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Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History Audio Cassette – 2003

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Amazon.com: 11 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An uneven collection of bathroom reading for foodies 26 Sep 2006
By Esther Schindler - Published on Amazon.com
If I were Kurlansky's publisher, I would have liked his book pitch, too: pull together several short essays of food writing into a single book. Kurlansky is an excellent author -- I've read a few of his other books and liked 'em quite well -- but this one doesn't quite make it.

When an essay works, it's a great sampler for the author's work -- which may not be a "foodie" writer. You'd expect to find Lucullus, but not Herodotus (Kurlansky includes a page from The Persian Wars, fifth century BC, with Herodotus' comments on Egyptian dining). I've read _of_ AJ Liebling more than I've read him, but I loved the four pages reproduced here about dining with his parents at Restaurant Maillabuau in Paris, followed immediately by MFK Fisher on Monsieur Paul's.

The book has thirty chapters which group the material by topic: ethnicity, such as The Americans, or food items, such as the Mystery of Eggs. A section on seasoning includes Pliny the Elder on Thyme, the Talmud on Garlic, Platina on Basil and Saffron, Karl Friedrich von Rumohr on Sorrel, and The Aobo Tu on Salt Making.

On the positive side, each of the essays is very short. Most are 2-3 pages, and few are more than 5, making them suitable to enjoy in the john (and I do mean that in a nice way). That's also a negative, however, because by the time you've gotten into an essay (or poem or song lyrics -- Kurlansky mixes 'em up), and figured out whether this one is meant to be funny, or sensual, or instructive, or whatever... it's over. When something doesn't work for me -- and it could be a matter of mood -- I find that I flip forward until I find another essay that attracts. Perhaps that's a strength, too, because there's always something to get my interest. But mostly I'm aware of how much of the book I'm skipping.

The uneven nature of the collection makes it hard for me to recommend this book without reservation. I like it; I don't love it.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Mixed Selection of Food Writing 3 Mar 2003
By rodboomboom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a mixed selection of food journalism, with some very savory good food expose, and the other rather bland. The problem is that the book is 450 pages long, so sorting is necessary. The titles are deceptive. By them, this would be a fantastic collection. But they are deceiving, and the delectable title does not guarantee savory reading.
I've consumed about half of this collection, and find some very sumptuous cuts, including a most delightful work by Escoffier on the Art of Cooking in Modern Society as well as John Ash's lovely story on lunch with M.F.K. Fisher.
This is diminished by repeated bland works. Thus, unless one is willing to sort and read, this book becomes tedious and makes the price and effort less palatable except for the most interested.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Bedside Stack 11 Mar 2007
By Lorenzo Moog - Published on Amazon.com
I like to have a small stack of books on my nightstand that I can just pick up and read before sleep that have nothing whatsoever to do with my current daytime/evening reading. The best candidates for that small stack are poetry, short stories and essays and so I have been happy to have Mark Kurlansky's "Choice Cuts" around for that style of casual, drifting away reading. I know from Kurlansky's "Cod" and "Salt" that he's a real bloodhound researcher so I imagine he comes across all kinds of material that catches his attention but doesn't suit his purpose at hand. The book has interesting Contents pages but I rarely use them, I just open the book at random and see where it takes me; it's all interesting to me. For instance Von Rumohr's, "Emotions to be Avoided While Eating" (p.126), Hooker, "On Icelandic Food"(p.67), ALL of Marjorie Rawlings, James Beard on "Radishes" (p.161) and many more delight me. In fact the whole book sooner or later. There are so many books with so many different purposes and uses. This one is just a little buddy to have around to amuse, to entertain and to delight, to accompany me into dreams. Then all of a sudden, too late at night, I'm stirring up a batch of Marjorie Rawlings, "Hush Puppies" (p. 255) to eat with blackberry jam and "Hot Chocolate", James Beard (p.341).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining Reading for Foodies 3 Sep 2003
By wskrz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
With Mark Kurlansky's reputation as one of the best food writers today, it was only a matter of time before a collection of some of his selections of good food writing came together. "Choice Cuts" is entertaining reading, especially for those who are interested in the history of eating and food. There are few recipes in this book, but this collection is more of a book that you sit down with a cup of coffee or tea after you've finished the dishes.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Piece of Work 7 Aug 2003
By Chris Frost - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be highly entertaining and at times even somewhat amusing. Who couldn't laugh at Giacomo Castelvetro's accusation that the English put enough vinegar in their salads to give Morgante a footbath?
Several reviewers have complained about the lack of diversity and the Euro-centric selection of writings. I disagree. I feel that this book represents an accurate cross-section of world-wide food writing. Sure, it contains a lot of writing about French food, but then who has written more about food than the French? One of the prerequisites of writing about food is to have some, lest you will not know what you are writing about. And the massive abundance and variety of food that the French have access to and have mastered the preparation of, lends to them a certain exclusivity regarding the matter. This book was by no means meant to contain every tidbit ever written about food in the history of the world. One will be much more pleased with it if it is viewed as an introduction to many notable and worthwhile food writers, from which one may seek out the other scribblings of these authors.
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