I just got an e-mail from the library that Anthony Bourdain's new book, The Nasty Bits
, is waiting for me. (Am I allowed to admit on here that I take books out of the library instead of buying them? Ignore that. Libraries are terrible. They're as bad as Napster. You should buy your books, you should pay full price, you should lose them and buy replacement copies, and you should buy them all at Powell's, either online or at their store, the largest independent bookstore in the inhabited world.) I'm not sure why, but I really like reading about food. Not cookbooks, but pretty much anything else. Just in the past few months, I've read Bill Buford's Heat
, Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma
, David Kamp's The United States of Arugula
, Doug Psaltis's The Seasoning of a Chef
, and Donald Margulies's Dinner with Friends
, all really quite excellent.
(Dinner with Friends isn't really about food, but it's a play about two couples, and one of the couples writes about food, and there's a lot of talk about pomodoro and lamb and a cake made with polenta instead of flour and it's basically as much about food as any play that isn't really about food could possibly be, so I figure it counts. Just an aside ? Margulies's most recent play, Brooklyn Boy, is the best book or play about the soul of a writer that I've ever read.)
It surprises me when people don't like to read about food. As much as it surprises me when people don't like to eat. I feel like one of the coolest things about this world is all the different kinds of food there are and how you can always be trying new things and finding food you've never even heard of. I feel like eating gives you the benefit of expensive travel without it being so expensive, and without actually having to go anywhere, which are the two worst things about travel anyway. And reading about food makes it even easier ? you don't even have to eat anything, and you can still feel like you know all about artisanal pastries made in an applewood smoker in a villa in Portugal. They probably don't make pastries in smokers. But you get the point. It seems like food writing is often some of the most vivid, well-written stuff I read. Lots of description, colorful characters, and high stakes. Kamp's book talks about the development of a gourmet culture in America, over the past hundred years. By the end, you feel like whether or not the middle class gets to try genuine balsamic vinegar is as important as World War II. By the end of Pollan's book, I was ready to never eat corn-fed beef again. By the end of Buford's book I felt equipped to kill a wild boar and turn it into dinner. Not quite, but I really got into the books, they felt… I don't know… as satisfying as a good meal?
I watch the Food Network sometimes. Sometimes while I'm eating. It's strange to watch someone cooking while you're eating something totally different. The Food Network was on the TV in a Japanese restaurant I ate in last week. Emeril was making pasta. I was eating sushi. It didn't really make sense. Cognitive dissonance.