The 14th installment of a series known for dynamic, immersive food writing.
Longtime editor Hughes was challenged with the task of scouring books and magazines for “thoughtful, meaty” material while being a humble sentinel at her dying brother’s bedside. The entertaining essays she’s collected range in theme from home cooking, extreme palates and industrialized product developments to Cronuts and pickled baloney. A section on contemporary food trends examines the dust-up over big flavors and $4 toast being elevated to the “artisanal plane.” Particularly savory and eye-opening pieces include an entomophagist’s ingestion of insects as a source of both concentrated nutrition and inspiration; investigative journalist Barry Estabrook’s list of five foods plagued by historically questionable sanitization histories and overfarming; and a short report on Monsanto’s unsettlingly futuristic vegetable crossbreeding. Updates on prison commissary provisions and the sensationalized “last meal” as an “irresistible blend of food, death, and crime that drives a commercial and voyeuristic cottage industry” are also especially riveting. Among the more charmingly insightful gastronomical nuggets are John Birdsall’s perky analysis of American cuisine’s ostensive “gay sensibility,” food columnist J. Kenji López-Alt’s mouthwatering anatomy of a chocolate chip cookie and an exotic tour of street food in Asia from former Men’s Health food editor Matt Goulding. Humor and compassion, which Hughes admits sustained her throughout the book’s editing process, appear in satisfying doses in essays by self-taught baker Irvin Lin’s hilariously tongue-in-cheek recipe for boiling water, memories of homemade ketchup by David Leite and beloved New England novelist Ann Hood’s rediscovery of tomato pie. For Hughes, this particular edition of thoughtful food pondering “offered its own path of healing and comfort.”
Consistent in quality and enthusiasm, Hughes again delivers a cornucopia of varietal amusements for foodophiles whose palates crave invigorating interpretations and perspectives.