Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 7 October 2016
Food writing 3: More Articles I liked from Choice Cuts by Mark Kurlansky
Writing about food some fine writers and articles
In Food writing 1, I analysed Mark Kurlansky’s anthology Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History, 2002. The book contains 234 articles, which covers the range of food writing from 500 BC to roughly the last thirty years.
It is my task here to continue the descriptions and commenting articles in the book that I feel worthy of following up on.
The Continuing List
This is the continuing list of the remainder of the 32 articles I liked in Choice Cuts. They are in the order they appeared in the book.
I’ll also cover the 40 others I felt worthy of mention. Later.
Gourmets & Gourmands
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin on Gourmets (4 pp) from The Physiology of Taste (1825)
An article on the pleasures and advantages of gourmandism.
Auguste Escoffier on the Art of Cooking in Modern Society (1 p.) from Le Guide Culinaire 2nd edition (1907)
A prescient description of how chefs could handle the change from a slow well-ordered society to one in which time and speed are at a premium. Kurlansky says that his book became the professional cook’s textbook for the next 70 years until he was dthroned by nouvelle cuisine as presaged.
Henri Gault and Christian Millau on Nouvelle Cuisine (1973) from Le Nouveau Guide Gault-Millau no. 54 October, 1973.
This is a manifesto on the advantages of Nouvelle Cuisine replacing the Escoffier style of cooking. I was very negative about Nouvelle Cuisine at the time but they did introduce some good new ways of doing things as outlined in this article. But, I still believe that the tendency was to throw out the baby as well as the bathwater. I still have strong views on these things which I will reveal more of in future articles.
Ludwig Bemelmans on Being a Gourmet (3.5 pp) from La Bonne Table (1964)
A nice, thoughtful and wise article. He begins with France and almost contends that one has to live in France to be a Gourmet. America almost had a chance in the heyday of skilled European culinary immigration but it didn’t last. He is dismissive of the possibility of being a gourmet in America but ends with wonderful eating possibilities.
Food & Sex
John Ash on MFK Fisher’s Warm Sandwich (0.5 p.) pers. com.
An amusing story about a talented cook. A little similar to the old steak under the saddle yarn to tenderise the meat.
Martial‘s Dinner Invitation a poetic encouragement (1 p.) from Epigrams (1st century AD)
Joseph Wechsberg on Tafelspitz at Meissl & Schadn in Vienna (pp 6) from Blue Trout and Black Truffles (1948)
Must be one of the best favourite restaurant reviews ever written. He begins with a wonderful description of Vienna and the arcane types of magnificent boiled beef available at the restaurant. You virtually had to be Viennese and an expert to know how to order. He goes on to describe the staff and their positions and mannerisms in great detail. The beef itself came from chosen herds owned by the restaurant and fed on molasses and sugar-beet mash.
Vienna’s boiled beef eaters are vehement chauvinists, he says.
But, it could not last. The Meissl & Schadn was hit by an American bomb in March, 1945. The butchers and chefs have forgotten. Viennese restaurants serve Rindfleisch and Beinfleisch without any specification…
James Beard on Meier & Frank’s in Portland (1.5 pp) from Delights & Prejudices (1964)
A lovely description of an institution.
Food markets are places after my own heart. I have a lovely photo essay of markets from around the world, which I must write about at some stage.
Emile Zola on the Triperie at Les Halles (1p.) from The Belly of Paris (1873)
A graphic and hard but accurate description.
Edna Ferber on a Chicago Market Window (0.5 p.) from Maymeys from Cuba (1912)
A wondrous window of produce.
Samuel Chamberlain on the Fish Market in Marblehead, Mass. (2 pp) from Clementine in the Kitchen (1943)
A lovely description of an old institution, with a recipe for haddock in white wine.
Ludwig Bemelmans Against Paris Waiters (1 para.) from La Bonne Table (1964)
An odd little memory not particularly inspired by Paris waiters (of whom we’ve all had bad experiences at one time or another). Ludwig Bemelmans was the Austrian writer and illustrator best known for his children’s books about Madelaine.
On Bread Alone
Mimi Sheraton on Bialys (3.5 pp) The Bialy Eaters (2000)
This is a historical essay on Bialy making in New York. Bialys are not bagels but similar without a hole and with onions and poppy seeds in the depression in the middle. Mimi covers all aspects of the making. A charming essay.
Just A Salad
Giacomo Castelvetro on Salad (1.5 pp) from The Fruit, Herbs & Vegetables of Italy (1615)
A description of how one ought to make a salad the Italian way as opposed to the uncouth ways of the Germans and English. Quite compelling. Giacomo Castelvetro was an Italian political refugee in England.
A Good Drink
Alexandre Dumas On Coffee (2 pp) from Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine (1873)
A nice history of the introduction of coffee into Europe and France.
Alice B Toklas On French Cooking (1 p.) from The Alice B Toklas Cook Book (1954)
This was actually written by Alice B Toklas unlike the autobiography written by Gertrude Stein. This is a description of the French and their cooking written by a Francophile who lived in France during the heyday of French cooking.
I haven’t read the whole book but will one day.
The Politics of Food
Curnonsky on Political Categories for Gourmets (2.5 pp) from Almenach des Gourmands (~1950)
Curnonsky was one of the most influential French food critics of the early twentieth century. An amusing piece only possible in France that defines the eating habits and cuisines of the extreme right, the right, the centre, the left and the extreme left.
This is the end of my list of my choice of really good food writing from Mark Kurlansky’s Chice Cuts. The final article will deal with the 40 of interest articles. This is the start of hopefully a long series of articles on good food writing. I hope you are stimulated to buy, borrow or steal a copy of Choice Cuts and read the articles. I’m certainly going to use it as an introduction to a whole series of books on food. Alternatively I hope you find this stimulating enough to chase the originals.
Posted in Fes Medina, Morocco
My apologies, on this holiday I haven’t had the time to post. October, 2016 is going to be rather lean.
Key Words: Food writing, Mark Kurlansky, Choice Cuts, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Auguste Escoffier, Henri Gault and Christian Millau, John Ash, Martial, Joseph Wechsberg, James Beard, Emile Zola, Edna Ferber, Samuel Chamberlain, Ludwig Bemelmans, Mimi Sheraton, Giacomo Castelvetro, Alexandre Dumas, Alice B Toklas, Curnonsky
Goodreads Reviews of Choice Cuts
Wikipedia on Auguste Escoffier
Henri Gault and Christian Millau
Wikipedia on Henri Gault and Christian Millau
NY Time Obituary on Henri Gault
Goodreads on Samuel Chamberlain
Wikipedia on Giacomo Castelvetro
Alice B Toklas
Wikipedia on Alice B Toklas Cookbook
I have Alice B Toklas’ cookbook and most of Bemelmans’ books. Love them. Happy to loan them to you.