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Stalking the Green Fairy: And Other Fantastic Adventures in Food and Drink Hardcover – May 7, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (May 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471273449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471273448
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,411,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With this lively collection of essays on topics ranging from the pleasures of commercial peanut butter to the wonders of home-cured gravlax, former Town and Country food and wine editor Villas is in top form, displaying the humor, intelligence and strong-mindedness that have made him the South's proud answer to Jeffrey Steingarten. Whether defending Southern regional dishes beloved by "rebs," such as grits, fruitcake and pimento cheese, or attacking the pretensions of foodie snobs and "rubes" who think raw tuna goes with everything, Villas refuses to be pushed around by fashion. Instead, he is a man on a mission to understand and celebrate what is authentic about his greatest epicurean passions, from canned tuna to vintage champagne rose. Though eloquent in his forays overseas as he seeks out the perfect salade niçoise or the illicit history of absinthe (the green fairy of the title), North Carolina–born Villas truly shines when he's on American soil. His odes to such American staples as the Club sandwich, chicken salad, meatloaf, iceberg lettuce and chowder are classic, combining personal anecdote, history and the author's own enticing recipes. The book loses a bit of steam in the final section, where Villas's contrarian take on everything from lemongrass to sharing food in restaurants descends into crankiness. But at his best, in the grip of an enthusiasm—whether it's buying Chateau d'Yquem sauterne at auction or rhapsodizing about bulk shopping at Costco—Villas will delight foodies as well as his loyal fans.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Last October, James Villas was named best food writer at Bon Appètit’s sixth annual American Food & Entertaining Awards. After reading Stalking the Green Fairy, a collection of his essays, you’ll see why. The anthology contains some of his finest musings on food and drink, including stories he wrote for Bon Appètit on the joys of canned tuna and the importance of pork in southern cooking” (Bon Appètit, June 2004)

With this lively collection of essays on topics ranging from the pleasures of commercial peanut butter to the wonders of home-cured gravlax, former Town and Country food and wine editor Villas is in top form, displaying the humor, intelligence and strong-mindedness that have made him the South's proud answer to Jeffrey Steingarten. Whether defending Southern regional dishes beloved by "rebs," such as grits, fruitcake and pimento cheese, or attacking the pretensions of foodie snobs and "rubes" who think raw tuna goes with everything, Villas refuses to be pushed around by fashion. Instead, he is a man on a mission to understand and celebrate what is authentic about his greatest epicurean passions, from canned tuna to vintage champagne rose. Though eloquent in his forays overseas as he seeks out the perfect salade niçoise or the illicit history of absinthe (the green fairy of the title), North Carolina-born Villas truly shines when he's on American soil. His odes to such American staples as the Club sandwich, chicken salad, meatloaf, iceberg lettuce and chowder are classic, combining personal anecdote, his tory and the author's own enticing recipes. The book loses a bit of steam in the final section, where Villas's contrarian take on everything from lemongrass to sharing food in restaurants descends into crankiness. But at his best, in the grip of an enthusiasm, whether it's buying Château d'Yquem sauterne at auction or rhapsodizing about bulk shopping at Costco, Villas will delight foodies as well as his loyal fans. (Publishers Weekly, April 12, 2004)

