The Man Who Ate Everything…

(and my email hacked)


And the Girl Who Wanted To. Thank G_d for Jeffrey Steingarten. Thank G_d for Jeffrey Steingarten. This became my mantra for my 14 day cruise on the supposed elegant, Five Star cruise ship Century, belonging to the fleet of the supposed 5 star Ship Liner known as Celebrity. In fact and incredible, in part of their brochure, they tout some famous chef, picture and credits, as one of the reasons to set sail with this particular Cruise Line. Uhhhh, what!

That should be changed.

Incredible, in this instance is NOT to be confused with what we know incredible to usually mean in its’ positive use.

Note: read prior blog posting for more details on my ‘incredible’ cruise.

I spent the next two weeks of my life, having a secret fling with Jeff. Not in the proverbially sense, shame on you…but indeed with his words, his lessons and his incredibly fantastic, delightful, delicious words. How’s that for a compliment to a Writer or Author. Especially for a book he wrote in 1998-how fantastic for a published author, many times over, to read the thoughts and feedback that a reader has on his/her book whether newly published or readily on the market for ten years or so. I suppose that is the best reward other, than monetary, an author reaps.

Being of limited intelligence this what I got out of The Man Who Ate Everything.

Jeffrey Steingarten, if you ever read these words, (ha) know that between my eyes and HD television you haven’t aged a day. You look the same, albeit a tad heavier, perhaps, but that is ‘just’ perhaps.

This man writes the way he talks, in a sarcastic humour that few I have ever met, can appreciate. I do and so does hubby. We would probably have met on board if Mr. Steingarten smoked and hit it off. (Smokers on a cruise ship are relegated to a certain deck for their puffs and these folks quickly bond as they see each other every 15 minutes of the day up until midnight.)(I don’t smoke but hubby does and yes, it probably affects his taste buds as the consensus held at the dining table.)

It is my humble opinion that only very bright people can communicate and laugh with a sarcastic sense of humour as Steingarten has. This, because sarcastic humour comes a bit from learned knowledge, natural intelligence, and a high sense of one’s worth or ego. This summation from living with a man who holds all these characteristics, who enjoys unmitigated intellectual discussions, and thinks great humour comes from places not many people go in their day-to-day thoughts. Had we had the great fortune to have been dinner partners, Henry and Jeffrey (I doubt Jeff would be a moniker he would like) may have spent hours negotiating on why Henry’s eating habits should change. It would be a tough sale, for Steingarten I mean. Hank is not a moniker Henry has ever liked.

Truth have it, I am only 395 pages in as I write this and eight days into my cruise. It feels like I have been away for a lifetime and yet I am meeting people who have been away from home months, retired and traveling. I’m not sure if I envy them or not. I miss my dog, my kids (not in that order of course, although Freud would have a field day on why I wrote that order and why I am explain it instead of re-writing it), my bed and my food.

I especially miss Google. I need to have hours to be able to order and download The Gateway To Japan or Japanese Etiquette; the books referred to in the chapter on Kyoto. Kyoto is written in fantastic reference to how the author acquired what little knowledge he had prior to his trip and then gives us, his readers, a blow by blow, thus inviting us in to share in all his accumulated knowledge about the foods of Japan. Kyoto in particular.

Japanese culture, encompassing its art, culture and food, has always been a source of fascination to me, ever since the day, late in elementary school, we had an audio-visual presentation from the Canadian National Film Board, on Japan. That was about 1967 when all documentaries were shown on film projectors.

From that day on, I researched whatever information I could ever find on Kabuki and Japanese food. I was eating Sukiyaki way before anyone I knew had ever known that Montreal had a Japanese food restaurant. It was my husband who first introduced me to Sushi, and that was because Lorne (whose sister is the baker and author Marcy Goldman) took him to Katsura on Mountain Street. Lorne, if he hadn’t been a great lawyer, I think would have been a great chef. Clearly it is in his family. Lorne, I don’t think I ever thanked you, because until now, I never really thought about it. So, thanks. For that and many other.

The chapter on Kyoto is eleven pages long and four of those are now dog-eared and yellow marker highlighted, not unlike my University books.

