Although Frank’s riffs occasionally recall Gertrude Stein’s dizzyingly obscure Tender Buttons, overall, he’s produced a...




A journey in search of America’s tastes.

Frank (Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, 2014, etc.), a former restaurant worker, eats his way across the United States with a few questions in mind: “What does a typical foodstuff associated with said state mean? How do state and history and foodstuff relate?” His “spastic, lyrical anti-cookbook” devotes a chapter to each state, a collage of impressionistic fragments that are alternately interesting and exasperating: personal anecdotes, history, geography, botany, zoology, food lore—and ending with a recipe. In Oregon, for example, besides relating the creation of the hybrid Marionberry, beloved by Oregonians, the author considers cannibalism, inspired by his discovery that the state’s motto was written by a settler whose wagon train companions headed for California, doomed to become the infamous Donner Party. Among myriad other historical details, readers will learn that Rhode Island was named by the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano because he believed it resembled the island of Rhodes. Enough water pours over Niagara Falls every minute to make 640 million cups of coffee. New Mexico’s official state butterfly is named the Sandia hairstreak for its “zippy flight.” As for food, in South Carolina, where “racist white men…make the state’s best barbecue sauce,” the author finds perloo—“sister to jambalaya, brother to pilaf, cousin to paella, to risotto, biryani”—based on rice imported, along with slaves, from Africa. In Iowa, Frank extols the Loosemeat Sandwich, which, unlike a hamburger, “begins its life closer to being chewed and swallowed,” an appropriate dish for a landscape often chewed up by tornadoes. Boiled bread, a bagel expert tells the author, began in the Middle Ages, when Jews were forbidden to bake dough. During the Black Death, they strung boiled bread rings onto rope and fled the pestilence.

Although Frank’s riffs occasionally recall Gertrude Stein’s dizzyingly obscure Tender Buttons, overall, he’s produced a surprising, entertaining look at what Americans eat and why.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63149-073-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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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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