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The Man Who Ate Everything
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on June 9, 2017
I'm currently a Chef, but used to work as a strategist in advertising. When I was starting out in advertising I had a Strategy Director recommend that I read Jeffrey Steingarten's food essays as a good example of how to think when approaching branding. He really researches the background of every topic he writes about - and, at times, experiments with creating his own version, coming at it from different angles. Reading his writing first got me interested in food, then it became an obsession. Soon I abandoned advertising and found my self in culinary school, then cooking for a living! I am glad I read the food essays before I saw Mr. Steingarten as a guest judge on Iron Chef America. He came across as a bit stodgy, superior, and arrogant (perhaps affect of being a Harvard-trained lawyer.) I may have not been enticed to read his books if I had seen him before being introduced to his writing. Boy can he write about food! He really draws the reader in!
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on January 6, 2018
Exuberantly written - Steingarten bounces with cartoonish glee from one gastronomic fixation to the next. It's easy to put down, given its structure: short chapters, each recording a different episode of food-related obsession. But it's easy to pick up again because of its energy and good humor. A really good read, and a good book for the nightstand: something to browse while having a midnight snack.
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on March 20, 2011
Jeffrey Steingarten is the grumpy judge on Iron Chef America (or was, about 5 years ago. You will see him in reruns). It was in the chocolate challenge of an episode a couple of years ago, when he said he would give all his points to the chef who could just made a perfect chocolate ice cream, that I understood him. I get you, Jeffrey Steingarten! I even wonder if the falderal of the show embarrasses him a little, though he sometimes says very nice things about the improbable concoctions put in front of him. I call into the other room to my husband, "I think this one's going to win. The grumpy guy likes his food better." And my husband comes in to see this for himself.

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.
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on February 4, 2013
As a judge on Iron Chef, Steingarten always manages to amuse me. Even if his comments are venomous and blunt.

His prose fits his on-show personality to a tee. I found the book to be intelligently written and a trove of foodie knowledge. From pheromones to Oleo; I was interested throughout the meaty book.

I finished the book thinking that the dude definitely has the 'street creed' in gastronomy to talk the talk and walk the walk. And he's humorous as a bonus.
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on September 19, 2017
J. Steingarten is a brilliant writer and this book is perfect on so many levels from start to finish. An effortless blend of well-gathered information, humor, and insight into the wonderful world of food.
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on February 3, 2012
This was an Amazon "recommendation" for me. I'd never heard of Jeff Steingarten. I absolutely loved this book...the author's focus and energy in tracking to ground every detail of his chosen topic are embarrassingly more focused and more energetic than any I could ever muster. I am also a lapsed attorney who loves food--but I couldn't/wouldn't expend so much time on the details of perfection in cooking and eating. The author has clearly found his passion...lucky for him, and for his readers. This book is an informative delight.
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on September 11, 2016
I've read this book at least 3 times and re-read it every few years, not just to remind myself of the brilliant insights, but to be entertained by Jeffrey's writing style. This is a must-read for anyone who loves food.
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on April 5, 2015
This book is absolutely delightful, informative, and witty. I found myself reading passages aloud to my husband because they were either making me laugh or they had enlightened me. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time!
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on October 3, 2010
I really enjoy Jeffrey Steingarten's critiques on Food Network's Iron Chef America, so it should come as no surprise that I loved his book. His sparkling wit takes what could have been a very dated book (it was published over ten years ago and some of the articles are even older than that) and keeps it as fresh as his performance on ICA. His writing is clear and engaged, very conversational, and very enjoyable. If you like him at the judging table, you'll enjoy the book as well.
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on April 6, 2014
Our Slow Food Lit Group just read this and we all loved it AND learned a lot from his wonderful stories of sleuthing far-flung ingredients, researching recipes and wining/dining all over the world. Steingarten's writing is superb, crisp and very descriptive. He has a talent for putting right beside him in the experience - and he has a fabulous sense of humor. His use of metaphor is something to savor. Enjoy!
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