5 Overrated Foodie Books: 4 Fluffed, 1 Muffed

1) Tony Bourdain’s Nasty Bits: Some good, some bad, some ugly, much like Use Your Illusion, II. A few gems, but feels like a series of loosely connected refritos put together on deadline. Bourdain’s having trouble with a second act, other than being the celebrity Tony Bourdain. Fortunately, he’s smart enough to figure out a solution.

2) Jim Harrison’s The Raw and the Cooked: Repetitive. Okay to stitch columns together into a book. It just shouldn’t be so obvious. Anecdotes reappear, including a citation from a wealthy French friend, Jack Nicholson on overeating as only heroic in the Midwest and Elaine’s big veal chops. Even oddly esoteric word-choices, such as “factitious,” are repeated ad nauseum.

3) Michael Ruhlmans The Reach of a Chef. Big-font, triple space, wide margins. Much like a Princeton lax player’s senior thesis. Anyone else remember Courier 14? I did like Ruhlmann’s first two books but “Where’s the beef?” This mash note to celebrity chefs is a food version of Almost Famous. Get some distance!

4) Bill Buford’s Heat: Great New Yorker articles on Pasternack and Batali show Buford’s strength as a writer of profiles. However, amateurish sections on Renaissance food history overreach. Also packs a fair amount of stuffing into a book that could have been far shorter. There are four or five great articles in here, but not worth it at hard cover prices.


5) Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table: Concise, clear and larded with personal, sometimes painfully personal, anecdotes. But too many smudges on the glass for such a perfectionist. Counted 4 typos in the book, and big ones.

Could also use a bit more punch. I’d like to see some suggestions for fixing the restaurant industry, applying his ideas to different formats, cities, etc.


6 Responses to “5 Overrated Foodie Books: 4 Fluffed, 1 Muffed”

  1. Booze Cruiser Says:

    I hoped Buford would fillet Batali; instead he fellated him. Too much of a puff piece for my taste.

  2. Mike M. Says:

    Great list, Fat and Happy!

    A couple add-ons.

    Alan Richman and Gael G.’s memoirs.

    Currently lives up to hype:
    Ruth Reichl’s memoirs, anything by Trillin, Steingarten when he’s not getting prissy.

    Best of the past century:
    Liebling and Fisher

  3. Maggiesara Says:

    Oh ugh, Gael Greene’s memoirs left me looking for a HandiWipe. Honestly, darling, the world is just not that interested in your vaginal exploits. Thank God I got a copy as a freebie.

  4. Mike M. Says:

    Can we discuss underrated? I’d place Pete Kaminsky pork book up there as an instant classic, yet I don’t hear so much about it. Same with Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte, though I think conflict of interest problems with Times articles may be why she doesn’t get her due as a writer of book length works.

    As far as handiwipe worthy books, let’s not forget Jeremiah Tower’s California Dish. Not sure whose heels are rounder, his or Greene’s.

  5. Larry G. Says:

    Where have you gone, Calvin Trillin? A little dignity and discretion among today’s food writers wouldn’t hurt.

  6. Mike M. Says:

    So, yes, present day Gael Greene is a greater evil than I imagined. It was one thing to liberate food and sex talk back in 1968, but her punchless prose and tired Mae West routine are insufferable forty years later. They’re even worse when accented with Sex and the City-stylings by her Hell-spawn tabloid writer protegee. At very least RG could put a hat–if not a shirt–on. How long until she gets a book deal? How long until the result is remaindered?

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