Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Looks like a good gift to give this season - The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik - A collection of food essays that are done to a turn.

The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food. [Hardcover] OWN IT

If you're a critic and you haven't trumpeted the slowing pulse of French gastronomy, there's something wrong with you. Or so goes the fashion. It's only fair - France did invent high culinary competition as we know it. But if you're a regular person who just loves to eat, you may not flinch at the waning star of pot-au-feu or garlicky escargots. 

In that air du temps, Adam Gopnik's forthcoming book, The Table Comes First: France, Family, and the Meaning of Food, indulges gourmands everywhere. And it's a refreshing defense of the nation responsible in so many ways for the way we eat now. In Gopnik's distinctive style, it is encyclopedic yet personal and funny, and it drives at deeper truths. 

Gopnik is a Francophile who puts interlopers in the crowded books-on-Paris genre to shame. At the city's English-language bookshops, his 2000 bestseller Paris to the Moon - chronicling the five years he spent in France for The New Yorker - remains a top request. ("All the freaking time!" as one bookseller puts it.)  {Daily Beast review - read on}

I wish this book, The Table Comes First, didn't have to be a book. I wish it could be a dinner table, instead, with maybe six people sitting around it - not in a jammed-full New York restaurant where everyone is bellowing over the sound system but in somebody's home, where we've all been invited to eat and talk. And I wish Adam Gopnik were at the table, leaning forward intently as the plates come and go, yakking away happily about food and history and Paris and cookbooks and life, just as he does in these pages. Then the rest of us guests could jump in and interrupt him whenever we want, probably knocking over a wine glass in our enthusiasm: "What do you mean, there were no 'big books of recipes' before the 19th century? Hannah Glasse, 1747, indispensable for the next hundred years!" "You don't really think our current food obsession is the 'father' of the obesity crisis, do you? People are getting fat from eating heirloom tomatoes - poverty and junk food have nothing to do with it?" "Good grief, Adam, listen to your own language - 'men' don't invite 'girls' to dinner anymore, and they haven't since about 1972." {Slate review}

Adam Gopnik writes like the longstanding contributor to the New Yorker that he is. Which is to say, he has a voice that is by turns conversational and dandyish, regular Joe and Ivy League, fancy about everyday pleasures (sport, food) and defiantly unawed about those subjects that are supposed to matter more (art, philosophy). Lots of people write, have written, for the New Yorker, and clearly they don't all sound the same - Updike is not Thurber, Dorothy Parker is not Janet Malcolm - but you can't deny a family resemblance. Perhaps it's a confidence thing, a feeling that it is the voice, rather than the subject, that is the point: whether it's Gopnik on Paris, Gopnik on Abraham Lincoln or, as in this new book, Gopnik on food, it is the Gopnik bit that gives what restaurant critics like to call "the sizzle". {review on Guardian}

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