So as you may have expected when you read the title of today’s post, I will be reviewing Jeffrey Steingarten’s The Man Who Ate Everything.
Did you also expect for me to love love love it?
Well, I did. I read this over the summer after scoring it uber cheap on Amazon, and wow do I wish I was Mr. Steingarten’s best friend. He would totally understand my need to constantly talk about food, and my self-deprecating sense of humor, since it’s also sort of his sense of humor as well.
I love this book for many reasons, but probably the most because it reminds me of blogging.
Now I know you may be scratching your head, wondering how on earth I plan on comparing this behemoth of a book to a blog, but I tell you it can and will be done.
So in case if you haven’t had time or the desire to read TMWAE before reading this post, let me give you a little background. This book is roughly 500 pages and jam packed full of wonderful anecdotes about Steingarten’s life and experiences with food, which are pretty intriguing since he became a food critic for Vogue (also, may I say, a job I would kill to have?). He first lets us all know his food phobias, which I find to be rather amusing, and makes him much more relatable to us everyday eaters.
True, he does say that he has food phobias is one of the most well-spoken ways I’ve ever heard, but that’s pretty much the whole schtick of the book. He’s a well learned guy, and he can write, and loves showing you that he can write. I can’t even judge him for that though, because if I wrote that well I’d probably love flaunting it a little as well.
“For I, like everybody I knew, suffered from a set of powerful, arbitrary, and debilitating attractions and aversions at mealtime.”
Some of his previous aversions include: kimchi, Greek Food, “anything featuring dill” and of course, “blue food.” He manages to get past many of these, and the rest of the book manages to cover every other genre of food possibly conceived. He truly is a man who has eaten “everything” and the book demonstrates that. Half a ton of pages, dedicated completely to stories about trying 33 different types of ketchup to see which one truly is the best, or going truffle hunting in Italy.
Also, how can one not be intrigued by a chapter that opens like so:
“For weeks I had been preoccupied with horses. Every time I saw a horse dragging tourists across the snow in Central Park, or standing under a policeman on the cobblestones of SoHo, I began to salivate. In truth, it was the fat of the horses, the fat around their kidneys, that excited me.”
Aren’t you dying to know why on earth Jeffrey Steingarten is craving horse fat? I bet you do. Read the book to find out! 😉
Now, how does this book remind me of a blog? It’s structure. The book is an amalgamation of dozens of previously published articles in Vogue, with a variety of different topics, all with a central focus of food. One can buy The Man Who Ate Everything and spread out the time for reading it across days, weeks, even months, and still enjoy it as much or as little as someone who reads it all from cover-to-cover.
But isn’t a food blog also an amalgamation of articles (posts) with a central focus of food? Articles that are written over a longer period of time, with a writing style both unique and idiosyncratic?
I thought so. When people talk at me about how “good writing” is disappearing because it’s all digital and informal etc. etc., I think to this book, which I love, precisely for all the reasons I love reading blogs. These pieces of food writing, on their own, are fabulous. Together in one binding, they are also fabulous. If they are all together, in an imaginary, digital binding on a blog, I see nothing wrong with that.
screenshot of 101cookbooks – just one example of great food writing in the digital realm
I just point this out as an example of how media has found previous ways to aggregate articles/information and we loved it in that way, and we could also love it in the way that blogging does. I wonder how the presence of an editor limited Jeffrey Steingarten, how perhaps he would have spoken more or less freely on certain subjects, or would it have changed his writing style entirely?
But I digress.
I give The Man Who Ate Everything 10 out of 10 – beautifully written, both deep and humorous at the same time, a must-read for any who wish to delve into the ever-growing genre of food literature and memoir.
I’ll be back on Wednesday with one of my first exciting cold-weather meals that will sure to be a family favorite, Guinness Stew.
See you then!
All Writing Copyright © 2012 Jessica Gonzalez | On Sugar Mountain