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Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days Hardcover – October 17, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1ST edition (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307264963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307264961
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,211,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of A Sport and a Pastime teams with his wife, his 30-year cooking companion, to produce a "dinner book," a quirky cornucopia of recipes, historical notes, household hints, brief surveys of foodstuffs (eggs, salt, avocados, doughnuts, cheeses, olives, martinis, etc.) and utensils (forks, knives or toothpicks, say), appreciation of friends met both in life (including Alice Waters and Julia Child) and through books (Lord Byron, Anna Karenina) and random observations (what makes a good waiter) and advice of all kinds. For example, six "days" in January are dedicated to the useful art of giving a dinner party, but in fact, tips on, or accounts of picnics and parties (clearly a delight for both Salters), are everywhere. Their recipes are simple and good (Polpettone alla Toscana; Chicken Marengo; Fraises à la Cussy; Gazpacho) and can usually be made in advance, leaving the cooks free to socialize. But this volume is not chiefly one of recipes or hints (though both may prove practical). The Salters call it a "bedside book" and, with its attractive packaging and charming illustrations by Fabrice Moireau, it should make the perfect hostess gift, not always an easy thing to choose, say the authors. (Oct. 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“I expected a leisurely, engaging conversation about living and eating from Life is Meals–largely because of my admiration for the penetrating and gorgeously written fiction of co-author James Salter, whose 1967 novel, A Sport and a Pastime, is one of a dozen of the most important novels of the past half century. And I got it. In this delectable ragout of food lore, history, anecdote, instruction and recipes, Salter and his equally engaging wife–journalist and playwright Kay–are like a couple you might encounter in a railway dining car wending its way through the Andes or Alps: welcoming, knowledgeable and enthusiastic eaters and drinkers . . . [And] they never met a piece of trivia they wouldn’t chew on. . . . As its subtitle suggests, Life is Meals is broken into 365 brief entries–from a few paragraphs to a page and a half each–some of them seasonal or specific to a given day, others offered at random. . . . Other entries are built on reminiscences of wonderful outings to four-star restaurants and appealing dives around the world and to recollections of home-cooked meals with friends from the worlds of books, theater, film or art. . . . In a show of due diligence, Life is Meals also pays charming tribute to titans of modern American cooking–from Julia Child to James Beard to pioneering restaurateur and chef Alice Waters–either through appealing vignettes about their exploits in and out of the kitchen or through recipes they shared with the authors. On top of all that, there is plenty of kitchen wisdom dispensed, some of it ostensibly rudimentary but really worth being reminded of. . . . [This] is a frequently fascinating, always companionable book, one that most people will choose to keep by the bed or easy chair for occasional forays into the intriguing world the Salters describe and wax so lyrically and enthusiastically about. Alternatively, if you’re the type who tends to be invited for dinner at the homes of others, the book might make what is commonly called a ‘hostess gift.’ . . . [You] can rest assured you’ll be invited back.”
–Rod Cockshutt, Raleigh News & Observer

“One of my favorite new books is Life is Meals.”
–Joe Stumpe, Wichita Eagle

“It’s such a joy when you stumble upon a book as delightful as Life is Meals. . . . This book is a fabulous little gem–the authors wrote an entry for each day of the year, all unrelated, so you can dip in and out as you wish. . . . If you’re a foodie, a lover of trivia or just someone who appreciates a good, casual read, pick up Life is Meals. It’s delicious.”
–Susan Shinn, Salisbury Post

“Fond food memories are what make James and Kay Salter’s Life is Meals a volume to savor. It’s all about keeping a record of good food, good times, good friends.”
–Jean Prescott, Sun Herald (South Mississippi)

