Monday, October 30, 2006

one for the printers and two for the road.

Having successfully avoided abduction and incarceration in some noisome tidal cell during his country's latest political upheaval, Tim Footmanhas managed to deliver the finished manuscript of his book on RADIOHEAD to the printers!
Dear Jesus, I would be absolutely trippin my tits off.
Can you imagine? Getting published?
Order it HERE, NOW..
Do it. I'm going to. It's HERE.
If you read Cultural Snow you know it'll be good. And if you don't read Footman, quit being lame. Go read him. Use your head for something more than a hatrack. Geeze.
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TWO FOR THE ROAD, Jane and Michael Stern

I have been reading the Sterns ever since the beginning. While they always turn out something entertaining and well written, they've also tended to be real heavy on the 'arch'. Plenty of that East Coasty 'Ew, how rustic' tone that everyone from Tom Wolfe to Howard Stern thinks they have some kind of right to cop regarding the rest of America. I could go off on a rant here about how the United States does not in fact terminate at the western borders of the Thirteen Original, but I will not. This latest book by the Sterns is damned good, and I'd rather talk about that.

'Two For The Road' is an overview of their years as self-designated traveling food critics. It is a genuinely remarkeable tale, too, reminiscent of the best adventure writing... how two urban naifs, armed with nothing but rumor, instinct and the gargantuan appetites of bull hippopotami, traversed America in search of their next meal.

The chapters are bracketed with recipes, and these recipes are generally nothing to exclaim over. They're the only weak part of the whole. I suspect they may have been the idea of the editors, though (because after all that's trendy and all the cool intellectual but whimsical books are doing it. I swear, ever since that Like Water For Chocolate* book everything has just gone to hell.)

Despite a few forgivable and non-toxic lapses, the Sterns have finally managed to get ever themselves and do their subject, American food, without apology.
That sound you hear is not stampeding buffalo, by the way, it's all the foodie dipshits running for their Pepto Bismol. Everyone KNOWS there is nothing worth eating and paying for outside the city limits of New York, right? and only two places there, and they're French. Right? Right?

You cannot accuse the Sterns of being dilletantes, that's for damn sure. They have been doing this for years. They not only eat and enjoy, they pass through doors even I would fear to pass. They get shitfaced drunk at the Let-er-Buck in Pendleton...no word as to whether Jane adds her brassiere to the collection that moulders in the rafters, though. They order from roach coaches and dine in the back of semi trailers. They guzzle red beer. They eat steamed cheeseburgers, scrapple, tripe and red velvet cake. They dine off paper plates and drink from plastic cups. They fearlessly order mystery croquettes, hot turkey sandwiches and macaroni salad, and eat jello full of
things that should not ever, ever be found in jello. They do fried food. Boiled food. Food from boxes and cans. Wild game. Home preserves. And they manage to do so without having to drop constant snide little bon mots or laughing up their sleeves for a change.

What makes this book so worthwhile is that this is a pair of people who know and love their subject, who have well-educated palates and who share a poison pen they aren't in any way afraid to use. Anyone who has read their excellent articles in Gourmet magazine knows this. In Two For The Road they take the courageous and unheard-of step, finally, FINALLY, of taking fried chicken and mashed potatoes as seriously as they take haute cuisine. With the playing field level, they go after each dish and make it prove itself. And it works, and I think they deserve a damn medal.

After all these years, they've got it right. They've finally taken their subject more seriously than they take themselves.



* the only book I've read that was both worthwhile and had good recipes was Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flag, although the recipe of the title is an acquired taste at best.

10 comments:

  1. I'm sorry, Footman may be an excellent writer, but I can't be bothered to bypass my entire Amazon wishlist to buy a book on Radiohead, of all things.

    The other book sounds interesting, though. While I will defend NYC's honour of having some of the best food it the world, we don't have all of it. Not to mention I've pretty much always subscribed to the philosphy "if you put it in front of me, I will probably eat it."

    Oh, and FIRST! &c.

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  2. Now this is why I always loved Nigella Lawson , all her recipes come with family/friends stories to accompany them , that somehow give the food a context....great stuff , I have never ead anything by the Sterns .....whats a good starter ???

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  3. ah yes....radiohead....one has to ask the question WHY ?????

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  5. I'd like to look at that.
    I like looking therew my own old cookbooks.
    I have an old cookbook about bread.Since I have a weakness for bread it's amazing how many things they can make with it.
    Even wedding breads!

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  6. hey that's great news about our favorite Footman! :-)

    just swinging by FN, thought I'd wave..... 'hi'

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  7. I love reading.

    I love cooking.

    I also love fried green 'maters.

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  8. lovely..
    A whole book full of them.

    The biggest bully in the world eats pretzels.

    A close second has head lice.

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  9. If only Tim's book had some tasty recipes in it, it would be the best book in the universe!

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  10. Agreed, a book on Radiohead? yawwwwn.

    Like the sounds of the Stern's book - challenge everyone to read it - let's get this book club started.

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