Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book Of Food And Drink by David RemnickSecret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book Of Food And Drink by David Remnick

Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book Of Food And Drink

EditorDavid Remnick

Paperback | November 3, 2009

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A sample of the menu: Woody Allen on dieting the Dostoevski way • Roger Angell on the art of the martini • Don DeLillo on Jell-O • Malcolm Gladwell on building a better ketchup • Jane Kramer on the writer’s kitchen • Chang-rae Lee on eating sea urchin • Steve Martin on menu mores • Alice McDermott on sex and ice cream • Dorothy Parker on dinner conversation • S. J. Perelman on a hollandaise assassin • Calvin Trillin on New York’s best bagel

In this indispensable collection, The New Yorker dishes up a feast of delicious writing–food and drink memoirs, short stories, tell-alls, and poems, seasoned with a generous dash of cartoons. M.F.K. Fisher pays homage to “cookery witches,” those mysterious cooks who possess “an uncanny power over food,” and Adam Gopnik asks if French cuisine is done for. There is Roald Dahl’s famous story “Taste,” in which a wine snob’s palate comes in for some unwelcome scrutiny, and Julian Barnes’s ingenious tale of a lifelong gourmand who goes on a very peculiar diet. Whether you’re in the mood for snacking on humor pieces and cartoons or for savoring classic profiles of great chefs and great eaters, these offerings, from every age of The New Yorker’s fabled eighty-year history, are sure to satisfy every taste.
David Remnick has been the editor of The New Yorker since 1998. A staff writer for the magazine from 1992 to 1998, he was previously The Washington Post's correspondent in the Soviet Union. The author of several books, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the George Polk Award for his 1994 book Lenin's Tomb. He lives in New York with ...
Title:Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book Of Food And DrinkFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:608 pages, 9.3 × 6.1 × 1.2 inShipping dimensions:9.3 × 6.1 × 1.2 inPublished:November 3, 2009Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:081297641X

