SERIOUS PIG by John Thorne


An American Cook in Search of His Roots
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 Crotchety and erudite as ever, Thorne (Simple Cooking, 1987; Outlaw Cook, 1992) gets mired for a good third of this collection in the gravitas of his stubborn reverence for the Maine he calls home and the fugitive ethos of its foodways. He's the kind of man who takes his potatoes seriously (all of them: Early Bangor, Irish Cobbler, Levitt's Pink); ditto his beans, baked and otherwise, and his piecrusts (strictly composed of freshly rendered lard). And his barbecues--the ``serious pig'' of the title essay refers to his passion for perfection, the limitless patience for getting it just right that's the ``particularity'' of the real Mainer; as Thorne covers his usual unusual territory (farmstands, diners, folklore, old books), it's exalted into an obsession, and it won't be everyone's. An extended piece on chowders showcases his literary sensibility: He hails the `` `fishy flavor to the milk' '' described in Moby-Dick as ``a merger crying out to be made.'' Moving on to the Cajun/Creole cuisine that he cites as a secondary influence on his cookery, Thorne writes languorous socio-culinary history. He comes across at his best when he breaks out of the merely regional, whether proffering a structured sequence on the evolution of chili recipes, wittily deconstructing the original Toll House cookie recipe, examining the American perception of aging Camembert as ``rot,'' or reflecting on the seductiveness of the white loaves piled in a remembered Paris boulangerie. When not freighted with indignation-overload, Thorne's high- and-lowbrow take on the foodscape at large makes for a singular vision.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-86547-502-4
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1996


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