“Every once in awhile a writer of particular skills takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight.” That’s how David McCullough described Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, a work that revealed how a meal can be as important as it is edible. Salt: A World History, its successor, did the same for a seasoning, and confirmed Kurlansky as one of our most erudite and entertaining food authors. Now, the winner of the James Beard Award for Excellence in Food Writing shares a varied selection of “choice cuts” by others, as he leads us on a mouthwatering culinary tour around the world and through history and culture from the fifth century B.C. to the present day.
Choice Cuts features more than two hundred pieces, from Cato to Cab Calloway. Here are essays by Plato on the art of cooking . . . Pablo Neruda on french fries . . . Alice B. Toklas on killing a carp . . . M. F. K. Fisher on the virility of Turkish desserts . . . Alexandre Dumas on coffee . . . W. H. Auden on Icelandic food . . . Elizabeth David on the downward march of English pizza . . . Claude Lévi-Strauss on “the idea of rotten” . . . James Beard on scrambled eggs . . . Balzac, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Chekhov, and many other famous gourmands and gourmets, accomplished cooks, or just plain ravenous writers on the passions of cuisine.
James Beard Award winning author Kurlansky (Cod; Salt), brings together a banquet of historical and modern writings on food. Divided into such chapters as "Memorable Meals" and "Eating Your Vegetables," the book covers the range of writings from food notables to general authors and historians. All the masters are covered, including the father of American food writing, James Beard, with his comments on radishes and hot chocolate; the doyenne of the British post-war kitchen, Elizabeth David, with her rail against the garlic press; as well as M.F.K. Fisher and her witty observations on "bachelor cooking." Kurlansky nicely balances specialist knowledge with just plain love of food, such as Hemingway's descriptive "Fish in the Seine," George Orwell's evocative "Paris Cooks and Waiters," and A.J. Liebling's writing on boxing and food, excerpted from Between Meals. Kurlansky does take readers out of the 20th century and back in history to the Roman Empire, with such writers as Pliny the Elder (writing about bees and honey), Plutarch and the witty poet Martial of Epigrams fame. Folded in between are such food masters as Escoffier, Brillat-Savin, Hannah Glass and Taillevent. Insightful comments and explanations by Kurlansky precede each piece; the resulting volume provides a wide range of tastes certain to tempt any literary palate.