Wednesday, October 2, 2013

There Are Some Great New Foodie Books On The Menu This Week

Set against the backdrop of the Enlightenment, the delectable decadence of Versailles, and the French Revolution, The Last Banquet is an intimate epic that tells the story of one man’s quest to know the world through its many and marvelous flavors. Jean-Marie d’Aumout will try anything once, with consequences that are at times mouthwatering and at others fascinatingly macabre (Three Snake Bouillabaisse anyone? Or perhaps some pickled Wolf's Heart?). When he is not obsessively searching for a new taste d’Aumout is a fast friend, a loving husband, a doting father, and an imaginative lover. He befriends Ben Franklin, corresponds with the Marquis de Sade and Voltaire, becomes a favorite at Versailles, thwarts a peasant uprising, improves upon traditional French methods of contraception, plays an instrumental role in the Corsican War of Independence, and constructs France’s finest menagerie. But d’Aumout’s every adventurous turn is decided by his at times dark obsession to know all the world’s flavors before that world changes irreversibly.

As gripping as Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, as gloriously ambitious as Daniel Kehlman’s Measuring the World, and as prize-worthy as Andrew Miller’s Pure, The Last Banquet is a hugely appealing novel about food and flavor, about the Age of Reason and the ages of man, and our obsessions and about how, if we manage to survive them, they can bequeath us wisdom and consolation in old age.

The memoir of a young diplomat’s wife who must reinvent her dream of living in Paris—one dish at a time

When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light is turned upside down.

So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city. Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.

Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Times bestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.
Big personalities, high drama—the extraordinary behind-the-scenes story of the Food Network, now about to celebrate its twentieth anniversary: the business, media, and cultural juggernaut that changed the way America thinks about food.
In October 1993, a tiny start-up called the Food Network debuted to little notice. Twenty years later, it is in 100 million homes, approaches a billion dollars a year in revenue, and features a galaxy of stars whose faces and names are as familiar to us as our own family’s.

But what we don’t know about them, and the people behind them, could fill a book.

Based upon extensive inside access, documents, and interviews with hundreds of executives, stars, and employees all up and down the ladder, Allen Salkin’s book is an exhilarating roller-coaster ride from chaos to conquest (and sometimes back). As Salkin takes us inside the conference rooms, studios, homes, restaurants, and after-hours meetings, we see a salty Julia Child lording it over the early network performers; a fragile Emeril Lagasse staggering from the sudden public shock of cancellation; a very green Rachael Ray nearly burning down the set on her first day; a torn Tyler Florence accepting the Applebee’s job he knows he can’t refuse, but with a chill running down his spine; a determined Bobby Flay reinventing himself once again to survive.

Paula Deen, Tom Colicchio, Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver, Martha Stewart, Guy Fieri, Cat Cora: Salkin illuminates the people we thought we knew, and the ones we never knew about, in this irresistible story of the intersection between business, television, pop culture, food—and us.

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