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Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History Paperback – October 26, 2004
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I've consumed about half of this collection, and find some very sumptuous cuts, including a most delightful work by Escoffier on the Art of Cooking in Modern Society as well as John Ash's lovely story on lunch with M.F.K. Fisher.
This is diminished by repeated bland works. Thus, unless one is willing to sort and read, this book becomes tedious and makes the price and effort less palatable except for the most interested.
Several reviewers have complained about the lack of diversity and the Euro-centric selection of writings. I disagree. I feel that this book represents an accurate cross-section of world-wide food writing. Sure, it contains a lot of writing about French food, but then who has written more about food than the French? One of the prerequisites of writing about food is to have some, lest you will not know what you are writing about. And the massive abundance and variety of food that the French have access to and have mastered the preparation of, lends to them a certain exclusivity regarding the matter. This book was by no means meant to contain every tidbit ever written about food in the history of the world. One will be much more pleased with it if it is viewed as an introduction to many notable and worthwhile food writers, from which one may seek out the other scribblings of these authors.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This collection of essays is a must-read for anyone who loves food and loves reading about food.Published on May 8, 2007 by Silvia Bridger
I only have three words for this bit of tripe Boring,Boring,Boring.Published on January 22, 2007 by Richard T. Jenkins
I second the notions of the other reviewers who feel this collection sits heavy on the stomach of the mind (so to speak). Read morePublished on May 15, 2003 by Infovoyeur
For food literati greedy for the ample feast Choice Cuts offers in its 452 pages, two outcomes may arise. Read morePublished on April 3, 2003 by Vanessa
Mark Kurlansky, Editor
This book, a collection of writing about food, drags somewhat from the burden of including too much arcane... Read more