Customer Reviews

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on June 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the most recent work of culinary writing from James Villas, who was recently honored by `Bon Appetit' as Food Writer of the Year for 2003, an honor Jim richly deserves if only for the variety of his writings which include columns on food topics of general interest (this book, for example), cookbooks on classic American culinary subjects (`Biscuit Bliss' and `Crazy for Casseroles' for example), and memoirs (`Between Bites'). This is like having M.F.K. Fisher, Edna Lewis and Ruth Reichl all rolled up into one person.
Jim Villas represents old school American culinary writing. He is as direct an intellectual descendent of James Beard as you are likely to find today. He was a friend and confidant of Beard, Craig Claiborne, and Richard Olney. He does have ties to recent trends and writings, as he is a good friends with Paula Wolfert and Jeremiah Tower.
Unlike Beard, Villas does not limit his journalism to American cuisine, although his cookbooks are firmly rooted in southern American cooking, being a true native of North Carolina with a strong interest in all the traditional controversies over styles of barbecue, okra cookery, Brunswick stew, and iced tea. There is a fittingness between Villas' being a North Carolina reb (his word) and his conservatism regarding food.
The most appealing aspect of his conserving attitude about food is his strong regard for tradition. In this regard, his writings in this book are very similar to the essays of John Thorne in that both are intent on calling a chowder only those things which contain traditional chowder ingredients such as salt pork and are made in the traditional manner, such as by using either biscuit or potato to thicken.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By SC on July 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have been a long-time fan of great American food writing. I remember, as a child, the rapt attention with which I devoured Laura Ingall Wilder's recollections of cherishing a single Christmas orange and adding carrot juice in freshly churned better to make its color golden in the wintertime, and growing up reading the remarkable writings of the greats such as M.K. Fisher (Art of Eating) and the delightfully acerbic Anthony Bourdain (Kitchen Confidential).

I think James Villas escaped my awareness thus far because he falls between the two clusters of fame for a young reader like me: not yet posthumously renowned as the likes of MFK, yet no longer contemporary and trendy like Bourdain. So it was doubly delightfully for me to stumble onto the latest collection of these wonderful food writing by Villas, and now I recognize him, properly, as the proud predecessor of straight-shooting, brilliant critics-among-us types that Bourdain represents so well for our generations today.

I felt compelled to write this review because the first 1-star, negative review that appears below me does not do this book justice. He's far from insulting the average "Joe Schmoes" of America--as a matter of fact, his deep love for all things American and in particular the South seeps from practically every page of this book. He devotes a chapter each to deeply American peculiarities such as pimento cheese, Brunswick stew, and chowder , not to mention well-loved American dishes such as a well marbled, prime steak, all manners of cooking the hog, and remarkable resurgence of American micro-brews (accompanied by a connoisseur's reference list). And the chapter about Sam's Club?
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3 of 19 people found the following review helpful By S. Young VINE VOICE on February 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'd never heard of James Villas before I picked this book up at my local library. I made it to the third or fourth chapter then put in a pile to be returned back.

While I enjoy people's opinions on various things, especially food, Villas' opinions were just plain 'froofy'. His words were picked to show just how wonderfully smart he is especially smarter than the average American shmoe. He pretty much hates everything about american food that's not from a speciality store.

I read a bit here and there, but it was when I got to the section about warehouse shopping that I really got turned off. (in other words I can't remember much about what he wrote until he made me angry, guess he's not that memorable).

He talked and talked and talked about how stupid americans were about shelling out money for big bags of ready-made frozen foods like chicken teriyaki, or big bottles of mayo all because it's cheaper than at a regular grocery store. But it doesn't end there, he lowers himself to going into the local supermarket and watched as people waste their hard earned money on brandname items when there were specials on other brands that were cheaper. He thought they were all crazy for doing so since to him all american food in a supermarket is crap. Even in the snooty stores he berates shoppers for getting premade foods. (I guess he cooks everything, or eats out for everything, or he has a personal chef that does it all for him).

I was going to give him 2 stars because he does write well, but I just don't think he deserves it. However, if you want to see how wonderful his vocabulary is on all those big words they use in the fancy world us normal people don't live in you'll enjoy it.
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More About the Author

I was born and bred in the South, have 3 university degrees in language and literature (Fulbright scholar), and taught in 3 universities before changing careers and becoming Food and Wine Editor of TOWN and COUNTRY (1972-1999). I've published 15 cookbooks and 4 literary books on gastronomy. My first novel, DANCING IN THE LOW COUNTRY, was published in 2008; my second, HUNGRY FOR HAPPINESS, in 2010; and I'm currently working on a dog novel titled THE BEAGLE PLAYS BRAHMS. My cookbook, PIG: KING OF THE SOUTHERN TABLE, won the James Beard Award for 2010, and my newest one, SOUTHERN FRIED, will be published in 2013. I live in East Hampton, Long Island, where I devote my time to writing cookbooks and fiction and pursuing my love of great music.

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