ISBN - 13:9780812976410


Read from the Book

INTRODUCTION   DAVID REMNICK   To his colleagues, Harold Ross, the founding editor of The New Yorker, was a tireless editorial engine fueled by a steady diet of high anxiety and unfiltered cigarettes. But while the magazine over the years employed its share of gourmands (Alexander Woollcott, A. J. Liebling), Ross himself was of circumscribed appetite. For the fun of it, he had a $3,500 stake in the famous Los Angeles hangout run by his friend Dave Chasen—he provided suggestions on everything from proofreading the menu to the optimal way to brine a turkey—and yet his own diet was abstemious. It wasn’t his fault. Ross suffered from debilitating ulcers. Stress, particularly the stress of inventing The New Yorker, keeping it afloat during the Depression, and then elaborating its original principles into a literary and commercial success, was his perpetual state, warm milk and hot broth his diet. On this meager nourishment, he kept himself going. He was shambling, stooped, and in no way an athlete, yet he was strong enough for the job. As E. B. White once said, Ross was “an Atlas who lacked muscle tone.”   Some limited salvation came to Ross’s innards when he befriended Sara Murray Jordan, a renowned gastroenterologist at the Lahey Clinic in Boston. Thanks to Dr. Jordan, Ross’s ulcer pain eased somewhat and he even began to eat his share of solid foods. Ross’s gut, an unerring, if pained, precinct, now provided him with yet another editorial idea: Dr. Jordan was not only a superb physician but a competent cook, and so Ross put her together with his culinary expert at the magazine, Sheila Hibben, and bid them to collaborate on a recipe compendium for the gastrointestinally challenged, to be called “Good Food for Bad Stomachs.” In his first bylined piece since his days as a newspaperman during the First World War, Ross contributed an introduction that began, “I write as a duodenum-scarred veteran of many years of guerrilla service in the Hydrochloric War.” Ross also paid tribute to Dr. Jordan, who at dinner one night urged him to pass on his usual fruit compote and to try the digestively more daring meringue glacée.   “Now meringue glacée has a French name, which is bad, and it is an ornamental concoction, which is bad,” Ross wrote. “Although I regard it as essentially a sissy proposition and nothing for a full-grown man to lose his head over, I have it now and then when I’m in the ulcer victim’s nearest approach to a devil-may-care mood.”   Ross’s longtime deputy and eventual successor, William Shawn, neither smoked nor drank and enjoyed relatively good health to the end of a long life, yet he, too, is recalled by his colleagues not only for his editorial intelligence and preternatural generosity but also for his curious modesty at table. At his regular lunches with writers at the Algonquin Hotel, Shawn would usually order nothing more than a slice of toasted pound cake (and barely touch it) or a bowl of cornflakes in milk (and leave the flakes floating). His interest was solely with the writer across the table.   While Ross and Shawn did not distinguish themselves as fressers, they did build a magazine that welcomed some of the greatest eaters and also some of the greatest writers about eating who have ever picked up pen or fork. This anthology comprises those men and women of appetite and their successors, writers who have taken an interest in food and drink as a source of pleasure, sustenance, metaphor, portraiture, adventure, comedy, and fiction.   A. J. Liebling, who came to the magazine in 1935 from the New York World-Telegram, was surely the first among equals in the field. Liebling’s food writing was as much about memory as it was about food, and his last book, Between Meals, which appeared serially in the magazine, was a memoir about the Paris of his youth. Paris, for him, was the capital of pleasure. “There would come a time,” he wrote, “when if I had compared my life to a cake, the sojourns in Paris would have presented the chocolate filling. The intervening layers were plain sponge.”   Like so many of his models, Rabelais included, Liebling was a prodigious writer—life being short, he valued speed and volume; he used to say that he could write better than anyone who wrote faster and faster than anyone who wrote better—but his indulgences away from the desk exacted a price. He died at the age of fifty-nine. His Times obituary remarked, “Mr. Liebling bore the marks of the gourmet: an extended waistline and rosy cheeks. ‘I used to be shy about ordering a steak after I had eaten a steak sandwich,’ he once said, ‘but I got used to it.’”   Liebling habitually apprenticed himself to a cast of elders: in boxing to the trainer Whitey Bimstein, in writing to Camus and Pierce Egan, and, in the restaurants of Paris, to a playwright and heroic eater of his acquaintance, Yves Mirande, who often presided at a favorite restaurant on the Rue Saint-Augustin. In “A Good Appetite,” one of the many full plates served up here, Liebling recalls Mirande’s admirable capacities and, in doing so, provides a catalogue of particulars no less vivid than Homer’s ships and a seminar on the virtues (however fleeting) of abandon. Mirande, Liebling wrote, would “dazzle” his fellow diners “by dispatching a lunch of raw Bayonne ham and fresh figs, a hot sausage in crust, spindles of filleted pike in a rich rose sauce Nantua, a leg of lamb larded with anchovies, artichokes on a pedestal of foie gras, and four or five kinds of cheese, with a good bottle of Bordeaux and one of champagne, after which he would call for the Armagnac and remind Madame to have ready for dinner the larks and ortolans she had promised him, with a few langoustes and a turbot—and, of course, a fine civet made from the marcassin, or young wild boar, that the lover of the leading lady in his current production had sent up from his estate in the Sologne. ‘And while I think of it,’ I once heard him say, ‘we haven’t had any woodcock for days, or truffles baked in the ashes, and the cellar is becoming a disgrace—no more ’34s and hardly any ’37s. Last week, I had to offer my publisher a bottle that was far too good for him, simply because there was nothing between the insulting and the superlative.’   