let's try our first pairing. as this is my first attempt writing one and your attempt reading , we'll take it slow and keep it short. i haven't quite finished reading this book, but it's on my mind and on hand, so likely there'll be a small follow-up to this pairing after i finish.
jeffrey steingarten's 1997 bestseller, the man who ate everything, feeds readers and gourmands alike a healthy dose of fat, salt, and sugar. not one to shy away from a meal or a challenge, he walks his readers through a nutritionist's nightmare, first breaking down his own food fears and then tackling the general populaces'. what makes this book interesting is the multi-layered assault on food and food media that steingarten takes. the book itself is a collection of essays collected over the years (and by no means in chronological order), but each of these essays tackles some food misconception he or we have - all the while celebrating the joy of food and eating. even essays focusing on simple gastronomical adventures hint at the excitement, rather than the terror, of the unknown cuisine on the plate.
if his name sounds familiar, steingarten appears regularly now on the food network's iron chef america, a cushy job considering some of the food experiments vogue magazine put him through. (read the book if you want to know how he handled being vegan for a month or what he thinks of diet cookbooks.) originally a lawyer, he moved to vogue to become a food critic, became an online food correspondent for the magazine slate, and won numerous awards from very foodie people and organizations. (look him up for a full list of his achievements. if i write them all out, this pairing won't nearly be as short as we'd all like it to be. just know that the cover of my paperback cheerily states that he is a "julia child book award winner.")
food and drink:
start with something strong. if you have the stomach for brandy or scotch, i'd suggest a good quality single-malt straight up. if not, aim for a robust wine of your choosing. i've been on a red wine kick recently and a cabernet sauvignon did the job nicely for me.
go decadent with food. this doesn't necessarily mean a full-out, multi-course meal. (it's difficult to read while juggling cutlery. and dangerous.) for me, decadent was a mushroom pâté, a warmed olive baguette, and artichoke antipasto. creamy, rich foods are key; savory or sweet is up to you.
i would highly suggest pairing this book with either m.f.k fisher's how to cook a wolf or brillat-savarin's the physiology of taste. steingarten seems very much a modern brillat-savarin with his observations and appetite. he (steingarten) was even made a chevalier in the order of merit for his writing on french gastronomy. i might suggest reading brillat-savarin's opus first in order to emphasise cultural and culinary shifts. m.f.k. fisher i highly recommend, not just for her culinary wisdom, but because in one essay, steingarten attempts to recreate her high-calorie, low-cost dish called "sludge." having long wanted to attempt many of the recipes and tricks suggested in how to cook a wolf, i have the utmost respect for steingarten's attempt to recreate the dish as accurately as possible (the ingredients are not listed by amount, but rather by price)... and his attempt to subsist on the end product.
though it's been many years since i last saw it, babette's feast is my pick to pair with steingarten. the storyline is a bit vague in my head right now, but my memory of the epic (classically french, i believe) dishes cluttering the table resonate with steingarten's encompassing desire for food to be delicious, for food to be food (and not processed, imitations of food), and for food to be prepared to the highest possible standard.