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Wrapping up Book Week: What I would read again if I had the time.

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 1, 2018

I have always disliked the word foodie and have never wanted to be associated with it in any context. There are a lot of foodies out there and when I hear the term, I twitch a bit and then think of -> this.

If you are interested in good food writing as something both intertwined with and outside of the act of eating, these are the books I’d consider.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I’m reading Kitchen Confidential this week. I finally got it from the library, having requested in on the day of his death. At some point in the next year or so, I will write something about him. But before I do I feel I need to reread this book and watch every episode of Parts Unknown now that I know the outcome of his life so I can look for clues for understanding its end. I don’t believe any of us can know what led him to take his life. I think there is a good chance he did not know either. In some cases your mind is not your own and that may have been his fate. In my opinion, many food writers do not have an authentic voice. When I was trying to learn how to write my professors and in some cases editors, did not allow me to have my voice in what I wrote, instead pushing me to be generic and inauthentic in my world view. For my style, if I would not say it, I would not want to write it either. Computers can churn out content with precision, humans can inflect some of their own character into the words they choose. The writing of a person that chooses to write should be a signature for or unique thumbprint of the person that creates it. That is voice, to me. The only person whose writing, voice and view of the world (at least looking at him from the outside) that I connect to on all planes is Anthony Bourdain. I’m not sure if I would have liked him in person or at certain stages of his life, but I oddly think that we would have instantly understood each other. I am sorry I did not get a chance to meet him. I would have been interested in what he had to say off the record and off the camera and off the cuff. When asked the typical question of who you would like to have dinner with living or dead, he would be one of my top three choices. And if I could do such a thing, I would ask him about his final days. I would want to see if he knew what path he was going down to his end or if it was just a random misfire of fate. So far Kitchen Confidential is as good as I remember it.

American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater by Calvin Trillin

This is the first food book I read. I want to say it was suggested to me by the Grumpy Gourmet. I really enjoyed this book and because of it, I went to Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City.

The United States of Arugula by David Kamp
This is the best food history of the United States I have read. It is well written, informative and a book I have in my book shelf for reference.

Between Meals An Appetite for Paris by A.J. Liebling

I’ve never been to Paris (but I would very much like to go). Although this is about the city in 1926 to 1927 the best of the traditions and culture of food in Paris have changed little since then by all reports. This book opened the door for modern food writing and makes sure to get the story of the people who make the food right.

The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K Fisher

M.F.K. was a complex woman. I’m not sure if I could have endured her for longer than a meal at a time but I have a lot a respect for what she did in her time. She is the reason I have the CMH in CMH Gourmand. In additional to being the airport code for Columbus I wanted to do an homage to M.F.K. This book is probably her best and feels that it is from her heart.

The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Micheal Ruhlman

I have not read all of Ruhlman’s books but of what I have, this is the best. The hero of this book is Michael Symon, I wish he would have avoided most of his Food Network and other projects after and stuck harder to his restaurant roots but at least he is still a Clevelander through and through.

American Food Writing – edited by Molly O’Neill

I wanted to like this book more than I did but there are select stories in here that I would not have found otherwise, in particular, by M.F.K. Fisher and H.L. Mencken. I wanted to like Molly O’Neill better as well. She is a good writer and a hometown heroine – Clintonville of all places. When I read her memoir I was turned off by many gaps and gloss overs in the narrative. I wanted a writer to have more angst, humor is often borne out of adversity and as someone that had to fight hard through a male dominated industry and New York to boot, there had to have been more dark moments. Bourdain and Sedaris can capture those moments and run with them, in the case of her memoir it read like she hid from the dark places.

The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars by Joël Glenn Brenner

Even though I like Mars candies much more than Hershey, the two companies could not more diametrically opposed in all things. Mars is truly an evil empire and this book spells it out in a most delicious way.

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One Response to “Wrapping up Book Week: What I would read again if I had the time.”

  1. Cindy Leland said

    Very interesting week! I will look for the Bourdain–love his shows.

    Apropos of your writing voice, I lost a job in Israel because my boss didn’t think I write like an American. But no one could be more American than I, corn and tomato fed most of my life, here!

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