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On Food-Related Books

Spoiled, Fast Food Nation, and McLibel are all concerned with the sobering consequences of our ever-increasing consumption of fast food and concentration of food production in the hands of larger processors. Spoiled is particularly grim about the increased likelihood of epidemic food poisoning, recognized or unrecognized. It would be agreeable to dismiss Fast Food Nation as not relevant if you only eat "slow food", but unfortunately the side effects of mass production, combination of meat from various sources, and breeding vegetables for long-distance shipability extend well into the realm of the foods we can readily obtain from our local supermarkets. McLibel is the lightest read of the three. The details of the David-and-Goliath struggle between two U.K. activists, who represented themselves for lack of funds, against battalions of McDonald's lawyers to demonstrate that their homemade flyers' accusations against the fast foot giant were substantially true, is a hoot.

The Cookbook Decoder is almost unique in offering a digestible (sorry) amount of the science behind why cooking procedures are the way they are, and what you can do to fix it when things go wrong in the kitchen. Entertainingly humorous. Fashionable Food describes not only the major food fads for the last century, but also the social conditions that brought them about (like the fad for Jello molds when refrigerators became common). Some of the recipes are good too, and nostalgic if you lived through that decade, though some, particularly "1924 Italian Spaghetti", are clearly reprinted for amusement value only.

Many of the other books are memoirs by restaurant critics, travelers, and people who worked inside the restaurant business. The Winston book helped me immeasurably in setting up my small Manhattan kitchen so it's well-organized ans a pleasure to work in. The Roth & Glassman/Fields & Honore books are more concerned with self-nurturing and philosophy of life, often as reflected in food and cookery. Finally, 900 Days and Endurance, while by no means food books, contain descriptions of people in extreme conditions trying to eke out enough sustenance to survive, and are scary and fascinating.

Books the Happy Foodie staff has enjoyed:

Foodie books we're looking forward to:






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