Billed here as ``an iconoclastic eater,'' Thorne--author of a food newsletter and a 1987 anthology drawn from its pages, both titled Simple Cooking--is so far from the usual run of gushing food-writers as to make M.F.K. Fisher (reviewed above) look a little precious. Like Fisher's, Thorne's food-writing often takes the form of personal recollections. Both Fisher and Thorne are engaging, witty writers--but Thorne's wit has a harder edge. He's an acute and independent critic, as seen here in a complaint about what he says is prominent cookbook-author Paula Wolfort's practice of praising food that her readers have no opportunities to sample, and in a shrewd exploration of the appeal of glossy hostess/guru Martha Stewart. Though he flaunts a cavalier disdain for recipes and says he's not a good cook, Thorne makes a point of understanding what goes on under the lid, and he can be dead serious about procedure: Here, he discourses extensively on making bread in a wood-fired oven and without commercial yeast packets, then ends the section not with recipes but with a bibliography. Both substantive and refreshingly quirky: Thorne's food- writing can feed your head and clear it of the prevailing burble.