This work was at least 3,000 years in the making as essays about food make your mouth water, your appetite build, and your appreciation for the art and history of cuisine grow by leaps and bounds.Mark Kurlansky, food historian and writer for Food and Wine magazine, comments about and introduces historical thoughts on everything from scrambled eggs to roast ribs of beef, souffles, and every category of food you can imagine.Some of the contributors include: Aristotle, Julia Child, James Beard, Gertrude Stein, and other famous authors, and historians.This enticing look at food is entertaining, amusing and fun.Amazon.com Review
"Food is about agriculture, about ecology, about man's relationship with nature ... about nation-building, cultural struggles, friends and enemies ... and at times, even about sex." Thus Mark Kurlansky, author of the award-winning Cod and Salt, introduces Choice Cuts, his anthology of food writing throughout history. Kurlansky has cast his net very wide and presents a legion of food writers on every possible culinary subject.
The usual suspects are here, sometimes in triplicate: Brilliat Savarin on gourmets, female food-love, and how to gain weight; M.F.K. Fisher on bachelor cooking, the dislike of cabbage, and dinner at France's famed Monsieur Paul's in the 1940s; Elizabeth David on the folly of the garlic press, the glories of toast, and English pizza. But Kurlansky's trail starts much earlier with Plato on cooking (food as a branch of medicine, a notion shared by many modern advertisers), Heroditus on Egyptian dining, and, resoundingly, Mencius, a student of Confucius who, in the third century B.C., implored Chinese leaders to observe saner food and environmental policies.
There is a great deal to digest here, but readers can take small bites at their leisure. Enjoyed in this way, the book provides an endlessly fascinating glimpse of humankind's second--or is it the first?--greatest pleasure. --Arthur Boehm ... Read more
Customer Reviews (11)
Essays on Food
This collection of essays is a must-read for anyone who loves food and loves reading about food.
A Bedside Stack
I like to have a small stack of books on my nightstand that I can just pick up and read before sleep that have nothing whatsoever to do with my current daytime/evening reading. The best candidates for that small stack are poetry, short stories and essays and so I have been happy to have Mark Kurlansky's "Choice Cuts" around for that style of casual, drifting away reading. I know from Kurlansky's "Cod" and "Salt" that he's a real bloodhound researcher so I imagine he comes across all kinds of material that catches his attention but doesn't suit his purpose at hand.The book has interesting Contents pages but I rarely use them, I just open the book at random and see where it takes me; it's all interesting to me. For instance Von Rumohr's, "Emotions to be Avoided While Eating" (p.126), Hooker, "On Icelandic Food"(p.67), ALL of Marjorie Rawlings, James Beard on "Radishes" (p.161) and many more delight me.In fact the whole book sooner or later.There are so many books with so many different purposes and uses.This one is just a little buddy to have around to amuse, to entertain and to delight, to accompany me into dreams.Then all of a sudden, too late at night, I'm stirring up a batch of Marjorie Rawlings, "Hush Puppies" (p. 255) to eat with blackberry jam and "Hot Chocolate", James Beard (p.341).
Do yourself a favor and leave this one alone
I only have three words for this bit of tripe Boring,Boring,Boring.
An uneven collection of bathroom reading for foodies
If I were Kurlansky's publisher, I would have liked his book pitch, too: pull together several short essays of food writing into a single book. Kurlansky is an excellent author -- I've read a few of his other books and liked 'em quite well -- but this one doesn't quite make it.
When an essay works, it's a great sampler for the author's work -- which may not be a "foodie" writer. You'd expect to find Lucullus, but not Herodotus (Kurlansky includes a page from The Persian Wars, fifth century BC, with Herodotus' comments on Egyptian dining). I've read _of_ AJ Liebling more than I've read him, but I loved the four pages reproduced here about dining with his parents at Restaurant Maillabuau in Paris, followed immediately by MFK Fisher on Monsieur Paul's.
The book has thirty chapters which group the material by topic: ethnicity, such as The Americans, or food items, such as the Mystery of Eggs. A section on seasoning includes Pliny the Elder on Thyme, the Talmud on Garlic, Platina on Basil and Saffron, Karl Friedrich von Rumohr on Sorrel, and The Aobo Tu on Salt Making.
On the positive side, each of the essays is very short. Most are 2-3 pages, and few are more than 5, making them suitable to enjoy in the john (and I do mean that in a nice way). That's also a negative, however, because by the time you've gotten into an essay (or poem or song lyrics -- Kurlansky mixes 'em up), and figured out whether this one is meant to be funny, or sensual, or instructive, or whatever... it's over. When something doesn't work for me -- and it could be a matter of mood -- I find that I flip forward until I find another essay that attracts. Perhaps that's a strength, too, because there's always something to get my interest. But mostly I'm aware of how much of the book I'm skipping.
The uneven nature of the collection makes it hard for me to recommend this book without reservation. I like it; I don't love it.
Entertaining Reading for Foodies
With Mark Kurlansky's reputation as one of the best food writers today, it was only a matter of time before a collection of some of his selections of good food writing came together."Choice Cuts" is entertaining reading, especially for those who are interested in the history of eating and food.There are few recipes in this book, but this collection is more of a book that you sit down with a cup of coffee or tea after you've finished the dishes.
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