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Life is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days Hardcover – 9 Oct 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (9 Oct. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447254929
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447254928
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 3.5 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 144,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A delicious grab-bag of stories, recollections and histories that makes for the perfect gift for literary foodies (Stuart Evers Independent)

The breadth and scope of the entries, from personal anecdote to Classical history, from modern American manners to French peasant cookery, is admirable, as are the beautiful illustrations and whip-smart design (Stuart Evers Independent)

From the Inside Flap

From the award-winning author James Salter and his wife, Kay - amateur chefs and perfect hosts - here is a lively book packed full of culinary wisdom, history, recipes, literary pleasures, and the authors' own stories of their triumphs - and catastrophes - in the kitchen.

With an entry for each day of the year, Life Is Meals takes us from a Twelfth Night cake in January to a champagne dinner on New Year's Eve. Along the way you will discover:

The menu on the Titanic on the fatal night.

The extraordinary sense of well-being derived from the perfect martini - and how to make one.

The origin of the sandwich.

How to decide whom to invite to a dinner party - and whom not to.

Where in Paris Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter had French onion soup at 4:00 a.m.

How to cope with acts of god and man-made disasters in the kitchen.

Sophisticated, practical, opinionated and indispensable, Life Is Meals is a tribute to the glory of food and drink, and the joy of sharing them with others. It is a perfect companion for any food lover.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came to this having read the greater part of James Salter's fiction and wondering what this might have to offer. It exceeded all my expectations.

The book in fact offers an entry for each day of the year about some aspect of food. Some entries are about kinds of food (pineapples, coffee, foie gras) or wine (famous vintages etc), some about food writers, some about restaurants, many about food experiences - it is clear that the Salters have given many excellent dinner parties, including to the occasional famous literary colleague (John Irving, Salman Rushdie). A lot of research would seem to have gone into this, though the Salters wear their learning lightly. How much I will remember I doubt, but perhaps the advice to put red wine in the fridge for 30 minutes before drinking and white wine in the fridge for an hour before drinking to maximise flavour.

The episodic style of the book seems made for Salter's writing style - although the work is clearly a joint product with his wife Kay and also clearly represents many happy decades of married life. In that sense the book tells you 'what happens next' at the end of Salter's autobiography Burning The Days.

All in all then, a very enjoyable reading experience which I would strongly recommend to others - but only, of course, to other who are interested in food and food writing.
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By emma lean on 12 Dec. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Loved it ... More please
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 23 reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
A book that makes you hungry --- for more 23 Oct. 2006
By Jesse Kornbluth - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"The meal is the essential act of life. It is the habitual ceremony, the long record of marriage, the school for behavior, the prelude to love."

If you have ever read James Salter, you will have no trouble recognizing that prose. Every word is carefully chosen, measured, considered, sifted, chosen again. The superfluous disappears; the eternal endures. To read Salter is to catch a master in the act.

James and Kay Salter have been together for three decades. He writes, she writes. But reading "Life Is Meals," you get the sense that the art of cooking and eating well is at least as potent for them as any esthetic connection. At their homes in Aspen and the Hamptons and on their travels across Europe, they have the knack of making each meal count --- not just the food, but the company, the ambience and the conversation.

This book is a record of their lifelong interest in food. When they name-drop, it's more often the name of a long-dead French chef than a celebrated friend. But they're not snobs. When they share a recipe, it's usually for a dish that's already an old friend of yours: Gratin dauphinoise. Risotto. French chicken. Chili. Cucumber soup. Their personal cookbook is handwritten. Their book of days is casual: a personal anecdote here, a recipe there, a memory following.

Read with pen in hand, for the Salters are the king and queen of tips. They offer a modest list of the cookbooks they use. (I was delighted to see that one is Bistro Cooking.) They note the importance of the egg cup to the soft-boiled egg. They tell you when to use salt (after browning meat; on pineapple and grapefruit), what to drink when (white wine at lunch, red at dinner), and what to serve with green salad (chilled sparkling Vichy water). And they guide you through the creation of a Dinner Party --- like: don't ask who wants coffee, just make it and offer it.

The Salters serve up tons of foodie trivia. The origin of the "Baby Ruth." The health benefit of dark chocolate (15 times more antioxidants than broccoli). Unsurprisingly, they have collected tasty anecdotes I've seen nowhere else. Some are wonderfully eccentric: a dying man's farewell gift to his wife (600 jars of her favorite jams). Others are literary, and feature Turgenev, Balzac, Dumas, Beckett.

The Salters love France. When Kay was giving birth to their son Theo in Paris, James had a bottle of Chateau Latour ready, so the great wine might moisten the lips of their son --- a custom of French kings. Decades later, they mention that they spend a week in Paris, "largely at the Louvre," and top it off with lunch at Le Grand Vefour. This is not snobbery. It is taste in action.

Armchair readers will delight in the Salters' peppering of the book with great French historical anecdotes. Like: Talleyrand. 1803. No fish to be had in Paris. At a state dinner, the servant carrying an enormous salmon trips and falls. All are horrified. Talleyrand calmly says, "Bring in another salmon." And, in a flash, another salmon appears. The punch line: "The whole incident had been planned.

But let's not make this too special. The Salters tell you about a cheap but noble Italian red wine (Salice Salentino). They explain why you can't get decent Brie in America. They warn you against the Zagat guides. And they make you feel, in every sentence, that if you aim high, read widely and throw yourself into new experiences, you can create your own, equally tasty book of meals.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The perfect dinner party gift 27 Oct. 2006
By chardday - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a life long fan of James Salter, I ordered this book, not knowing what to expect. Written with his wife, Kay Salter, it's a history of their dinner parties and full of facts about food. The book includes recipes, illustrations and etiquette tips. I'm having a hard time describing everything this book contains. All I can say is it's utterly charming. And the writing is what Salter's fans have come to expect: spare, poetic, sophisticated. As literature, it's hard to put down once you pick it up. I'm going to start bringing this to dinner parties as a gift, instead of my usual bottle of wine. (I wonder what the Salters would have to say about that!)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An inspiration 26 Oct. 2006
By Gentle Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a treasure. Life is Meals is charming, beautifully written and loaded with cool facts. (Since reading it, several times a day I find myself saying, "Did you know...") James and Kay Salter have written about great meals, history, literature and friendship. I keep my copy on my desk not just because I know any page I open to will delight, or I love its illustrations and how it feels in my hand, but also because it reminds me there's an alternative to experiencing life via computer screen. Like good food, Life is Meals is something you will want to share.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Delicious Reading 18 April 2007
By C. J. Friedlob - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This uniquely unclassifiable book is an utter delight. More than a cookbook, more than advice on how to entertain, more than a history of food and its preparation, it is both a memoir and veritable instruction manual about how to dine and live with style and gusto. Simultaneously worldly and sophisticated, casual and candid, every page offers a new treat. The illustrations are charming and perfectly complement the tone of the book. You'll want an extra copy to give to special friends.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
One Stop Shopping 31 Oct. 2006
By Grandma - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In addition to owning your own copy, Life is Meals is an obvious gift idea. Give it to inspire those just starting their lives of meals together. Give it to add to the pleasure and wisdom of those who have any appreciation for the artistry of meal preparation and consumption.

I already have a stack of copies waiting for giving at Christmas, weddings, birthdays, or as a special thank you.

Although the format is one entry per day, be warned that it is extremely difficult to stop reading after just one!
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