26th February 2013

Books every foodie should read: #2

With an abundance of gastronomic literature on offer, Maddy Hubbard takes us through the essentials. This week: Jeffrey Steingarten.

The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten

Jeffrey Steingarten is the best food writer you have probably never heard of. He was the food critic for Vogue for many years and, despite most people’s assumptions that his readership was probably not particularly interested in food (or at least not in eating it themselves), he is incredibly well-respected and a wonderful, inspirational writer.

His first book, The Man Who Ate Everything, starts with his decision to rid himself of all food preferences before becoming a restaurant critic. He feels that in order to do the job properly, he must be able to look at a menu and feel equally interested in eating everything on it. After a long struggle with oysters and Greek food he eventually succeeds magnificently with everything except Indian desserts, going about it in a wonderfully obsessive way.

This meticulous focus is evident in later sections too – for example, when he takes up baking bread. This seems to involve not just practice and an oven, but trips around the world, chemical analysis of different flours and tests with various brands of bottled water, just to make sure the pH balance is exactly right. He is not a man who does things by halves.

One brilliant episode in his quest to make the perfect pizza has him buy a laser-gun heat reader, so he can sneakily test out the temperature in the ovens of his favourite restaurants to find out how they make the perfect crust. The average reader will probably never go to quite his lengths in the search for perfection, but he does provide tempting recipes at the end of each chapter so you can learn from his experience.

As well as this, he gives amazing descriptions of beautiful meals – so amazing that you feel as though you have eaten them yourself, wishing you could give up living in the real world  to simply travel and share in experiences like these. That’s still the dream, but until then, read this book, be inspired, and live vicariously through this wonderfully obsessive and truly passionate food-lover.

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