Friday, September 19, 2014

Reading and Cooking

Stuffed Eggplant
The other day, I bought some small, oddly streaky-colored eggplants and then made them into stuffed eggplant flavored with pine nuts, raisins, onions, lemon, and dill. They looked better before I stuffed them -- but I'm pretty sure the taste was better after I cooked them.

Recent Reading
I've been reading a lot recently, and I don't think I'll be energetic enough to write detailed reviews of the books I've read. The book Paleofantasy by Marlene Zuk was one of the best books I've recently encountered, while Sandra Gilbert's The Culinary Imagination was one of the worst!

Paleofantasy summarizes the scientific literature, especially evolutionary biology, to clarify for the layman whether real science supports best-seller hype. It explores many claims made about human needs to return to an earlier "paleo" era -- including the "paleo" diet, myths about running barefoot or in little toe-shaped shoes, and other claims. Zuk demolishes all the faddish nonsense, and provides a fascinating study of what's really known about our ancient ancestors and about human evolution. Bottom line: humans have evolved since the stone age, and are still evolving. Most of the best-selling diet books are poppycock.

The Culinary Imagination is incoherent, repetitive, and full of cliches. The author pretends to show some sort of big ideas about food in literature. I think she must have fooled the people who blurbed the book. But maybe -- not being food writers -- they didn't know how boring it is to read one more discussion of Proust and the madeline that adds nothing to the many earlier discussions. And so on for many other unimaginative literary selections. I didn't think I had any language peeves, but Gilbert's insistence on the word "foodoir" for a food memoir really irked me. Though her own brief recollections were the only thing that was less-than-hackneyed in the book, they just weren't enough to make up for all the pretentious blather.

Finally, my culinary reading group this week read Aaron Bobrow-Strain's White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf. In a rare consensus, we totally agreed that it's a great book. We liked the way it focused on just the mass-production of bread and the repeated condemnation of industrial baked goods throughout the last 200 years. I wrote about this book previously, see Bread and Milk Politics.

Rolls I baked, inspired by reading White Bread.

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