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Gobbling Up Food Writing

December 2, 2015

Lately, most of the library books I’ve been reading have been on my Kindle, because it’s been tough to get to the public library in a timely fashion to retrieve holds and return books. (Oops.) It’s worth noting that the library where I work in the mornings has both a good collection

Recently discovered that several of The Best Food Writing anthologies, edited by Holly Hughes, are available on Kindle. This delights me. I love browsing collections of writing about chefs, restaurants, odd food trends, and best of all home-cooking and cultural studies of kitchens. The nature of digital reading, and library books with fast-approaching due dates means that browsing is less of a factor than reading several essays sequentially, but they’re different enough that that’s all right, too. Even if reading several essays at once leads to a bit of whiplash of strange food cravings. I like the way each collection is both unified across central themes (whether capturing the trends of the year, or deftly edited to show how pieces relate) and provides distinct morsels (some food puns are inevitable in writing this) of cuisines and places.

Some thoughts on individual volumes:

Jacket Image, Best Food Writing 2011The Best Food Writing 2011

Each story introduced me to a kind of food or cooking or an approach to cooking. More importantly, each story conveyed memory or culture or the context of the food to make my inner anthropologist happy. Some were foods I want to eat, and drooled over the pages. Seafood in Venice, bread in family kitchens, pie, Chinese dumplings. Yum! Others, not so much. Descriptions of mock turtle soup and foie gras both made me squirm, which is a credit to the quality of the writing.

17290713The Best Food Writing 2013

While there were some drool-worthy lovely essays and imagery in this one, along with plenty of daydream fuel in the form of chef narrative, I think of this volume as the volume of “nope!” I can safely say I will never do the following: fly all the way to Iceland to eat in a specific restaurant; participate in a days-long barbecue competition; pay that much for wine or a tasting menu; cook snails at home (slime in the bucket, yuck!); eat a McRib sandwich (not even for journalism) or rhapsodize about Hostess cupcakes. On the plus side, I have learned a new word: “Heliciculture,” which is the cultivation of snails. (Never gonna use that one in a sentence.) I’m also very glad a journalist traveled to Spain to write about pig butchering so that I could read about it, wince a bit, and then crave pork. I was thoroughly on board with the essay “Cooking Isn’t Fun,” by Tracie McMillan. Woman after my own heart.

Still to be (read and) reviewed: 2012, 2014 and 2015. Note to self: take notes here as I read, otherwise, they’re all just going to be one tasty, wordy nostalgic blur.


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