“The Man Who Ate Everything” by Jeffrey Steingarten. In the words of the New Yorker is “so well prepared, so expertly seasoned, so full of flavorsome surprises that if it were a meal, even Mr. Steingarten would have difficulty finding fault with it….it is a book worth celebrating” – and I agree!
Mr. Steingarten, who has been a food critic for VOGUE Magazine since 1989, is, in my words – a hoot! I have often laughed out loud, whether reading alone or with someone else in the room, in which case I usually have to read aloud, to share.
“the Man Who Ate Everything” was the 1997 winner of the Julia Child book award and a finalist, also in 1997, of the James Beard Book Award.
Mr.Steingarden trained to be a food writer at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the HARVARD LAMPOON. For over eight years has been a food critic of Vogue Magazine.
When I leafed through THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING, my attention was riveted to a chapter called The Smith Family Cookbook….I thought “wait a minute—I’ve read this before….somewhere else” and of course I had. It was a chapter included in a charming little book called “Favorite Cookbooks” by Moira Hodgson for whom I wrote about in the CCE (Cookbook Collectors Exchange) some years ago, earning myself a few new fruitcake penpals along the way.
Mr. Steingarten’s book is a collection of essays, not a cookbook (although you may find a few recipes interspersed throughout the book, as when he writes about his challenge to find the perfect pie crust). The author writes with great humor while providing food for thought. (*I could have told him, there isn’t a perfect pie crust and saved him all the work)
If you are the kind of cookbook person who often wonders how something in the culinary world came about, this is the book for you.
“When Jeffrey Steingarten was appointed food critic for Vogue, observe the publishers, Vintage Books, which is a division of Random House, “he systematically set out to overcome his distaste for such things as kimchi, lard, Greek cuisine, and blue food. He succeeded at all but the last: Steingarten is ‘fairly sure that God meant the color blue mainly for food that has gone bad’. Steingarten devotes the same Zen-like discipline and gluttonous curiosity to practically everything that anyone anywhere has ever called “dinner.” As I tend to agree with Mr. Steingarten’s gut feeling about blue food, with perhaps the exception of blueberries, I felt I had met up with a kindred spirit.
Take, for example, his essay called “PRIMAL BREAD”. “The world is divided” explains the author “Into two camps: those who can live happily on bread alone and those who also need vegetables, meat and dairy products…bread is the only food I know what satisfied completely all by itself. It comforts the body, charms the senses, gratifies the soul and excites the mind. A little butter also helps…”
What follows is a day by day account of Mr. Steingarten’s pilgrimage to make the perfect loaf of bread.
Introducing a chapter called “Playing Ketchup”, the author writes “When rumor recently reached my ears that U.S. sales of salsa would soon eclipse those of ketchup, catsup and catchup (these words all mean the same thing) he rushed down to his local supermarket, planting himself in the ketchup department and stood a lonely vigil as though my presence alone could stanch the tide of chunky piquant salsa that menaced from the opposite of aisle 5…”
Jeffrey Steingarten is a funny man although sometimes so droll that you aren’t sure whether he is being amusing or sarcastic. I laugh anyway.
All of you cookbook collectors who love to curl up at night with a good cookbook, “THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING is a delightful diversion from strictly reading recipes (although the ones included in this book are treasures!)
Additionally, this is the kind of book you can carry around with you going to the doctor or the dentist or waiting for kids to get out of school.
Although printed some time ago, THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING can be found on Amazon.com with a wide variety of copies, both new and pre-owned, starting around $3 or $4.
Review by Sandra Lee Smith@sandychatter