For the food obsessed or those who just like good old-fashioned stellar writing, this Tuesday’s Treat is Jeffrey Steingarten’s The Man Who Ate Everything. This book garnered the Julia Child Book Award, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a James Beard Book Award Finalist. It’s also just plain fun.
These days Jeffrey Steingarten is best known for his stints as a judge on the Next Iron Chef and his frequent guest judging on Iron Chef and Chopped (he’s the one who always wears a blazer and glasses and thinks pretty much anything is better with bacon – I love this about him). Before all the Food Network business, however, Steingarten was just a lawyer – and Harvard Law grad – who managed to get appointed food critic for Vogue in 1989. As his introduction explains, this new appointment made him rethink his food aversions and set out to overcome them. For anyone who has food aversions or knows someone who does (my husband comes immediately to mind), the introduction alone is a must read as it goes through Steingarten’s own food phobias, the science that reveals that all food aversions are learned, and how Steingarten came to love kimchi and other foods he formerly avoided.
The Man Who Ate Everything is a collection of essays about Steingarten’s forays into the food world. Told with enthusiasm, curiosity and a sharp wit, his essays take the reader through such experiences as his obsessive attempts to make the perfect bread starter (the chef), the french paradox, the search for the perfect ketchup, being a vegetarian (temporarily of course), Le Regime Montignac (a diet popular in the 90s), and more. His stories are all interesting, informative, and often made me laugh out loud.
One of my favorite passages is in his essay on subsistence dining (aptly titled “Staying Alive”), in a handy sidebar entitled “How We Live Today” that takes current statistics and projects them 25 years into the future. Doing so, Steingarten reveals that “by the year 2050 the average family size will have decreased to about one person. Everyone in America will be living alone. . . .All women older than eighteen will be working outside the home . . . All women will be older than eighteen. The inevitable conclusion is that by the year 2050, everybody will order take-out food at every meal . . . Searching it out will become your full-time occupation in the year 2050, more than cooking ever was. Americans will once again become a lonely race of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers prowling the darkened city streets, wallets honed and sharpened, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting pint of pasta primavera and snare the slow-footed slice of pate de campagne.”
Storyteller or psychic? No matter what you decide, get yourself to a bookstore or your local library and grab a hold of The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten. Let me know your favorite essay and if Steingarten tempts you into trying to conquer any of your own food phobias.