“Evoking the mood of Ford Madox Ford’s Provence, A.J. Liebling’s Between Meals, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, Robert Baldick’s Dinner at Magny’s, and Brillat-Savarin’s Physiologie du goût, [Life is Meals is] a readable and quotable collection of thoughts and anecdotes inspired by an interest in food. It also recalls the sumptuous feasts in the novels of Huysmans, Proust, and Lampedusa; in James Salter’s Light Years; and in Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander. This culinary calendar, which can be opened at random or read straight through, has entries for every day of the year, often pegged to birthdays of famous foodies. It evolved from the Salters’ notebooks, recipes, and readings, and includes ‘things of interest, bits of history, opinions, occurrences, odd facts.’ Knowledgeable, lively, and amusing, it has a rare quality: charm. Filled with joie de livre as well as joie de vivre, it suggests a hedonistic yet civilized life . . . The Salters write about food history and wine lore, favorite cookbooks and classic recipes, great chefs from Carême to Alice Waters, and magnetic restaurants. There are social nuances and shopping hints, memorable and disastrous dinner parties, shrewd gossip and literary anecdotes, personal history and European travel, and famous friends . . . . The Salters describe aphrodisiacs from truffles to chocolate and, like Casanova, emphasize ‘the sensual importance of dining, the opening act of so many seductions’ . . . The authors serve up some superbly written recollections . . . . Life is Meals is really about living well. As Graham Greene wrote of Ford’s Provence, it is ‘an elaborate pattern of memories, historical and personal. The subject is the good life–as it should be lived by all the world.’”
–Jeffrey Meyers, Gastronomica: A Journal of Food and Culture

Life is Meals is partly a memoir of parties [James and Kay Salter] have hosted together over the past 30-some years, partly a cookbook, partly a historical and literary food guide, and wholly an homage to the pleasures of creating and eating a meal.”
Aspen Home magazine

“A pleasant culinary collection of bits of history, essays, ideas, remembrances and recipes–one for each day of the year.”
–Marion Sullivant, Post and Courier

“This exquisite little book has a story for every day, from a commentary on peanut butter to a list of a kitchen’s barest necessities to the menu on the Titanic on that fateful April 14. A reader could sample one piece a day, or gulp them down all at once–it’d taste good either way.”
Eugene Weekly

“We need extra nourishment in the winter season. To me, that means feeding the body and feeding the mind. I have a recommendation that combines the two: Life is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days. A year’s worth of deliciously textured day-by-day entries about preparation, tasting, culinary history and personal history.”
–Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered, National Public Radio

“Divine . . . [Life is Meals] has now kept me up two nights reading until the wee hours and smacking my lips. It’s a beauty, with charming illustrations. . . I appreciate the wit, the occasional recipe and the historical ambiance of this Salter effort toward fine living. What a great Christmas gift!”
–Liz Smith, New York Post

“A remarkable marriage of food book and life-well-lived memoir . . . This most unusual book, with delightful illustrations, is to be savored again and again.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“A quirky cornucopia of recipes, historical notes, household hints, brief surveys of foodstuffs (eggs, salt, avocados, doughnuts, cheeses, olives, martinis, etc.) and utensils (forks, knives, or toothpicks, say), appreciation of friends met both in life (including Alice Waters and Julia Child) and through books (Lord Byron, Anna Karenina), random observations (what makes a good waiter), and advice of all kinds . . . . [When] I began reading Life is Meals, I started dog-earing pages containing information I wanted to remember. After a few weeks’ worth of entries, I realized I’d marked every other page . . . . [With] its attractive packaging and charming illustrations, it should make the perfect hostess gift.”
–Jerry Miller, San Diego Reader

“A charming collection of brief essays on food and wine, with 37 recipes and beautiful illustrations. The entries range from thumbnail biographies of the great chefs to the sauces of ancient Greece to dinner parties with John Irving . . . The Salters make entertaining seem an essential social act and will inspire anyone to get into the kitchen. The recipes represent home cooking at its best, including classics like Gazpacho, Blinis, and Chicken Marengo . . . This lovely miscellanea is fun.”
Library Journal

“James Salter is one of the great bon vivants of our time; his novels and stories are full of the details of fine living. This book of days pays homage to great writers, great meals, great conversations and essential ingredients. Auguste Escoffier, Brillat-Savarin, Waverly Root, Alice Waters, James Beard and others are notably remembered; dinners in Sag Harbor with Jason Epstein, dinners at the Salters’ house in Aspen, Colorado with writers, snippets from the Salters’ books of dinner-party details (kept for years) and recipes, of course (Tuscan meatloaf, figs in whiskey, chili con carne and many others), become tableaux in the reader’s mind. Picture James and Kay Salter in Paris at the birth of their son, asking the doctor to wet the newborn’s lips with Château Latour, like the ancient kings of France. The book is a safe haven, a bastion of civilization, protection from all kinds of heavy weather.”
–Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“As entertaining as it is informative, Life is Meals is beautifully illustrated and full of much more than recipes or food lore (although it includes both). Written by PEN/Faulkner Award-winner James Salter and his wife Kay, the book is packed with fascinating tidbits. The charm of Life is Meals is the quirky selection and arrangement of facts. Although some entries offer a historical food fact (the menu on the Titanic on the night it went down), others are random observations (what makes a good waiter) or tips on throwing a dinner party, which fruits go with which cheeses, or the evolution of the fork. This is a book to keep by the bedside and give to every foodie on your list.”
–Lisa Waddle, Bookpage

“If you have ev...

