A Slice of Life: Contemporary Writers on Food
Edited by Bonnie Marranca
(Overlook Duckworth: New York) $26.95/hardcover
Anthologies like this one can be scary. Do we really want to hear Roland Barthes pontificate on the implications of chopsticks? Umberto Eco on the in-flight meal? Sallie Tisdale, once again, on her sexual development and its relation to food? No, no and no.
But A Slice of Life, packed at over 400 pages, is a worthy addition to the dedicated foodie's collection for the gems that are hidden there, many of them published in magazines or books over the past 25 years, still barely alive in memory, but preserved here in one place.
Specifically, Michael Pollen's piece on the corporatization of organic foods, Maxine Kumin's on making jam, Mimi Sheraton's on funerals and food, Wendell Berry's on the wisdom of eating locally grown foods, Corby Kummer's on growing coffee beans, Laurie Colwin's on how to get your kids to eat good food -- these and many others overshadow the precious stuff with good solid writing, thinking and reporting.
Some of the recent crop of food celebs show up too -- Nigella Lawson on the pleasure of eating alone with her beautiful self, Anthony Bourdain on translating menus, Nigel Slater on everything he ate for an entire year -- some banter, some discourse. The quality is uneven, but the good stuff alone is worth the considerable weight of the book.
-- Kathryn Eastburn
By Ming Tsai and Arthur Boehm
(Clarkson Potter: New York) $29.95/hardcover
The subtitle of this new cookbook, Easy Techniques for East-Meets-West Meals, describes it well. Blessed with lush photography and strong organization, it delivers what it promises.
Ming Tsai is a Food Network chef and host of a public television show, Simply Ming. He's attractive and energetic, and his cooking mixes Asian techniques and ingredients with American sensibility.
The book is sauce-based: Each section introduces a variety of flavored oils, salsas, dressings, marinades, syrups, broths or rubs, and then gives several recipes using the base. For example, Black-Bean Garlic Sauce becomes the basic ingredient in Wok-Stirred Clams, Wok-Stirred Beef with Eggplant, and Black Bean Pork and Tofu Stir-Fry.
I tried the miso-citrus marinade and Ming's roast chicken recipe with good results.
Some of the recipes sound weird, like Asian Sloppy Joes, and some are far more complicated than I'm willing to venture, but the bulk seem reasonable. And the photos, well, they're pure food porn for the naked eye and the hungry stomach.
-- Kathryn Eastburn