Reading: Feast and Toast
I've recently re-read two books about food, that are not cookbooks. One of them is a book that I must have picked up some years ago, probably during one of my bargain bin raids at Barnes & Noble or a similar store. It's called Feast Here Awhile: Adventures in American Eating, by Jo Brans. It's quite an enjoyable read for a foodie, as the author winds her way (sometimes at a slightly annoyingly leisurely pace) through her life through food and vice versa, from growing up in Mississippi to the early '90s the first incarnation of the price-of-the-year number Restaurant Week lunch event in New York. This book is out of print, but seems to be available from many used book outlets.
The other book is Toast: The Story Of A Boy's Hunger, by Nigel Slater. Nigel Slater is a food columnist for the Observer in London, and his writings and recipes are a pure delight. He's not as well known outside of the U.K. as Nigella Lawson, but his cookbooks are every bit as worthwhile as the Domestic Goddess's. Toast is his autobiography, in a sense, told again through the prism of his relationship to food. It's a more powerful narrative than the previous book, and more personal. If you spent any of your growing up years in middle-class suburban England, as I did, it will give you some serious pangs of nostalgia too.
I love to read books like these. It allows me to discover yet another person as obsessed with food and tastes as I am, and also reminds me again how powerful and influence food is in our lives. I don't think that food is just about eating, or coming up with a recipe or another. When you start to think of important moments in your life in terms of what you ate, and the places you travelled in terms of what dishes you savored, then you have become a true foodie. In some ways, I think this is why I have a blog thats just about food. I think that all foodies channel Proust in our ways, though we may not be as masterful at narrating our memories.
(Incidentally, New York Restaurant Weekis still going on - if you're visiting New York during that week, be sure to phone your favorite restaurant way in advance. This year, of course, the price for lunch at many of the top city restaurants will be a mere $20.05.)