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Customer Reviews

The illustrations are charming and perfectly complement the tone of the book.
C. J. Friedlob
Some of the days are personal stories from the authors, and others are facts and stories about food origins and special foodstuffs.
W. Werner
There is no book that I can think of which begs to be enjoyed as much as this one.
Hannibal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"The meal is the essential act of life. It is the habitual ceremony, the long record of marriage, the school for behavior, the prelude to love."

If you have ever read James Salter, you will have no trouble recognizing that prose. Every word is carefully chosen, measured, considered, sifted, chosen again. The superfluous disappears; the eternal endures. To read Salter is to catch a master in the act.

James and Kay Salter have been together for three decades. He writes, she writes. But reading "Life Is Meals," you get the sense that the art of cooking and eating well is at least as potent for them as any esthetic connection. At their homes in Aspen and the Hamptons and on their travels across Europe, they have the knack of making each meal count --- not just the food, but the company, the ambience and the conversation.

This book is a record of their lifelong interest in food. When they name-drop, it's more often the name of a long-dead French chef than a celebrated friend. But they're not snobs. When they share a recipe, it's usually for a dish that's already an old friend of yours: Gratin dauphinoise. Risotto. French chicken. Chili. Cucumber soup. Their personal cookbook is handwritten. Their book of days is casual: a personal anecdote here, a recipe there, a memory following.

Read with pen in hand, for the Salters are the king and queen of tips. They offer a modest list of the cookbooks they use. (I was delighted to see that one is Bistro Cooking.) They note the importance of the egg cup to the soft-boiled egg. They tell you when to use salt (after browning meat; on pineapple and grapefruit), what to drink when (white wine at lunch, red at dinner), and what to serve with green salad (chilled sparkling Vichy water).
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By chardday on October 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a life long fan of James Salter, I ordered this book, not knowing what to expect. Written with his wife, Kay Salter, it's a history of their dinner parties and full of facts about food. The book includes recipes, illustrations and etiquette tips. I'm having a hard time describing everything this book contains. All I can say is it's utterly charming. And the writing is what Salter's fans have come to expect: spare, poetic, sophisticated. As literature, it's hard to put down once you pick it up. I'm going to start bringing this to dinner parties as a gift, instead of my usual bottle of wine. (I wonder what the Salters would have to say about that!)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gentle Reader on October 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a treasure. Life is Meals is charming, beautifully written and loaded with cool facts. (Since reading it, several times a day I find myself saying, "Did you know...") James and Kay Salter have written about great meals, history, literature and friendship. I keep my copy on my desk not just because I know any page I open to will delight, or I love its illustrations and how it feels in my hand, but also because it reminds me there's an alternative to experiencing life via computer screen. Like good food, Life is Meals is something you will want to share.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Friedlob on April 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This uniquely unclassifiable book is an utter delight. More than a cookbook, more than advice on how to entertain, more than a history of food and its preparation, it is both a memoir and veritable instruction manual about how to dine and live with style and gusto. Simultaneously worldly and sophisticated, casual and candid, every page offers a new treat. The illustrations are charming and perfectly complement the tone of the book. You'll want an extra copy to give to special friends.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Grandma on October 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In addition to owning your own copy, Life is Meals is an obvious gift idea. Give it to inspire those just starting their lives of meals together. Give it to add to the pleasure and wisdom of those who have any appreciation for the artistry of meal preparation and consumption.

I already have a stack of copies waiting for giving at Christmas, weddings, birthdays, or as a special thank you.

Although the format is one entry per day, be warned that it is extremely difficult to stop reading after just one!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By bouldergirl on November 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a delight this book is - fun and interesting of course, but also so poignant. Lovely pieces on the birth of their son and their first meal together...both brought tears to my eyes. All my friends are getting a copy this holiday season!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ruth E. Kollmer on January 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This was a delightful read. The recipes are marvelous, the stories most entertaining. It is a book you won't want to put down and you will refer to for a lifetime. The perfect hostess gift!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Orion on October 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Still reading it - a variety of informative and/or fun tidbits. I try to do about one entry a day before going to bed.
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