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Steal the Menu: A Memoir of Forty Years in Food Paperback – February 11, 2014
Sokolov has reported on the world of food and restaurants for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Trained as a scholar of ancient Greek at Harvard, he became a journalist in Paris just at the outset of the great revolution in French cuisine inaugurated by Fernand Point and his disciples. Sokolov succeeded the redoubtable Craig Claiborne at the Times only to find Claiborne an impossible act to follow. His take on the rise of real Chinese cooking in New York earned him no little enmity, and the stresses of restaurant criticism exacted a huge personal toll. He embarked on a freelance writing career and produced one of the great books on the history and making of classic French sauces. Sokolov’s life comes full circle as the Detroit boy discovers in the evening of his career that some of America’s best cooking now appears in innovative, new midwestern restaurants. --Mark Knoblauch --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“[Sokolov] has had ‘a front seat’ at the worldwide revolution in cooking and eating. . . . Watching his formidable mind at work deconstructing nouvelle cuisine or creating a taxonomy of French sauces, it becomes clear just how he has kept that seat for so long.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Peppered with reflections on culinary history and tales of extraordinary journalistic adventures . . . a thought-provoking and delightful read.”
—Fuchsia Dunlop, author of Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking
“Mouthwatering. . . . [Sokolov] gives the food scene an often fascinating historical context.” —Daily Beast
“[A] ranging history of American food, and the sociopolitical events that shaped it. . . . [Sokolov is] a down-home guy at heart, happiest when correcting assumptions about everyday foods . . . and remembering treks through the heartland in search of the country’s best barbecue. . . . A pleasure.” —New York Observer
“As gastronomic guides go, you can’t do much better than former New York Times and Wall Street Journal restaurant critic Raymond Sokolov, whose jaunty prose in Steal the Menu gets you a tableside seat everywhere from Tennessee barbeque pits to French haute cuisine temples.”
“A knowledgeable look at the transformation of fine dining over the past half-century, viewed through the prism of the author’s personal history…foodies will find this book refreshingly different.”
“Reading Raymond Sokolov’s wonderful Steal the Menu is like having dinner with one’s wittiest, most erudite and charming friend, someone who knows everything worth knowing about food, its history and culture, about chefs and restaurants, about how our cuisine and our kitchens have changed over forty years—and about how to tell an authentic key lime pie from an imitation. Bon appétit!”
“Steal the Menu is a lively insider’s account of goings-on in the American food scene over the last forty years. And who better to tell this story than Raymond Sokolov, one of America’s best food writers? With his keen ear for language, Sokolov is by turns authoritative and funny, deeply informed and irreverent. This book offers up a feast for the senses as well as the mind!”
—Darra Goldstein, founding editor, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture
“Ray Sokolov dines out delightfully on a life of dining out in the Western world’s most ambitious restaurants. His wit seasons his learning, which is considerable on a vast array of subjects, from classical French cuisine, to where to find the best hamburger in the Midwest, to barbecue in Texas. The result is a zesty stew, a chronicle of movements in cuisine across the decades and oceans. As an entertainment, Steal the Menu rates a full complement of stars.”
—Joseph Lelyveld, author of Great Soul
“I read Steal the Menu straight through with pleasure. The writing is stylish, sometimes provocative, always informative, with a balanced perspective on the tumultuous changes at the table we’ve all lived through.”
—Dr. Andrew Weil, coauthor of The Healthy Kitchen
“Raymond Sokolov is very good company on the page. Steal the Menu is proof of that. His writing is witty and engaging, but what sets this book apart is its appreciativeness: food is food for thought, something to be curious about, as well as a huge pleasure.”
—Naomi Duguid, author of Burma: Rivers of Flavor
“This is an indispensable book for anyone and everyone who takes cooking seriously.”
—Jason Epstein, author of Eating
“[Sokolov] is a good traveling companion. Reading his writing is like being driven in an old, comfortable roadster, top down, evening falling, balmy…with the promise—because Sokolov always does his homework—of something really good to eat just down the road.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
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Instead I'd recommend you read the newly published Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin- it's accessible,lively and heart warming- and there's more than food in her bid to find wholeness by cooking her way around the world's cuisine.
Sokolov has made a prosperous career of traveling extensively at other people's expense in order to write about food. It has cost the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other publications a fortune so that the rest of us can read about food even if, like me, you seldom dine in a four star restaurant.
A note: half way through my reading the book the NY Times printed a terrible pan of it. Considering the PC junk they regularly praise in their book review section...I couldn't understand it...Then I got to Mr. Sokolov's story of his stint at the NY Times...Oh is the Times a nasty place and oh boy does it hold a grudge...Maybe that is why Bloomberg will soon own it?
But the book is about food and all its wonderful permutations...So enjoy. And Mr. Sokolov please write a second volume...Really
Ray was, for two years, restaurant critic for the NY Times; his first review was of a Sichuan restaurant in Jersey--who ever crossed the bridge to go to supper? who ever knew there were kinds of Chinese?
He went on to invent himself as an food anthropologist/historian, among other things.
As a kid he was a spelling bee champ. Later, a Harvard/Oxford classicist.
He finished his dissertation on Theocritus when he was in his late sixties.
But it's the angle of vision that matters: what has happened to eating, from the days of feeding babies "formula"...to the best restaurant in the world today being one that serves lichen foraged from the wild shores of Denmark.
Sokolov has stood witness to our time.
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Can 't liberals ever let up?