The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World
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In a wistful memoir of her British/American upbringing, a food writer for the Canadian National Post urges us to grab all the flavor we can while we still can.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has a palate that the industrial processes of bringing three squares a day to the modern world, particularly in the US, tend increasingly to suppress flavor and freshness in foods in favor of such economic factors as overcoming the rigors of mass distribution and insuring longer shelf life. Add the repeated blows from this doctor’s or that university’s medical research confirming once again that what tastes best is bad for you, and there’s no more familiar phrase to the average American food shopper than, “You just can’t get that anymore.” Mallet, unfortunately, chooses to commiserate and document the trend in terms of long-suffering favorites (her first hundred pages are on eggs alone) rather than flesh out any kind of battle plan. Yet her nostalgia may well assist those with a few decades of what passes for gourmandise here in the colonies in realizing how far indeed we’ve strayed from pastoral European ideals like, say, cheeses made from the milk of a single farmer’s herd of cows bred to the task of producing butterfat sans interference from any national health ministry. The author has in fact beaten the bushes to find full-flavored alternatives from free-range egg producers to “illegal” raw-milk cheeses sold over the Internet and “beef boutiques” offering the same Scottish Highland cattle meat that the Queen of England prefers. She also scatters some nostalgic recipes with authentique ingredients along the way, including English clotted cream and sole Meunière. Most instructive: documentation of health research flip-flops that have indicted and hence crippled the markets for food favorites, then later exonerated said favorites.

Pessimistic, protracted lament for the death of food.

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 2004
ISBN: 0-393-05841-7
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2004