Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ten notable books about dining

Trevor White, editor of The Dubliner and author of Kitchen Con, a memoir of a life lived at the heart of the restaurant business, named his top 10 books about dining for the Guardian.

Here's a taste [ahem] of his list:
A Meal Observed by Andrew Todhunter

Arguably the longest restaurant review in history, and one of the wisest, was published just four years ago. Todhunter's passionate and forensic examination of one meal--at Taillevent, "a Michelin three-star restaurant considered by many critics to be the finest in France and thus the world"--is social history, culinary adventure, and, at its best, a love letter.

The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten

Described as a cross between MFK Fisher and HL Mencken, Jeffrey Steingarten is the most gregarious food writer in America today. This collection of the lawyer's essays for Vogue is a scintillating introduction to the work of a man who will literally eat anything for a headline.

Fork it Over by Alan Richman

Critics who advertise their ignorance are an English specialty. In this collection of culinary musings, American GQ's food critic Alan Richman exhibits his outré charm--he calls honey "bee-puke". "I have been known," writes Richman, "to stand in front of my microwave, reheating coffee, wondering why it takes so long."

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

This celebrated memoir is a homage to the "whacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees ... drunks, sneaks, thieves, sluts and psychopaths" who work in restaurant kitchens. Are critics any less criminal than chefs? Look at the title of my book. Call it an act of worship if you wish. It was in fact a steal. Such acts are typical in the restaurant world, which is full of rip-off artists. Imitation explains why so many second-rate chefs survive. But a cook who dares to tell the truth? Now that's unusual. No wonder he did so well.
Click here to read about the other titles.

Bourdain's book is the only one of the ten that I've read...and I'm not sure I'm happy to have done so. It's a fine read, but I've not been able to enjoy swordfish since. Which may be a good thing.

The publisher on Trevor White's Kitchen Con:
Offering a hilarious account of life as a restaurant critic, this work presents a social history of restaurant criticism and an expose of the restaurant business. It reveals how diners are ripped off by self-styled artists and greedy restaurateurs, while arguing that anyone can become a food critic--all you need is a pen and an appetite.
--Marshal Zeringue