A savory collection of personal narratives about the “fabulous and even miraculous” ways that food revives “the great, exciting promise of life.”
Saveur editor in chief Oseland (Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, 2006, etc.) invites readers to feast on writing by distinguished restaurant critics, writers, cookbook authors and chefs that celebrate the “tastes and sensations…[that] alter our view of the world.” The book’s opening essay recounts British restaurant critic Giles Coren’s first, and last, encounter with Hostess Twinkies. To Coren’s boyhood self, these sugary confections symbolized both the golden promise of America and, by extension, the “endlessly thrilling” meals Americans always ate. Food, however, does not evoke place alone. As novelist Francine Prose shows in her essay about a Christmas holiday spent in France, it can also be tied to memories of finding gustatory, if slightly guilty, pleasures in unexpected situations. For others—like poet and memoirist Frances Mayes, who talks about her life-changing decision to study cooking in Provence, and chef Marcus Samuelsson, who describes his risky but scrumptious encounter with fugu—food has been salvation. Exciting and exotic as it can be, the best food is sometimes the simplest. Food critic Alan Richman discovered this truth on a trip to post–Arab Spring Egypt, where his happiest culinary experience was with the “unsophisticated [and] unruly” dishes eaten by ordinary people. But for chef Martin Yan, who affectionately recalls his impoverished mother’s modest yet magical kitchen in rural China, the most mouthwatering dishes are often born at home. Funny, insightful and revealing, Oseland’s anthology is not just a delightful adventure in world cuisine, but also a thoughtful exploration of the emotions that so often accompany cooking, dining and eating. Other contributors include David Mas Masumoto, Sigrid Nunez, Michael Pollan and Rita Mae Brown.
Delicious reading for the discerning foodie.