Saturday, January 17, 2015

Review: 1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die: A Food Lovers Life List by Mimi Sheraton


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
The ultimate gift for the food lover. In the same way that 1,000 Places to See Before You Die reinvented the travel book, 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die is a joyous, informative, dazzling, mouthwatering life list of the world’s best food. The long-awaited new book in the phenomenal 1,000 . . . Before You Die series, it’s the marriage of an irresistible subject with the perfect writer, Mimi Sheraton—award-winning cookbook author, grande dame of food journalism, and former restaurant critic for The New York Times.
1,000 Foods fully delivers on the promise of its title, selecting from the best cuisines around the world (French, Italian, Chinese, of course, but also Senegalese, Lebanese, Mongolian, Peruvian, and many more)—the tastes, ingredients, dishes, and restaurants that every reader should experience and dream about, whether it’s dinner at Chicago’s Alinea or the perfect empanada. In more than 1,000 pages and over 550 full-color photographs, it celebrates haute and snack, comforting and exotic, hyper-local and the universally enjoyed: a Tuscan plate of Fritto Misto. Saffron Buns for breakfast in downtown Stockholm. Bird’s Nest Soup. A frozen Milky Way. Black truffles from Le PĂ©rigord.
Mimi Sheraton is highly opinionated, and has a gift for supporting her recommendations with smart, sensuous descriptions—you can almost taste what she’s tasted. You’ll want to eat your way through the book (after searching first for what you have already tried, and comparing notes). Then, following the romance, the practical: where to taste the dish or find the ingredient, and where to go for the best recipes, websites included.

MY TAKE:
It took me a very long time, by my standards anyway, to read this e-ARC.

1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die:  A Food Lovers Life List contains descriptions of food around the world that any self-respecting must try at least once. The book also includes movies, restaurants, magazines, books, paintings and markets relevant in some way to good food in that specific region.

The time it took for me to finish this book was partly due to its length (1000+ pages) and the fact that I finished this during the busy holiday season, but mostly due to this being the kind of book that you savor, not unlike the food mentioned within.

The food items are grouped by region, which helps with making it feel cohesive, despite there being no real transition between the items in each grouping. The food descriptions are very vivid, and the author's experience as a food critic is quite obvious in the pages.

Each entry is also very comprehensive. Not every entry has pictures, but most have their country(ies) of origin, where you can find the food (specific restaurants around the US and the world, online, etc.), and where you can find recipes that approximate it best.

The pictures aren't always appealing to me, although I think it may have to do with the size of the pictures and the overall layout, which sort of gives the pictures a Good Housekeeping-vibe for me. However, when I focused on the pictures and covered up the text around it, they weren't actually all that bad.

The food herein runs that gamut from things-I-want-to-eat-now to things-I-would-only-eat-if-you-paid-me-but-I-still-wouldn't-finish-the-whole-thing. The latter consists mostly of any item that has aspic and/or any internal organs.

I noticed that there were plenty of cheese in this book, which makes sense of you consider yourself a food connoisseur, but I would have liked it more if the cheeses were lumped together in one long item, much like what was done with dimsum, in order for there to be space for more entries.

Overall, I really liked this book. I just have two things that I was looking for here that I didn't find. One is a checklist that contained all the items mentioned in the book so it would be easier to check them off. The second one is that the Philippines was really only mentioned once, and it was only near the end of an entry. Other times, it was just lumped under the description "Southeast Asia(n)". I find this very disappointing. I can think of at least three dishes off the top of my head that deserve a mention: lechon, sinigang and halo-halo. The author mentions in the book that Anthony Bourdain said, on his show No Reservations, that the babi guling (Balinese Suckling Pig) was the best he ever had. I take it she hasn't seen a later episode wherein he says the lechon he tasted in the Philippines is better. I haven't seen that episode in a while, but this article (http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/2009/10/14/anthony-bourdain-uncensored.mobi) was able to provide the following quote from Anthony Bourdain at the Times Talk:
On the hierarchy of pork he’s eaten around the world: “Puerto Rico’s lechon is great. In Bali, the lechon is even better. And in the Philippines, the lechon is slightly better than that. It’s the best of the best.”
Yes, I know I'm nitpicking and sour-graping, but it's hard to fight the urge when you're so eager to see what dish from your country made the list and then all you get is a brief line or you've been lumped with other neighbors. Perhaps there should be a part two of this book to cover all the other food that had to be edited out, not just from the Philippines, but from other countries that weren't represented here too.

Thanks to NetGalley and Workman Publishing Company for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. You get to discover food you may otherwise wouldn't have heard of or tried.
  2. The descriptions are mouthwatering.
  3. The entries are quite comprehensive and practical. 

THE BAD:

  1. It would have been even better if there was a checklist at the back of the book or a companion website wherein people can keep track of the food they ate from the list.

READ IT IF:

  1. You consider yourself a foodie.
  2. You like completing lists.
  3. You like trying new things. 

RATING:
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