I don’t want to forget that somewhere towards the beginning of the book I was hit in the face with a long forgotten word that was ever only spoken eons ago, and is long lost on the fashion industry. That word, ladies and gentlemen is SLACKS….slacks. For those of you who know this word, heard it as a reference all while growing up, and actually know its meaning…welcome ‘old person’…Guaranteed your kids, should you have any, do not know it’s actual definition. It came as somewhat of a culture shock, this being 2010 and reading a book written in the late 90′s. Loved it!

1989 Steingarten visits Marcella Hazan somewhere in Venice but first takes us on a fascinating tour in search of the over-used truffle. One fluent in food trends must realize that back then, this was a little-known delicacy that was considered avant-garde, rare in taste, extraordinarily difficult to obtain and therefore very very expensive. Today, it is considered too common and over-rated, yet as I have come to know in the last ten days, still highly regarded in Europe.

Why do Americans over-do everything? Bigger, more, larger…some things, some foods are just meant to be prized and rarely eaten and then so, moderately.

I highlighted the restaurant Da Fiore so I can Google it when I get home and read its menu, if it is still in existence. A lot of the restaurants Jeffrey mentions in detail, I have on a hand-written list on cruise ship letterhead, for when I get home to research their histories. Rare is anything hand-written lately and even more surprising is spending extra money for postcards that are still, amazingly, printed and sold throughout strange lands. I suppose it is a cheaper route to go, as internet is fifty cents a minute on the high seas. I digress.

Reading about Paella after spending almost ten days travelling the land(s) of paella led me to completely skim the small chapter on Spain (Rosemary and Moon Beans).

Also I by-passed the glossary on Venetian Seafood and many of the previous chapters that didn’t grab me earlier on. My husband has told me on many occasions, I am hard to grab.

Which is why I am loving this blog right now, at least the writing of it.

Today is the next day after the UPS bomb was found. It is also the day after Going Whole Hog. The chapter, I mean. Why I mention the UPS bomb scare is because now I know that it will be virtually impossible to have Fed-Exed to me, Apple City’s infamous ribs that won first prize at the 1992 Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Championship Jeffrey was invited to judge.

That is not really true, I don’t believe Canada would allow meat to go cross border, even so, I know it would be in transit longer than ‘next day’ delivery. Unhealthy, no good and probably deadly.

But and I must start with a But, not only was I privy to the great lessons needed to know in order to judge such an infamous contest, I was taught the important rules and lessons of barbecue in general and how to properly cook a great pork rib in Memphis.

This book is good.

Steingarten is amazing as a writer in that he can paint a picture with his words. He was so successful in this, that when describing the different set-ups of the contestants he was able to give me a visual tour of the park it was held in and of every stall.

The Food Network has covered these Barbecue Contests over the years and memory allows me to conceivably visualize Apple City’s exact “booth”, if you will, complete with Astroturf grass and the picket fence that is described in detail. It happens, if I am right’, to be the same winner of a not too recent, yet not too long ago, barbecue contest filmed and televised by FN. Apple City Barbecue.

My project, if I can, will be to spend my booze money researching this while on the high seas, because, lord forgive me, I am that obsessive and compulsive.

I will also accept other researchers to join in and let me know. I am sure Jeffrey Steingarten already knows…

Right now I am convinced I could win a local barbecue contest. Do any other Jews cook pork, I wonder to myself, because if we do, nobody it seems wants to discuss it when swapping recipes.

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2 Responses to “The Man Who Ate Everything…”

  1. “The Man Who Ate Everything” is fantastic. When you get home, try his French fry recipe. You will be astounded.

    As to the barbecue,I just looked at KC rules and found that pork seems to be required in many competitions. In Texas, where I live, pork isn’t very highly regarded in BBQ circles. Texas is beef country. One of my favorite BBQ joints in Austin made great brisket, amazing chicken, wonderful sausage and never served pork. It wasn’t even on the menu. I wasn’t sure why until I noticed he was always closed on Jewish holy days.

    None the less, I like BBQ pork, and lamb is even better. I’m told mutton is the best, but haven’t found mutton.

    Since you have to cook pork to compete, you could have a second pit and other associated equipment and have a non-observant Jew or a non-Jew handling the pork end of things. Whether it’s worth the hassle is your call.

    Good luck,

  2. Hey Mike, thanks – as it stands this very moment we are knee deep in our first snowfall so any BBQ’ing is waiting till the thaw…