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.