Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Endless Feasts Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet

Endless Feasts – Sixty Years of Food Writing From Gourmet is an anthology of food writing, edited and introduced by Ruth Reichl, the maven of American food writing and editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine. This is some of the best food writing from the last 60 years of Gourmet. The anthology is not only about food but how food is woven into “eating, what to eat and people who eat it” as M.F.K. Fisher describes her work.

Gourmet magazines founder Earle MacAusland and the editors at the magazine at the time of its inception were responsible for this largesse of vision. In Reichl’s own words: “By allowing its writers to follow their own appetites, by refusing to force them into a format, Gourmet became a true mirror of American taste.”

Here is M.F.K Fisher writing wryly in her piece entitled Three Swiss Inns about time spent in 1939 Switzerland. Writing razor sharp in its portrayal of the landscapes, the establishments, the food and characters described. So redolent of the time that you could almost claim them as memories.

Ruth Harkness delights us with glimpses of a winter spent in a crumbling Tibetan Lamasery during World War II devouring $10,000 worth of rare pheasants.

Also included in the anthology are not only some of the world's best food writers but also many of the best fiction writers Mexican Mornings and The Garlic War by E. Annie Proulx, Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, Dining Alone by Mary Cantwell, and I, Bon Vivant, Who, Me? by George Plimpton, Claudia Roden’s The Arabian Picnic and of course Elizabeth David’s Edouard de Pomaine.

They write about their gourmet travels, probing into the often strange and enticing world of food from Northern India to Shanghai, from the south west US to Umbria, from dandelion wine to cocktail parties, to the Viennese delicacies of Demel’s patisserie. Some of the most compelling pieces describe eminent personalities of the food world: Elizabeth David, M.F.K Fisher, James Beard and Escoffier.

Endless Feasts brings the armchair gourmet traveler to landscapes and food so evocotive of their time that you can not escape the history. Nor do you want to.

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