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Steal the Menu: A Memoir of Forty Years in Food

Steal the Menu: A Memoir of Forty Years in Food [Kindle Edition]

Raymond Sokolov

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Product Description

Product Description

Four decades of memories from a gastronome who witnessed the food revolution from the (well-provisioned) trenches—a delicious tour through contemporary food history.

When Raymond Sokolov became food editor of The New York Times in 1971, he began a long, memorable career as restaurant critic, food historian, and author. Here he traces the food scene he reported on in America and abroad, from his pathbreaking dispatches on nouvelle cuisine chefs like Paul Bocuse and Michel Guérard in France to the rise of contemporary American food stars like Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz, and the fruitful collision of science and cooking in the kitchens of El Bulli in Spain, the Fat Duck outside London, and Copenhagen’s gnarly Noma.

Sokolov invites readers to join him as a privileged observer of the most transformative period in the history of cuisine with this personal narrative of the sensual education of an accidental gourmet. We dine out with him at temples of haute cuisine like New York’s Lutèce but also at a pioneering outpost of  Sichuan food in a gas station in New Jersey, at a raunchy Texas chili cookoff, and at a backwoods barbecue shack in Alabama, as well as at three-star restaurants from Paris to Las Vegas.

Steal the Menu is, above all, an entertaining and engaging account of a tumultuous period of globalizing food ideas and frontier-crossing ingredients that produced the unprecedentedly rich and diverse way of eating we enjoy today.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2257 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (14 May 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A9ET65C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,029,505 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sokolov's Gastronomic Journey 25 Jun 2014
By A. Silverstone - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Titled after a sage piece of advice from Craig Clairborne (but also harkening to the title of Abbie Hoffman's more recognized than read Steal This Book), journalist and gastronome Raymond Sokolov recounts his life and career in Steal the Menu.  

Sokolov’s meandering career owes equal parts to luck and personal connections, which makes for a fascinating story in how a graduate student in the Classics became one of of the most prominent food writers in the US. Sokolov even returns to his unfinished dissertation in his 60s to finally earn his PhD. During his multifaceted career are such plum jobs as his several year stint has food editor at the New York Times and later Leisure and Arts editor at the Wall Street Journal. Both were high expense account gigs that let him travel the country and the world eating at the newest and the best. 

Besides giving us insight into Sokolov the man, he also discusses several of the mega trends in the food world.  Midway through the book, Sokolov  explains what "nouvelle cuisine" really is. This much maligned food development is put in the context of culinary history.  Rather than sparse servings with stylized arrangements, we see it as a response to both globalization of gourmet influences and plates for individual diners rather than elaborate platters carried table side. Sokolov gives an appreciation for the real movement behind the media hype. Likewise, at the end of the book, Sokolov addresses  modernist cuisine. Once again, he is able to tease away the flash and hype from the genuine staying power in the culinary innovations. For example, the ubiquity of sous vide cookers underscores their utility. 

If I had one complaint, it is that the personal part of the memoir fades in the second half of the book. Indeed this is more a memoir than an autobiography.  After talking a lot about his first wife, Margaret, and her help to his early career, she and his children fade from the scene.  Towards the end of the book during a trip to Las Vegas, Sokolov mentions his wife Johanna, to whom the book is dedicated.  Obviously, the is a story there, but one that Sokolov has chosen not to reveal. 

Steal the Menu is intriguing because Sokolov's career tracks with an era of huge changes in our culinary landscape. Sokolov is a skilled observer and writer, and he helps us appreciate these monumental changes. 
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Personal stories by someone who observed the food revolution 31 May 2013
By Susan Sprachman - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This isn't a book for everyone. It is written in a very personal style, almost as if mr.sokolov is sitting next to you at the table chatting about his life, his experiences, his meetings with people who changed the way we eat. To appreciate this book you need to appreciate its informality, the way it meanders. Give yourself to it and you will be rewarded with sokolov's humor, ability to laugh at himself and others. The book traces our history as we learned how to appreciate food, to learn how to use a wide range of ingredients, to go from bunn burned coffee to waiting in line for expresso without complaining (he doesn't tell that story, but to me it tells a lot). It also describes his various jobs in the food review world and retells anecdotes from his assorted columns. Relax and enjoy
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raymond Sokolov's autobiography 28 Oct 2013
By Nelson - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm not really a foodie, but I have enjoyed reading Raymond Sokolov. I first began reading him when he was a columnist for "Natural History" magazine. I( have forgotten or missed the essay where he wrote about cannibalism and then gave a recipe for brains. This essay was actually sent out to anthropologists for peer review. Scathing reviews came back because at the time it was fashionable among anthropologists that cannibalism was rare among primitive peoples. His editor laughed and published the article anyway. One of his essays was about key lime pie which my wife had never had. She used the recipe and has continued to make key lime pie several times a year with it.
Sokolov has made a prosperous career of traveling extensively at other people's expense in order to write about food. It has cost the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other publications a fortune so that the rest of us can read about food even if, like me, you seldom dine in a four star restaurant.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great gastronomic experience 4 Jun 2013
By Cindy - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Never before really sure what distinguished nouvelle cuisine from any of the other modern trends in cookery, I found this book enormously informative as well as palatable. I highly recommend this gastronomical history of the recent trends in modern cooking. I only wish I'd been able to savour most, but not all, of the dishes described. Highly recommend to anyone interested in food, which means virtually all of us.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gobble up this memoir 20 May 2013
By howard junker - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the best memoir to come out of my generation so far, simply because it deals with the central esthetic preoccupation of our time: eating.

Ray was, for two years, restaurant critic for the NY Times; his first review was of a Sichuan restaurant in Jersey--who ever crossed the bridge to go to supper? who ever knew there were kinds of Chinese?

He went on to invent himself as an food anthropologist/historian, among other things.

As a kid he was a spelling bee champ. Later, a Harvard/Oxford classicist.

He finished his dissertation on Theocritus when he was in his late sixties.

But it's the angle of vision that matters: what has happened to eating, from the days of feeding babies "formula" the best restaurant in the world today being one that serves lichen foraged from the wild shores of Denmark.

Sokolov has stood witness to our time.
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