- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Books Ed edition (October 27, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375702024
- ISBN-13: 978-0375702020
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 115 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Man Who Ate Everything Paperback – October 27, 1998
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When Jeffrey Steingarten was appointed food critic for Vogue, he systematically set out to overcome his distaste for such things as kimchi, lard, Greek cuisine, and blue food. He succeeded at all but the last: Steingarten is "fairly sure that God meant the color blue mainly for food that has gone bad." In this impassioned, mouth-watering, and outrageously funny book, Steingarten devotes the same Zen-like discipline and gluttonous curiosity to practically everything that anyone anywhere has ever called "dinner."
Follow Steingarten as he jets off to sample choucroute in Alsace, hand-massaged beef in Japan, and the mother of all ice creams in Sicily. Sweat with him as he tries to re-create the perfect sourdough, bottle his own mineral water, and drop excess poundage at a luxury spa. Join him as he mounts a heroic--and hilarious--defense of salt, sugar, and fat (though he has some nice things to say about Olestra). Stuffed with offbeat erudition and recipes so good they ought to be illegal, The Man Who Ate Everything is a gift for anyone who loves food.
About the Author
Jeffrey Steingarten trained to become a food writer at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Harvard Lampoon. For the past eight years he has been the internationally feared and acclaimed food critic of Vogue magazine. He has been the food correspondent for the online magazine Slate. For essays in this collection, Mr. Steingarten has won countless awards from the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals. On Bastille Day, 1994, the French Republic made him a Chevalier in the Order of Merit for his writing on French gastronomy. As a man who ate everything, Chevalier Steingarten has no favorite food, color, or song. His preferred eating destinations, however, are Memphis, Paris, Alba, Chengdu--and his loft in New York City.
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Mr. Steingarten has an imperturbable gravitas on the panel, and does deliver his opinions ungarnished with self-deprecation, which tends to rub third-tier show biz types the wrong way. Once a former Dancing With the Stars actress rounded on him hotly because he didn't like something she thought was wonderful. He took it with the placid aplomb of an English Mastiff accosted by an anxious Pomerianian. He isn't arrogant. I know that because I read his book. A man is not arrogant who buys ten orders of MacDonald's French fries to try out 33 kinds of ketchup. Then confesses it was too much food and he and his wife got mixed up. And in the end they decided their favorite ketchup might not be the spiciest, but with fries, "a marriage made in heaven." If he acts as if he knows he's right, it's because he knows he's right. How can you not like a know-all who goes to all that trouble to be sure?
The Man Who Ate Everything is a collection of essays packed with his musings, research, recipes, and travels in quest of culinary perfection. His thing is to search out the experts and recipes, then do it at home. But, "Cesare [his Italian informant] never warned me about making pasta near an open drawer." His crater of flour was breached and twenty egg yolks surged across the table "like molten lava rolling over a Hawaiian housing development," into the silverware drawer. Cooking methods are detailed and the physics behind certain techniques are explained. What an interdisciplinist he is, if that's a word. I appreciated the history lessons, as well as the attention to biology (I am a wildlife ecologist). He reasonably concludes that food phobias make no sense, because we are omnivores, and gets rid of most of his through determined exposure to the hated items, because he wants to be a fair and liberal food critic who eats everything.
He can't write without being funny, but beneath it he's always informed. Mr. Steingarten gets it right about plants' making poisons, and why. Boil that spinach and throw away the water, People. He is also right that we have been hoodwinked into believing that all fat is bad. I notice the dairy section of my grocery store is still loaded with awful Fat Free cheese, sour cream, half-and-half (half of what and what?); and the number of crappy Fat Free salad dressings still crowding the shelves is depressing. I was loading my cart with avocados when a woman next to me sighed and said she loves avocados, too, but(as if surprised I was still alive), "All those fatty acids!" The section Why Aren't the French Dropping Like Flies? should be required reading for anyone with a family history of heart disease.
There's a lot of fun here. He goes on a new French diet that was then all the rage (Atkins, South Beach, etc. were later knock-offs), loses 7 lbs after a month of hilarious obsessing about the number on the scales (he purchases three for comparison), but remains lovably unconverted and returns to "pies, pierogi, pistachios, pizza, popcorn potatoes, puff pastry--and that only covers the P's." He enrolls in waiters school and learns how to trick people into spending more than they intended. He travels to Memphis to judge a barbecue competition and is so in love with the winning ribs that he brings some home, and stoically stops himself from devouring them all before his wife comes home from work--his sensuous description of the meat should be rated PG-13, at least. He says I have been making mashed potatoes the wrong way, with Grandmom's hand masher. But in my defense, Mr. Steingarten's way is not to mash them at all, so I think he shouldn't call them mashed. But I can't wait to try his ketchup recipe.
Just a warning: Don't try to read too much in one sitting, no matter how much you're enjoying it. I was skimming around sampling this and that, and had already read a lot--too much, I guess--by the time I got to Primal Bread. I should have been riveted. I actually kept starter once. My donor just waved her hands when I asked where she got it. "Oh, the yeasts just naturally occur, you know. Every kitchen has them." Now I see why it never tasted very good. But my eyes were glazing over and I put the book down. Keep portion size small.
I keep very few books. But this one, I will. I already ordered It Must Have Been Something I Ate, and I wish there were others. The Man Who Ate Everything is funny, intelligent, informed. Just like Mr. Steingarten.
Steingarten's writing is witty, insightful and very entertaining. His food essays are uniquely charming in that he often approaches the subject as at best a novice, and shares his (sometimes disastrous) learning experiences with the reader. His love of food shines through brilliantly in the writing; his descriptions of dishes, ingredients and techniques occasionally caused me to actually salivate, a neat trick in an all-text medium.
The breadth of topics covered is phenomenal. While he is a New York, NY foodie and that obviously colors his writing and tastes somewhat, he's nowhere near as NY/Paris-centric as many food writers from those locales are. He runs the gamut from unusual foreign cuisines to American classics to rural European local specialties. All topics are approached with the same keen palate and enthusiasm.
Steingarten only gets into trouble when he ventures into the more nutritional and social aspects of food consumption. While these are certainly incredibly important topics, his casual investigations into dietary fads, questionable eating habits and urban legends about the health effects of food felt weakly researched and myopic. While they were occasionally entertaining, they just didn't feel essential or worthy of inclusion in an otherwise outstanding collection.
Overall, highly recommended for anyone interested in food!
4 stars for "Part 1- Nothing but the Truth" and "Part 5- Proof of the Pudding," the sections that cover his food cooking and experimentation.
1 star for all the other sections that focus too much on diet and health issues.
0 stars for "Sweet Smell of Sex," the chapter that covers sex, pheromones, and perfume. Steingarten sounds really pervy. Completely unnecessary and has no business being in a food book.