Andrews's Catalan Cuisine (1988) was an impressive cookbook and a captivating gastronomic travelogue. But this collection of food talk in short bites, most with a few recipes appended, is less rewarding. Andrews writes a food column for Metropolitan Home magazine, and many of these 25 slight pieces would be fine for that more ephemeral forum (in fact, a dozen of them are partially and loosely based, according to Andrews, on columns that appeared in Metropolitan Home or in The Los Angeles Times). Many, however, are just carp and diatribe, without the wit required to make such material worth preserving. One piece, ``Down with Three-Star Restaurants,'' offers some surprising revelations—such as the use of canned or frozen vegetables at some of these restaurants—though it would be of even greater interest if more of the offending establishments were named. But other pieces, on ``wine bozos'' and, especially, on Americans' food ignorance and processed-food diets, add little to a now-common complaint. John and Karen Hess put down American food ways brilliantly in The Taste of America (1977); in comparison, Andrews is weary and predictable. He also insults by overgeneralizing and by setting up straw dolts as representative of ``us.'' To be sure, Andrews makes better reading than does the general run of blurby food-trend pushers; but this sampling doesn't rate shelf-space beside such heavies as M.F.K. Fisher and John Thorne.
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