slightly queasy as though I had eaten too much granita or one Piedmont truffle too many The best bit though is the style He writes so well It s vivid, sensuous, and the humour is dry and cumulative I thought it funny to start with but even by the very last chapter, I forced my partner to listen to me reading aloud an extract from Big Bird , which is about cooking turkey It was the part about getting the perfect turkey skin, using in this case a new electric Farberware Standard Smokeless Indoor Grill with Rotisserie My partner did not laugh, but I laughed all over again while reading it to him I think my taste for humorous writing is better developed than his, though in brief quotation or briefly reading aloud one can t recreate the way the serious description of product and process gradually builds towards a high point Here is the sample he resisted The Faberware booklet envisions cooking a turkey weighing up to seventeen pounds, and that is the size I tried, with the bird unstuffed and tightly trussed and a roasting time of five hours Less than one of the five hours had passed when the turkey s wing slipped from under the string and caught on the electric coil, preventing the bird from turning further Thus fixed, the turkey began to brown rapidly and then to blacken along a stripe from neck to tail the string holding the legs against the body burned through, and both legs plunged into the glowing coils It was the stench of charring flesh and the billows of smoke that attracted my attention and drew me back into the kitchen, where for the next hour I struggled with seventeen pounds of hot, greasy flesh and protruding bones as I retied and rebalanced the bird, and plugged the Farberware back into the wall socket When I returned half an hour later, very little progress was visible because I had, in actual fact, plugged in the blender, whose cord eerily resembled that of the Farberware I don t want to give the impression that the book is one big laugh Lots of it is in the tradition of the best cookery writers recreating atmosphere, character, ingredients and the search for regional food I grew up on Elizabeth David and MFK Fisher I predict that this book, though it has taken me nearly twenty years to read, and some of the references to food research are probably now out of date, will wear well And I love the way the author s wife walks in and out of the pages Wives are extremely useful when you want to be amusing So much so that I almost wish I had one, instead of the male partner who didn t even find this funny, though I continue to believe you would Said partner is still waiting for dinner to appear, while the dinner maker has been reading a food book instead But I m going to leave you with the author s wife s last word Jeffrey Steingarten has just spent the best part of fourteen pages exploring how to make the perfect potato fries or as we in the UK call them, chips On page 345, yet another possibility occurs I have just learned that Alain Dutournier, the excellent Parisian chef from southwest France, cooks his French fries in goose fat He uses an unusual combination of temperatures after a first low temperature frying, you wait two hours, start the second frying at 280 degrees Fahrenheit, and slowly increase the temperature to 392 degrees The idea is intriguing, and I would like to try it immediately But my wife has just passed through the kitchen and slipped into bed, leaving me alone, surrounded by four white bubbling hot electric deep fryers and piles of unpeeled Idaho potatoes Smile and the world smiles with you, she said as she disappeared Fry and you fry alone. The entire time I was growing up, my feminist lawyer mother had a subscription to Vogue I can t completely explain it myself, but woman does love her shoes Anyway, I spent elementary school reading Steingarten articles for the mag, where he is still the food columnist My conclusion for this book is that he is probably best in small doses Like, monthly doses But, if you ve never read any of his stuff before, I d check this out in one essay at a time stints Steingarten is obviously brilliant like, went to Harvard Law brilliant, got an order of French merit for his writing on French cuisine brilliant , and very funny particularly when reporting on his wife s reactions to his crazy food experiments when his quest for the perfect french fry left their NYC loft full of 100 pounds of potatoes and three deep fryers, she muttered while walking past his mess, Smile and the world smiles with you Fry and you fry alone And I think he s at his best when he convincingly argues that pretty much every dietitian and nutritionist ever wants to suck all the fun out of eating he is side splitting when talking about the toxic potential of salads , and champions instead for everything in moderation and that pleasure in the preparation and consumption of food is a critical part of true health I think it s just that over a 300 page span, each individual essay gets lost, and the cleverness, which is definitely there in each stand alone essay, starts to seem twee from over crowding If I could do it again, I d use the index to make this the funniest reference book I ve ever read or hope to read about food. Since I m into cooking and, to a lesser extent, food writing, this book had been recommended to me several times over the last few years I finally borrowed it from a friend at work and must say that it didn t really live up to my expectations It s an interesting, engaging, often funny book, probably essential for the gourmand, but if you have a mere passing interest in gourmet and exotic food, you d probably do well to skip it and read something by Mark Kurlansky instead.I suppose my biggest complaint about the book is that Steingarten often takes the most impossible or impractical route to cooking something For instance, in search of the perfect water, he has Vogue pick up the check for his water tab and orders hundreds of varieties of bottled water before finally visiting the store where they are sold Or when he bakes bread, he flies off to Paris to visit his friend for some pointers, then to another friend s place Stateside who owns a ridiculously expensive and rare oven The humor is that of a high society Manhattanite with an unlimited budget, kind of irritating at times I guess I m just not the intended audience for this type of book.
Jeffrey Steingarten is an American lawyer and culinary critic columnist He is a regular columnist for Vogue magazine He has also written for Slate His 1997 book of food related essays, The Man Who Ate Everything, is a Julia Child Book Award winner and was also a James Beard Book Award finalist In 2002, Steingarten published a second collection of essays entitled It Must ve Been Something I Ate
- The Man Who Ate Everything
- Jeffrey Steingarten
- 26 October 2018 Jeffrey Steingarten