MARTINI, STRAIGHT UP

THE CLASSIC AMERICAN COCKTAIL

Few drinks achieve such complex and ambiguous symbolism as the martini, and likely few writers could decode it as well as the polished Edmunds (Classics/Rutgers Univ.). Consider the martini a true American icon, says Edmunds (its status as an institution waxes and wanes), but a fungible one with so many associations that drinkers can grab whichever one they like and run with it. For many, the drink radiates what Edmunds calls “seven simple messages”: it is American, urban and urbane, of high status, a man’s drink, optimistic, adult, and a drink of the past, timelessly of the past. Almost all of the signifiers can now be labeled as “once was” (once, it was the drink of diplomats, the sophisticate, the denizens of the smoking room), for Edmunds serves up a welter of deflationary material, toppling the martini from its elite roost. He draws positive and negative imagery enough from literature (Dorothy Parker to Jack London), film (Bu§uel to Lang to The Lost Weekend), New Yorker cartoons, Cole Porter lyrics, W.H. Auden haiku, Jimmy Carter (who poked his finger in the eye of the three-martini lunch), to diagnose the martini with a severe but endearing multiple-personality disorder. Once he has covered the social history of the cocktail, he delves into its origins and its various configurations (martini rituals that are surely as codified as the tea ceremony), and there is a chapter on the classic martini glass—the stemmed, V-shaped vessel with its own iconic power—that is as elegant as the glass itself. Though it’s clear from the book that Edmunds is a martini fancier, he is not a martini bully: He likes his martini straight up, but he also admits to many classically correct variations. Such is the unadorned pleasure of Edmunds’s book, its rare scholarly intimacy, that there can be little doubt that he delighted in his fieldwork very much. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1998

ISBN: 0-8018-5971-9

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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