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The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissanceby Thomas Mcnamee
Synopses & Reviews
In the 1950s, America was a land of overdone roast beef and canned green beansand#8212;a gastronomic wasteland. Most restaurants relied on frozen, second-rate ingredients and served bogus and#8220;Continentaland#8221; cuisine. Authentic French, Italian, and Chinese foods were virtually unknown. There was no such thing as food criticism at the time, and no such thing as a restaurant critic. Cooking at home wasnand#8217;t thought of as a source of pleasure. Guests didnand#8217;t chat around the kitchen. Professional equipment and cookware were used only in restaurants. One man changed all that. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;From the bestselling author of andlt;Iandgt;Alice Waters and Chez Panisse andlt;/Iandgt;comes the first biography of the passionate gastronome and troubled genius who became the most powerful force in the history of American foodand#8212;the founding father of the American food revolution. From his first day in 1957 as the food editor of the andlt;Iandgt;New York Timesandlt;/Iandgt;, Craig Claiborne was going to take his readers where they had never been before. Claiborne extolled the pleasures of exotic cuisines from all around the world, and with his inspiration, restaurants of every ethnicity blossomed. So many things we take for granted now were introduced to us by Craig Claiborneand#8212;andlt;Iandgt;crand#232;me fraand#238;cheandlt;/Iandgt;, arugula, balsamic vinegar, the Cuisinart, chefand#8217;s knives, even the salad spinner. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;He would give Julia Child her first major book review. He brought Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers, Paul Prudhomme, and Jacques Pand#233;pin to national acclaim. His $4,000 dinner for two in Paris was a front-page story in the andlt;Iandgt;Times andlt;/Iandgt;and scandalized the world. And while he defended the true French nouvelle cuisine against bastardization, he also reveled in a well-made stew or a good hot dog. He made home cooks into starsand#8212;Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, Diana Kennedy, and many others. And Craig Claiborne made dinner an eventand#8212;whether dining out, delighting your friends, or simply cooking for your family. His own dinner parties were legendary. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Craig Claiborne was the perfect Mississippi gentleman, but his inner life was one of conflict and self-doubt. Constrained by his position to mask his sexuality, he was imprisoned in solitude, never able to find a stable and lasting love. Through Thomas McNameeand#8217;s painstaking research and eloquent storytelling, andlt;Iandgt;The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat andlt;/Iandgt;unfolds a history that is largely unknown and also tells the full, deep story of a great man who until now has never been truly known at all.
"McNamee argues for Claiborne's significance in connecting home cooking, fine dining, and classic and ethnic foods in the postwar period in this often light and uneven biography. Despite poor Mississippi Delta beginnings balanced by gracious Southern food and manners, the sensitive, misfit Claiborne (1920 — 2000) went on to college then served in the Navy during WWII. Navy intelligence service exposed him to broader sensory and sexual experiences. He later enrolled in a Swiss hospitality school and returned to New York, set on becoming the New York Times first male food editor. Freelancing led to public relations work whose perks included fine dining at leading gastronomic temples and that dream job at the Times. Claiborne's long professional and personal relationship with Pierre Franey and the 1961 publication of his New York Times Cook Book launched him on a broader platform just ahead of Julia Child, eventually leading to his regular bylined restaurant reviews. Professional success sometimes countered the ups and downs of Claiborne's private life, particularly those related to sexuality and alcohol.. Agent, David McCormick." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the bestselling author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse comes the first biography of Craig Claiborne, the father of the American food revolution, who introduced the world to the likes of Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck, and Alice Waters.
From his first day on the job as the New York Times food critic, Craig Claiborne excited readers by introducing them to food worlds unknown, from initiating them in the standards of the finest French cuisine and the tantalizing joys of the then mostly unknown foods of India, China, Mexico, Spain, to extolling the pleasures of “exotic” ingredients like arugula, and praising “newfangled” tools like the Cuisinart, which once he’d given his stamp of approval became wildly popular. A good review of a restaurant guaranteed a full house for weeks, while a bad review might close a kitchen down.
Based on unprecedented access to Claiborne’s personal papers and interviews with a host of food world royalty, including Jacques Pepin, Gael Greene, and Alice Waters, Tom McNamee offers a lively and vivid account of Claiborne’s extraordinary adventure in food, from his own awakening in the bistros of Paris, to his legendary wine-soaked dinner parties, to his travels to colorful locals from Morocco to Saigon, and the infamous $4,000 dinner he shared in Paris with French chef Pierre Franey that made front-page news. More than an engrossing biography, this is the story of the country’s transition from enchantment with frozen TV dinners to a new consciousness of truly good cooking.
About the Author
Thomas McNamee is the author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, Life, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He lives in San Francisco.
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