Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review: Eat, Memory; Great Writers at the Table: A Collection of essays from the New York Times

Title: Eat, Memory; Great Writers at the Table: A Collection of Essays from the New York Times
208 pages
W.W. Norton & Co
ISBN-10: 0393067637

I love food. I love hearing about it, looking at pictures of it, collecting recipes on how to prepare it, and reading about it. It is no wonder, then, that this book caught my attention when I saw it on the New Book Shelf at my library. I knew I had to read it and I'm glad I did. However, it really isn't a book about food. It's more about the events, experiences, and memories of life.

In 2004, the food editor of New York Times Magazine, Amanda Hessler, began a column called Eat, Memory. She asked writers to submit "essays about an important moment in their lives that involved food." The only stipulation was that the stories could not be "sentimental". This book, Eat, Memory, is a compilation of twenty-six of the best articles; written by a variety of authors, chefs, playwrights, and others.

Each essay is unique, evoking its own emotion as the writer reveals personal and sometimes intimate details of their food related memory. As I stated earlier, the essays really aren't about the food, but the events surrounding the "food moment". In "Paris Match," Ann Patchett writes about an argument she had with her boyfriend (now husband) over dinner at a very expensive restaurant in Paris (I empathized). In "Bean There," Tucker Carlson tells about an hilarious experience he had while working at a B&M Baked Beans factory during college (I laughed). In "Line of Sight," Gabriell Hamilton, a New York City chef, describes interviewing and working with a blind man for one horrible day in her restaurant (I cringed). I found all twenty-six compositions to be exceptional - each connected by the commonality of food, yet vastly different in terms of place, emotion, desire, and recollection.

For those of you who may be thinking you don't want to read a book about food that's really not about food, don't despair! Most of the essays are followed by a recipe that correlates in some way to the story. Recommended for food lovers, memory keepers, author fans, and those who enjoy essays. (FL)

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