If 2009 was my Harry Potter summer, then I declare 2010 to be the summer of food—consumed not by my mouth (oh, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of that), but by my brain, in the form of my (drum roll, please) summer reading list.
This weekend, reading Waiter Rant—waiter/writer Steve Dublanica’s tell-it-like-it-is memoir of his experiences as a 38-year-old waiter—I was finally inspired with a summer reading theme: I’ll read all things food. Maybe not cookbooks or menus or blah blah blah exposes about how corn products are taking the American diet and economy to heck in a grocery basket (been there, read that). No, what I’m planning to read are the books that will jolt me vicariously out of my Applebee’s existence, where dinner out at Chick-fil-A is a highlight, and vault me into the fine dining stratosphere of truffle oil and water waiters…if only in my mind.
I’m making note of the titles that appear under the names of those other-worldly TV food competition judges, and I’ll dedicate my summer relaxing time to actually reading them. That’ll plow me through such selections as The Man Who Ate Everything, written by the culinarily gifted, but supremely socially uncomfortable Jeffrey Steingarten, sometime judge on Food Network’s Iron Chef America. His is just one book in what I like to call The Man Who genre, which includes the actual titles The Man Who Was Thursday, The Man Who Mistoook His Wife for a Hat, and the not so well known, but soon to be published The Man Who Slathered His Wife in Mayo Because He Thought she was a Tomato Sandwich.
Another Man Who book on my list is The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner, by critic and Top Chef: Masters judge Jay Rayner. I don’t know Mr. Rayner personally, and I have not yet read his book, but I suspect that, by the looks of him, he could follow up this book with a second, entitled, The Man Who Wore His Hair Such That the Stray Strand in His Soup Was Probably His Own.
Also on my reading list is rock ‘n roll Jersey-ite turned New Yorker/world traveler Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, which I will read while wearing the Ramones t-shirt that I do not yet own but saw on a guy down the shore on Sunday night. Speaking of the shore, let me tell you, nothing’s more evocative of fine dining than the guy on the porch of the bungalow next door—the Bourdain sound-alike—who roasts hot dogs (6 feet away from the pillow where I’m resting my head) while singing the old “Hello Mudda, hello Fadda…” song.
Also on the list are be-hatted restaurant critic Gael Greene’s book, Insatiable and critic Frank Bruni’s, Born Round. Oh, and Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia belongs on the list as well, probably along with Julia Child’s My Life in France. I’m not a huge Julia Child fan (nor am I NOT a fan), but either way, her memoir should prove to be a nice side dish in an otherwise yummy summer.
Readers, I don’t know if you care to come along for the journey, but if you wish to read along with me, please let me know—we can get together to share a meal to discuss what we’ve read! Unless, of course, you are overseas, in which case you could buy me a meal from your favorite restaurant, pack it in dry ice, and send it to me along with a video of yourself describing your reflections onthe book, which I would watch while eating.
It should make for an interesting summer.