Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Shame on me for enticing you with the word Food. There are no recipes here today, just a review of one book - The Best Thing I Ever Tasted:The Secret of Food by Sallie Tisdale.

This book is used in an English class at a nearby community college. For a number of years I have given a tour on Food and Feasting at the museum for this class. I decided it was about time I read one of the books that the students were reading. Better late than never.

Maybe I’m still channeling Julia, but I found this book very interesting and easy to read. Her style is casual. It is part memoir, part culinary history, part sociology. She ties together history, folklore, personal anecdote and analysis. She talks about the medieval kitchen, the classic French kitchen, Betty Crocker’s test kitchen (General Mills), her childhood kitchen, her kitchen today.

Here’s a little something from the book:

“What did you eat for breakfast? For lunch, for last night’s supper, as an afternoon, snack? What did you eat, and why? We think we choose food consciously, deliberately, rationally. We think about calories, price, time, convenience, cholesterol and fat and protein and other people’s opinions, even as we mull over our desire. But what we choose to eat, even what we want to eat, is dictated by forces far beyond our reach, by tiny tides we do not see. Whether we want to believe it or not, we eat what we eat for a thousand reasons. We eat to settle our nerves, in joy and despair, in boredom and lust. We comfort ourselves, make ritual, find delight. What we choose makes us naughty or good. Food fills many empty spaces. It can be symbolic, mythic, even archetypal - and nothing special. How we feel about food is how we feel about our own lives ...”

I keep a scrap piece of paper in the books I read, especially the non-fiction, and take notes as I go along. This piece of paper is covered, front and back, up and down, where ever there was an empty space to take a note. Tisdale talks about whole grains and the change to milled white flour being the modern way to eat because it was farther from the soil. Betty Crocker being the idea General Mills had to answer all those cooking questions being asked by women who had never learned how to cook and the desire to keep things quick and easy with the use of processed foods.

Interesting partial quotes (because I didn’t write the whole thing down) like this one from Wendell Berry, “It is impossible to mechanize production without mechanizing consumption.” ...”impossible to make machines of soil, plants, and animals without making machines also of people.”

Or, the quote from Belasco and his Appetite For Change: “Avoid processed food.” “Awakening to the joy of cooking and eating, especially together...” I had just returned from a wonderful afternoon at the Path of Tea and came home, picked up this book and read the last quote. I thought how wonderful it was to spend time with people I enjoy, drinking tea, eating cake, laughing, talking. Wow! Just like we were *real* people!

Lots of wonderful things in this book. Lots to think about. I'm going to set the table tonight for sandwiches and enjoy every minute talking to Mr. Dragon about his class today. Maybe a beer to go with the sandwich in a nice, tall sparkly glass?! A candle or two?!

I guess you get the idea. I did like this book and recommend it highly.


sherry ♥ lee said...

Oh Snap, you tease!!! :)

This book sounds wonderful...I do hope you enjoyed a frosty cold beer with your sandwiches as you listened to Mr. Dragon talk about his class.

Food. It's such an interesting subject. How often do we eat for eating without tasting? How often do we use food as a substitute (my sister was a classic example of this one). How often do we present our food in such a way as to make it an event? The answer to those questions for most of us is probably very sad indeed.

I'm off to put a candle in my chicken enchiladas...and send a photo of it to Patti Digh who is celebrating her 1 year birthday of "Life is a Verb". The things we do!! But yes, I want to celebrate her book and my cooking!!! ;)

Barb said...

Hi Snap,
I enjoyed your post and will add this to my books to investigate. I wonder what the students think of it? Wouldn't it be interesting to sit in on a discussion with our "older" perspective? I don't think many young people cook or eat whole foods anymore.
We, too, are having sandwiches tonight along with a glass of wine and conversation. I hiked today and my husband biked, so we'll share our day's adventures.

sherry ♥ lee said...

By the way, I've bookmarked the book...I want to read it. I think I've read something else by Sara Tisdale...and I know I have read other books about cooking and chefs that have sparked my interest. The funny thing is, when I was about 12, I suddenly decided I needed to cook and some of the things I made?!? Yuck. But my mother was patient. I wasn't just following a recipe..I was creating as I went along. Sherry. Vermouth. You name it, I was adding it -- spices...and I sometimes wonder, where did that girl go???

Sharon said...

OK Snap I go along with all of the above comments, but I am in a hurry to catch a plane. So set the table for three I'll be there in a flash. This is what you get for titling your post "FOOD". Really girl. You have made me so darn hungry.LOL. I bet you will lock your door and peek out if someone rings your bell. If it's a strange lady with fork and knife in hand... it's me! Sharon

Kim Mailhot said...

A lot of food for thought in this one, Snap ! ;) But yes, I think many of us could put more love into the food we make and into the way we eat it. I tend to do it more when I have guests or family come over than I do for just David and I. Maybe making that ritual a more sacred one would do some magic ? Sounds like a plan to me !
Enjoy your beers and the time with your man !

The Bodhi Chicklet said...

Sandwiches - I do love a good sandwich. But then, I worship bread. It is nice to celebrate the more simple kinds of food, isn't it? It's all about the intention behind the preparation don't you think?

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Being overweight most of my life----I have read all kinds of things about food and why we eat what we eat. I'm doing better now that I'm older ---not eating so much junk and eating healthier.

BUT--I totally disagree when someone says that FAT people are fat because they are lonely or because they are using food as a crutch... Maybe that is true for some---but I'm here to tell you that I simply love food and love to eat. Wish I didn't!!!! ha

Thanks for the book review.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Friend, Just stopping by to say HI--and to tell you that I'm thinking about you. Hope you are okay--although I know that losing a pet is VERY hard...

Hugs and Prayers,