Lovers of food, prepare to salivate. This is a wondrous book! While the title ("1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die") is accurate enough, it may seem a publicist's brainstorm; the subtitle "A Food Lover's Life List" more truly reflects the author's intent. Mimi Sheraton, a renowned food writer, calls this "my autobiography" and in its all-encompassing humanist embrace of world food culture it is a most worthy memorial. So elegant is the writing and encyclopediac the knowledge, this work would be far and away my choice if forced to select just one food book for a desert island. (Take the book, leave the cannoli.) Indeed, Ms. Sheraton's prose resembles and is as nourishing as the good food she describes: fulsome, juicy, unctuous, savory and sweet. (Or to wit, re: squid ink: "velvety, enticingly earthy, excitingly saline, quintessentially rich, and a bit dangerously lurid..."). Oh yes! The book is divided into sections reflecting countries and geographic world cuisines. For each entry (of the 1,000 dishes, ingredients, etc) there is a description, usually of several short paragraphs, which provide an amazingly concentrated universe of information. Delightfully, it also names a few restaurants where to find best examples of a dish, and sites to order items. Occasionally there are recipes -- often links to them. Can the selections be quibbled? Of course: why separate entries for peanuts and peanut butter, and none for salade Nicoise? But that's all part of the fun. Praise for the high production values definitely includes the team who selected the small photographs paired with text, lyrical and lovely. (A tip: this is a classic you might want to own; at $25 the paperback is well worth it, but the type is rather small.)
I stopped reading this, not because there's anything wrong with it, per se, but because I wanted something else. I wanted a leisurely exploration of the world of food, something that would make me want to run out and try new things. What I got was more like an encyclopedia. And not many people read encyclopedias for fun.
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