The vaunted food writer for Vogue, a former lawyer who now practices the equally underappreciated vocation of gastronomy, discusses the world’s first (or at least second) most overwhelming preoccupation: eats.
Steingarten is dubious about allergies to MSG or intolerance to lactose. All food is good at his table. No picky eater, no vegetarian he. He is a true omnivore, ingesting—as long as they’re well prepared—chocolate chip cookies, pig entrails, medium-rare porterhouse, sea urchin gonads, pressed duck, caviar, and coffee, all with gusto and all described here in effusive detail. Steingarten is devoted to food of all kinds, as cosmopolitan as, say, Hannibal Lecter (though with somewhat more restrained tastes, admittedly). Take much of the highfalutin’ stuff with a grain of salt; whether it comes from Trapani, Maldon, or Guerand, it’s still salt, Steingarten concludes. He studies the biochemistry of his viands, giving due attention to flavonols and protein mechanics. He’ll dash off to Paris, Baja California, or Brooklyn at the slightest whiff of gustatory perfection and waggishly report back on how the experts do it—as in his graphic depiction of a pig slaughter in rural France. Aided by electronic thermometer, camera, and compliant assistants (women whose names change from essay to essay), he analyzes and often reproduces the gastronomic achievements of great cooks worldwide. Adepts will learn the right and wrong ways to brine a goose, prepare a pizza, construct a wedding cake, or sauté spleen in lard with ricotta. But even if the detailed recipes strewn throughout like juicy raisins may be more than a casual reader will attempt, the description is great fun and, incidentally, quite educational. Food writers, beware—this guy is out to eat your lunch.
Steingarten sings of his supper, grand cuisine, or Thanksgiving turkey with panache and canny wit.