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Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  216 ratings  ·  17 reviews
“Every once in awhile a writer of particular skills takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight.” That’s how David McCullough described Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, a work that revealed how a meal can be as important as it is edible. Salt: A World History, its successor, did the same for a seasoning ...more
Published July 18th 2012 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2002)
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It takes some chutzpah to make the first piece of writing in a food anthology filled with Brillat-Savarin, Waverley Root, M.F.K. Fisher, Alexandre Dumas, Escoffier, Elizabeth David, A.J. Liebling, Hemingway, Woolf, Dickens, Chekhov, Balzac, Zola, Orwell, Alice B. Toklas, Plutarch, Rabelais, Plato...your own piece of writing. That's what Mark Kurlansky does here, with a fairly long excerpt from Food & Wine magazine. He also illustrated the book. The illustrations are nothing special. It's har
about 500 pages, so lots of exceprts that span gourmets, sex, meals, restaurants, markets, egss, veggies etc etc and leans heavily on mfk fisher, galen, lydia child, james beard , a j liebling, dumas 1 and 2, etc ec and lots lots more. here's a short one, the talmud on garlic
"five things were said of garlic:
1. it satisfies your hunger
2. it keeps the body warm
3 it makes our face bright
4 it increase a man's potency
5 it kils parasites in the bowels

some people say that it also encourages love and re
More than a more treatise about food, Mr. Kurlansky digs through history and articles about people whose business it was to write about food: how it tastes, the best places to eat, the proper ways in which it should be prepared. We read how famous food writers and food lovers waxed rhapsodic about their favorite dishes, making our mouths water and wishing we too could have sat beside these people and hear their comments about the delicious morsels they’ve consumed in their time.
Conceptually neat. It's a compilation of excerpts from famous writers throughout history on food; the authors range from Maimonides to James Beard to George Orwell to Alice B. Toklas, the topics from food of the Americas to the origin of chocolate to how to disguise other meats as venison. I didn't read it start to finish, but skipped through a fair bit of it. I'd have loved to see even more primary source pieces like the first European descriptions of pineapple.
Hrm. Some of the selections are great fun, and serve as a sort of anno'd bibliography of food writing, making me want to run out and get the entirety of the excerpted work.
Some of the selections are
Seems like it might have been a bit of a vanity project for Mark Kurlansky, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Some lovely excerpts from a variety of sources. Unfortunately very few of the excerpts were from post-1980 food writing. That probably made sense from an economic standpoint, but it would really have fleshed out some of the topics nicely.

And in general, less topics but more writing on those topics would have been better. You just get going on a topic like pork or olives and then it's over.
Kirsti S.
MCL. I only read the essays that interested me. It's a hard book to rate because there is such a variety of subjects and authors.

My favorite essay was the one by Brillat-Savarin which began "Every thin woman wants to grow plump: that is an avowal which has been made to us a thousand times." The basic plan involved eating plenty of bread, baked fresh every day.
Overall, I was disappointed with this book. Felt a lot like the sort of college freshman copy-shop tomes assigned for a 101 course. Relied a little too heavily on well-known, prolific writers whose texts most serious food writing readers would have already discovered. And in the end, I skipped over most of the last 1/4 of the book due to lack of interest.
I really wanted to love this - I'm a massive food fan and really like food writing. In reality this is a collection of snippits from the research Kurlansky has undertaken to write his brilliant food histories. If I had read it as a supporting material I probably would have enjoyed it more, not sure it really stands up on its own as a book.
You know, I think you really have to be in the mood to read this book. While there are some interesting facts and info within this book, I still found myself thinking that I would rather be listening to something else. So I will try reading this again another time.
A wonderful, wonderful compilation of essays. I laughed, I cried (well, not exactly CRIED but some parts were rather bittersweet), and I got hungry.

Edit: I just realized that I made a pun by using the adjective "bittersweet". To describe a book about food. Get it??
Interesting idea. I didn't read all the essays, but I liked the way they are organized. Some a few sentences, others several paragraphs. Columbus describes pineapple. Thoreau discusses watermelon. James Beard reviews the restaurant at Meier & Frank.
As a foodie I wanted to love this, but I didn't. Some of it was ho-hum, some of it was okay, but most of it could have been better.
Aja Marsh
There were a few things that I skiped in here, but there were lots of bright moments, and overall I enjoyed it!
Novi Bobby
This book is interesting, if you are interested in food in general. Lots of interesting trivia about food.
This book made me realize that though I like food, I don't like reading about it. Uninspired.
I love to talk about food. This book is right up my alley.
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Mark Kurlansky 1 1 Dec 11, 2013 11:37PM  
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  • Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens
  • Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink
  • How I Learned To Cook: Culinary Educations from the World's Greatest Chefs
  • The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities and Meaning of Table Manners
  • Food in History
  • Food: The History of Taste
  • From Hardtack to Homefries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals
  • The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen
  • Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table: A Collection of Essays from the New York Times
  • Serious Pig: An American Cook in Search of His Roots
  • Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris
  • With Bold Knife and Fork
  • My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals / Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes
  • Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris
Mark Kurlansky (born 7 December 1948 in Hartford, Connecticut) is a highly-acclaimed American journalist and writer of general interest non-fiction. He is especially known for titles on eclectic topics, such as cod or salt.

Kurlansky attended Butler University, where he harbored an early interest in theatre and earned a BA in 1970. However, his interest faded and he began to work as a journalist in
More about Mark Kurlansky...
Salt: A World History Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation The Food of a Younger Land: The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-World War II America

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