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Food Fabulous Food Writers

I have been a professional film critic for more than a decade, but anyone who’s ogled my personal library knows that my most ardent cultural passion is actually food writing – not just cookbooks but essays about restaurants, markets, cooking, and foraging. In short, I like to read about eating. Everything lives inside a great piece of food writing: history, science, art, crafts, politics, culture, even our connection to the divine. The best part? In most cases reading about great meals confers less guilt and more pleasure than the meals themselves – especially when rendered by the writers I’ve selected below.

A.J. Liebling
“The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite,” intoned New Yorker writer Liebling, and he knew of what he spoke. Gluttony was the name of his game, and he detailed his heaping boards with the same zeal that he applied to city life and boxing, his other signature topics. In the memoir Between Meals, he describes favorite dinners of his youth. A typical menu: figs, artichokes, three kinds of cheeses, oysters, ham, “sausage in crust,” clam chowder, a peck of steamers, cognac, bay scallops, sautéed soft-shelled crabs, ears of fresh-picked corn, a swordfish steak, a pair of lobsters, a Long Island duck, boar, a bottle of champagne, and a bottle of Bordeaux. In Liebling’s extravagant prose, you don’t just discover your appetite. You discover a past that did not fear the future. Continue Reading →

Women’s Activism Primer: Wakey Wakey

Newcomers to political resistance movements may be surprised that women of all walks of life now are taking the lead, but American sisters (not just cisters) have a long history of battling brilliantly for their rights – one we’d be remiss in ignoring now. Many of the most powerful emergent voices in the resistance are female, from former Attorney General Sally Yates, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, Beyoncé to the attorneys offering their services to immigrants and refugees in the wake of the new executive policies. (A 70-30 female-male ration has been estimated among these legal defenders.) For Women’s History month, I’ve put together a list of some key primers in the U.S. women’s rights movements, warts and all. Continue Reading →

Literary Solace: Exceptional Books About Grief

I have cried more in the first week of Donald Trump’s reign of terror than I did in all of 2016. And while I could give you the old razzle-dazzle about how every cloud has its silver lining – and in fact, I do believe that– I’d rather provide a list of books to make you feel less alone. Sometimes literary solidarity is even better than literary solace. Note this list is a tad controversial in terms of its omissions. (For example, no The Year of Magical Thinking,  which I unfashionably regard as a valentine to ladylike dissociation that’s typical of author Joan Dideon.)

FICTION

Disturbances in the Field–Lynne Sharon Schwartz
A satisfyingly sprawling tome about a married pair of New York City artists whose children die in a bus accident, Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s Disturbances in the Field captures the unhappy specificity of grief with an unflinching eye and wonderful descriptions of food, sex, and 1980s Manhattan shimmer.

Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object–Laurie Colwin
Food writer and novelist Laurie Colwin died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm in her forties. Though technically she could not have anticipated the brevity of her life, this meticulously constructed novel about a twentysomething woman who loses her husband in a sailing accident suggests an eerie familiarity with the particular pain of an early demise. Like of all of Colwin’s books, it also conveys uncomfortable truths and irrevocable, rushing pleasures. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy