Sunday, September 30, 2012

I'll eat anything

I have no food allergies whatsoever. Give me your raw oysters, your most bitter herbs, your deep-fried insects, your steamed fish lips. I'll happily devour them. Like my good friend, Iya, mentioned this weekend, "I'll eat anything twice." That's why I have a special affinity for Jeffrey Steingarten, the resident food critic at Vogue magazine.

Steingarten's first collection of essays, The Man Who Ate Everything, was a joy to read. Rather than the essays being write-ups on restaurants, Steingarten's short nonfiction pieces range from the simple concept of bread to the intricacies of searching for truffles in France. His second collection of essays, It Must've Been Something I Ate, while having somewhat lost the novelty of his first collection, is still good reading for anyone who is serious about his or her food.

I'm sure that Steingarten enjoys the perks of having a Vogue employee ID. It's very much evident in It Must've Been Something I Ate. He can get into those posh restaurants without a reservation. He receives expensive kitchen gadgets as gifts. He can fly to France at a drop of a hat to serve as judge in the annual best croissant competition. His charmed gustatory life is crystal clear in his essays.

A lot of people would feel that Steingarten's nonfiction book scores low on the relatability factor, especially for readers beyond his first world existence. But we should bear in mind that he wrote these pieces for Vogue, the same people who have the cash to burn on an expensive handbag or a tasting menu in one of Thomas Keller's restaurants. I wasn't bothered by this observation at all. In fact, because of the high-brow feel of the essays, I felt that his life, or his job in that magazine at least, was something that I could aspire to. I wouldn't mind eating in the world's finest restaurants and being paid to write about my dining experience.

It Must've Been Something I Ate was the book of the month for the book club. Considering that I read it almost 10 years ago (it was published 2002), I decided to reread it. I would've wished that the moderator, Joko, chose The Man Who Ate Everything (published in 1999), as I found the essays here more food related. After rereading IMBSIA, I was surprised to find myself still amused by Steingarten's humorous turns of phrase and his meticulous attention to detail. Here's a man who would go to great lengths just to find the recipe for the perfect potato gratin. I can't imagine myself spending hours and hours in the kitchen. Heck, I can overcook instant noodles.

I really was looking forward to this month's discussion. Two of my great loves, as I mentioned in an earlier post, are books and food. Combine these two together, and you'd notice that I can get carried away talking about them. Just look at the photos below to see what I mean. Oy, I go overboard, really.

Photo courtesy of R

Yes, I've grown a moustache. Somehow, it gives me the license to be overly dramatic with my expressions and hand gestures. Aside from the mo, I've also done something new: I signed up for Italian classes. I've always wanted to learn the language, and last Saturday was our first meeting. It felt good to be in an actual classroom again, with a pen and a notebook on my desk. Molto bene!


Monique said...

You mean those expressions are actually real? Haha! Kidding. :D

See you soon, Peter!

Peter S. said...


See you again soon, Monique!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for participating in the discussion Peter! :) And all the support! :)

I know you loved the Man Who Ate Everything, but yun nga, may "dated' factor akong naisip. :)

Thanks uli! :) And glad that you enjoyed the discussion.

Kaz said...

Ciao Peter!

Vorrei leggere questo libro! Piaccio molto cucinare, e anche mangiare negli ristoranti.

There you go - extra homework!!!

Peter S. said...

Hello, stokedbunny! The discussion was awesome! Thanks for moderating it!

Hi, Kaz! Thank goodness for Google Translate!

Kaz said...

Ciao Peter!

Parlo Italiano - as you'll have gathered. If, when you feel confident, you want to practice via email, let me know.