Friday, June 19, 2009

Off the Shelf: 'It Must've Been Something I Ate' by Jeffrey Steingarten

In case you didn't notice, I write about food a fair amount. But I also read about food a lot. And one of my favorite food authors is Jeffrey Steingarten, who was a trained lawyer, but switched careers to become Vogue's food critic. I recently finished reading his second collection of essays, "It Must've Been Something I Ate."

The book opens with an essay about tuna, and Steingarten goes on an expedition to catch tuna in the Ensenada.

In "Salt Chic," he had a salt taste test by dissolving some table salt in water in a cup and then have the tester try to match that to one of two other cups: one with the same salt solution and one with a chic salt solution.

The next essay, "Fear of Formaggio," is about his experience sitting next to a woman who was pulling Parmesan curls from her salad. The audacity of that woman! Throwing away Parmesan should not be allowed.

He talks about his adventures trying to buy pig's blood in "It Takes a Village to Kill a Pig."

One of my favorite essays in the book, "Red Wine and Old Roosters," is when Steingarten delves into the classic French coq au vin recipe. I've never had it, but have always wanted to try it, especially since it appears quite a bit on cooking shows and the Food Network. He found at least one restaurant that had used female birds instead of a rooster, or coq. At the end of that chapter, he includes recipes for bouillon, marinade and coq au vin.

Steingarten tackles a bevy of other foodstuffs and topics: bread, chocolate, restaurant lines, gratins, caviar, espresso, pizza, sea urchin.

But my favorite sentence in the book came from "It Takes a Village to Kill a Pig" and I agree with his assessment on our connection to the food we eat:
"We shouldn't think of meat as something that originates in shrink-wrapped packages at the supermarket and imagine that we can escape the karma of killing by paying someone else to do it."
If you like this book, you should try his other book, "The Man Who Ate Everything."

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