A bubbling stew of food lore, presented with panache and a dash of humor.
Crumpacker, a pastry chef and cookbook author, sees food as sexy—e.g., red meat is masculine and so are carrots and bananas; dairy products are feminine, as are oysters and puddings. She finds a deep connection between the way we eat and the way we make love, and she writes joyously of this connection, arguing that if one wants to know what to expect of a prospective lover, he or she should just watch that person eat. Food and sex have been paired from our very beginnings, she says, and cooking can be seen as an act of love; even the smell of food is sexy. However, the food/sex theme occupies only a portion of her book. Almost anything to do with food seems to fascinate her: food eccentricities and phobias, the wide variations across cultures and among individuals in what are perceived as comfort foods, the history of dining out, the atmosphere of fast-food restaurants, the evolution—and decline—of table manners. She also focuses on the role of food in American politics: Herbert Hoover’s failed promise to put a chicken in every pot and Gerald Ford’s gaffe with a tamale wrapper are but two of the many anecdotes presented. She delights in finding character-revealing traits in Richard Nixon’s fondness for cottage cheese with catsup, Ronald Reagan’s for jelly beans and Bill Clinton’s for virtually everything. Even cannibalism in its various manifestations gets a close look from the author, who provides unexpected information on cooking methods and preferred cuts. For her discussion of vegetarianism, she turns to Hitler, recounting his exceedingly abstemious eating habits and disturbing fears about food, and concluding that he was as asexual as he was amoral.
Crumpacker’s zest is boundless, even overwhelming.