“The Table Comes First” by Adam Gopnik

In the preface, Gopnik writes, “We shouldn’t intellectualize food,” and on that count I think the book is a failure; as a result, some chapters are something of a slog. But others are wonderful.  (They vary quite a lot in style and tone, and don’t make a very cohesive whole – presumably because they were written as a series of unconnected essays for the New Yorker.)  I loved the chapter on the history of recipes and recipe books, and the letters to Elizabeth Pennell, which even allow for a plot twist of sorts.  I found the philosophizing about (against, really) vegetarianism particularly unconvincing, but he does get a good burn in on Mark Bittman:

[Bittman] is cautious, and even skeptical; while Rosso and Lukins “love” and “crave” their filet of beef, to all of animal flesh Bittman allows no more than “Meat is filling and requires little work to prepare.  It’s relatively inexpensive and an excellent source of many nutrients.  And most people like it.”  Most people like it!  Rosso and Lukins would have tossed out any recipe, much less an entire food group, of which no more than that could be said.  Lamb is a thing they “fall in love with again every season of the year,” and of pork they know that it is “divinely succulent.”  Bittman thinks that most people like it.

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