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The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance Hardcover – May 8, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Craig Claiborne was the greatest influence of my professional life in America. Knowledgeable, dedicated, and driven, he was determined to better American eating habits. As Thomas McNamee nicely portrays in The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat, Claiborne's impact on the culinary revolution of the last forty years cannot be ignored or overstated.”
—Jacques Pépin

“Thomas McNamee's intensive research, his determined digging in the archives and memories of the major players, brings back the joy, the triumphs, the Hamptons bacchanals of Craig Claiborne—the man who invented professional restaurant criticism.”
—Gael Greene, author of Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess

The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat assures that a poignant life whose meaning so impacted the restaurant world will not be permitted to fade from our collective memories. Bravo Thomas McNamee for illuminating the erudite gentleman who paved the way for today’s legion of professional restaurant reviewers, as well as for an entire generation of amateur critics who now daily express their judgments on every platform the Internet provides. This must-read book profiles Claiborne’s turbulent, brilliant, and unscripted life - which had such a profound and enduring impacton a huge swath of American culture.”

—Danny Meyer, author of Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business

About the Author

Thomas McNamee is the author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, Life, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He lives in San Francisco.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439191506
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439191507
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,300,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
One of my favorite possessions is a small embossed invitation to participate in a project of mine entitled The American Writing Book, which was returned to me bearing the signature of Craig Claiborne. With a graciousness I did not expect, he wrote on the back of the card that, in princiiple, he was amenable to an interview and photo session, and if I would call him, we could set up a precise time. This cooperative venture never materialized, however. Soon after receiving the card, I read in The New York Times that Craig Claiborne had died.

For me, he was the first writer whose work on food I read as seriously as a current events piece, or a piece on action sports. In fact, as author Thomas McNamee makes clear in his new biography of Claiborne, The Man Who Changed The Way We Eat, the culinary choices of JFK were current events, and Claiborne's reports on them carried the same underlying fascination and drama normally accorded page one reportage. McNamee also gives full voice to Claiborne's upbringing which of course, rounds out the man and helps bring into focus his life and times. Reading Claiborne's columns, I reveled in the specialized vocabulary of food, and the ways in which Craig Claiborne could deploy it, and this too is evocatively captured by Mr. McNamee.

The only "rough patch" for me is Claiborne's relationship with Mimi Sheraton, who suceeded Claiborne as food critic at The Times. I understand that the views expressed about this are Claiborne's but the author seems to espouse them as his own.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just before Julia Child and somewhat after James Beard, there emerged Craig Claiborne, whose risk taking in writing restaurant reviews for the New York Times made people sit up and take notice on the dreary state of American cuisine. Thomas McNamee's excellent new biography on Claiborne is particularly welcome for those of us boomers who grew up in the late fifties and early sixties. The food was indeed blander than tasteless pudding.

McNamee spends a lot of time tying Claiborne's Mississippi delta roots to his later life. Claiborne's mother was overbearing in many ways and managed to turn him off at every step. His homosexuality, a well guarded secret in those tormented days, was part and parcel to Claiborne's life and, apart from a few close friendships, it wasn't until he was sixty that he found a man with whom he would share much, albeit a married man.

The author peels away his subject's layers and does so with great success. Claiborne's drinking is central to his existence and was a harbinger of his downfall. Yet much of the book, naturally, discusses Claiborne's training and his many likes and dislikes when it came to food and dining. Artists are complicated people and I think the book is best at dealing with all of these factors.

"The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat" is warm and often very funny. It's also a terrific look at someone whom many people may have forgotten but a man who needs to remembered for his overarching contributions to how we look at American cuisine. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
To be honest, this was the best non fiction I've read in a very long time. The authors words seemed to pull me along from one page to the next page, and the next, and when I finally looked up to see what time it was, it was way past the time I had intended to read.

The book is not only full of statistics, it is full of heart. It's very well written and is perfect for anyone who loves food or how we came to consume so much processed food instead of the healthy, made from scratch meals our grandmothers and great grandmothers made.

This book reads more like a fiction, and not the non fiction it is. I highly recommend this book!
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Format: Hardcover
Growing up in the 50's and learning to cook meant opening cans of green beans, frying chicken or chops, or using the oven for roasts on Sundays. It was all done to get the family fed with no thought to food as pleasure. Reading author Thomas McNamee's biography of Craig Claiborne takes us on a culinary trip, not with recipes, but with a history of the American food revolution beginning in 1957. So many things we now take for granted were introduced by Claiborne, such as creme fraiche, balsamic vinegar, Chef's knives and even the salad spinner.

Unknown to most of us was the part that Claiborne played in the careers of such chefs as Julia Child, Paul Bocuse, ,Paul Prudhomme,Diana Kennedy and Jacques Pepin. Claiborne was a loner, living his entire life in solitude, having gay lovers but living an inner life of conflict and self-doubt. The author has given us an outstanding story, painstakingly researched and presented in a very readable biography.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in culinary history, food or just to enjoy an engrossing story. Craig Claiborne finally will be known, as he was not ever known during his extra ordinary life. A great gift book, for yourself and also for friends and relatives who will enjoy a different ad entertaining approach to food.
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