Adam Platt has been the restaurant critic at New York Magazine since 2000, when he took over from Gael Green. His own food background skews heavily to Asian cuisine as he spent his formative years in Japan and China, so while he has no formal cooking background, he has a deep understanding of the current food scene.
The early chapters of The Book of Eating read more like a very tasty auto-biography, detailing Platt’s childhood eating experiences in the US and abroad. These are engaging as part of the bigger story and especially for anyone interested in regional Asian cuisine, but I can see where and why some readers on Goodreads gave up near the beginning as Platt doesn’t really dish a lot of dirt on the NYC food scene, and he can tend to be repetitive with phrases that he presumes are witty (the term “boiled owl” appears far too often).
As usual, I’ve got a stack of food-related books piling up here by the desk and I just can’t get around to reviewing them. To the point where it’s been so long I forget a lot of what is in them. So instead of full post reviews, I’m just going to do some brief recaps so I can clear off my desk and further clutter up my bookshelf instead.
Food had been adulterated for centuries. Items like coffee, tea and candy were intentionally tainted to stretch out quantities and garner a bigger profit. Swindled deals with this intentional deceit starting in the mid 1700′s, touching on basics like bread, meat and milk. Wine and beer wereoften tainted or stretched as well, and the book looks at the effort to enforce standards and charge criminals in all areas of food sales and production. However, Wilson also moves into the 20th century and examines ersatz foods (fakes or imitations intended to replace the real thing during wartime), as well as products like margarine. Wilson also touches on current issues such as adulterated basmati rice in India and the fiasco of Nestle’s baby formula scam in Africa. The book was written before last year’s melamine scare in China or the Maple Leaf Foods listeria outbreak, but it’s wise to note that the habit of greedy food producers intentionally tainting foodstuffs – or not properly inspecting machinery or equipment – has never gone away. The historical stuff is surprising in what people would do to make a buck, but is not more frightening than what many producers are still doing today.