It is unclear whether Liebling could write faster than Proust, and certainly he could not write better, but he did dare a gibe at the master by mock-wondering if perhaps In Search of Lost Time would have been improved had its author fed on a heartier stimulus than the bland madeleine. “On a dozen Gardiners Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sautéed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh-picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written a masterpiece.” It was in the same spirit of gastronomic challenge that one of Liebling’s heroes, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, addressed Adam and Eve: “First parents of the human race…you lost all for an apple, what would you not have done for a truffled turkey?”   Adam Gopnik, one of our chief epicures, once wrote that food writing can usually be broken down into the “mock epic” and the “mystical microcosm.” If Liebling was the master of the mock epic, his inheritors surely include Calvin Trillin, who goes out in search of the “magic” bagel, the perfect barbecued mutton, dim sum good enough to impress Mao Zedong. And just as Liebling insisted that the true eater subsist on a limited budget (the principle being that it takes no skill at all to walk into Le Bernardin armed with a corporate credit card), Trillin declares Kansas City his Paris and insists (as an inveterate beer drinker) that positively no one, not even the most devoted oenophile, can, in a blindfold test, tell the difference between red wine and white. Although his research is done with reliable professors in the Napa Valley, Trillin warns the reader, “I have never denied that when I’m trying to select a bottle of wine in a liquor store I’m strongly influenced by the picture on the label. (I like a nice mountain, preferably in the middle distance.)” Trillin has pursued American vernacular cuisine with the reporting energy of Seymour Hersh and the deadpan panache of Stan Laurel. The morning after bingeing on Buffalo chicken wings with a local expert, “I got out my preliminary research notes for analysis. They amounted to three sentences I was unable to make out, plus what appeared to be a chicken-wing stain.”   M.F.K. Fisher is an exemplar of the mystical school, in which the secrets of life, of survival, of the nature of time and generational knowledge, are found in a clear-eyed concentration on the stuff of life, the things we eat—or should. In “The Secret Ingredient,” she talks about the cooks of her acquaintance who have been in possession of seemingly magical properties. What was the secret of Bertie Bastalizzo’s dumplings and casseroles? What of Fisher’s mother’s mustard pickles? “Where are the witches of yesteryear, the strange old women with their dogged involvement, their loyalty to true flavor and changeless quality?”   And yet it is hard, as one considers the many profiles, travel pieces, literary essays, personal memoirs, short stories, and poems assembled here in Secret Ingredients, to limit the categories to the mock epic or the mystical. Roger Angell’s rumination on the perfect martini is personal, domestic, and sharp—mock epic and mystical—where Viktor Erofeyev’s essay on “the Russian god,” vodka, is a way of seeing (hazily) the history and psychology of a vast country, Dostoyevsky in a glass or straight from the bottle. Pursuing food is often a means of exploring a place and its inhabitants; this was certainly true of Liebling’s great confederate Joseph Mitchell, who loved to roam the quays and fish markets of southern Manhattan and Long Island. Mitchell ordinarily put the focus on characters, on others, but he was not averse to determined personal research, the risk of hepatitis be damned: “One Sunday afternoon in August 1937, I placed third in a clam-eating tournament at a Block Island clambake, eating eighty-four cherries.” This, Mitchell says, was “one of the few worthwhile achievements of my life.” In the same spirit, Susan Orlean gets to know the Cubans by visiting the Centro Vasco in Havana; Bill Buford, a participatory eater and reporter in the mold of George Plimpton, roams the Long Island beaches with its finest oystermen; Peter Hessler, a resident of Beijing for many years, eats rat in rural China and likes it; Adam Gopnik, who appraises “the role of food as anxious social theatre,” takes the temperature of contemporary French culture, its insularity and reaction to world trends, by reporting on the high-end kitchens of Paris; Calvin Tomkins describes a coming revolution in American taste by portraying an unlikely revolutionary, the emerging Julia Child; and John McPhee’s profile of Euell Gibbons, who forces his portraitist to eat boiled dandelions and much worse, portends the coming of the natural-foods movement.

Editorial Reviews

“You couldn’t ask for a more diverse, dazzling collection of writers.”—New York Times“Sumptuous servings . . . intellectually delicious.”—Houston Chronicle“The book reaches its apogee with John McPhee’s 1968 profile of the legendary wild-foodist Euell Gibbons. To read this sparely elegant, moving portrait is to remember that writing well about food is really no different from writing well about life.”—Saveur (One of the Top Ten Reads of the Year)“Delicious, diverse, and satisfying . . . something to suit every appetite.”—Library Journal“This ideal collection of food-happy pieces . . . yields pleasures of all kinds.”—NPR’s Morning Edition“Simply gestational!”—Christian Science Fetal Monitor“I couldn’t put it down. So they had to deliver me by Caesarean.”—Michael Pritchard, three weeks old, author of Waaaaaahhhh!: The Michael Pritchard Story