It Must’ve Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten, best selling author of The Man Who Ate Everything has been on my nightstand for months. Not because it is a neglected book, but because it is so good but so long!
No book recently has increased my vocabulary and knowledge like this book by a former lawyer transmuted into food writer. Why say friendliness when you could use conviviality to describe the perfect holiday dinner party? Why kill a lobster by boiling it alive when you can research all the conflicting ways to humanely kill a lobster at home before turning it into a lobster roll served on top sliced hot dog bun? It is categorized as “cooking essays” but it also clearly falls into the category of humor books. Food critic, Jeffery Steingarten is obsessed with investigating recipes, culinary techniques, ingredients, and replicating it at home, whether or not the ingredients are easy or legal to obtain. Never have I wanted to try more tricky recipes like pizza bianca in “Flat Out” after I read pages of sampling the percent of protein in the milled flour around the world or the mineral content of the water in Rome or the carne asada of Mr. Nunez’s tacos con carne asada in “Crossing the Line” with Estela’s 6 inch tortillas that it took Steingarten 7+ visits to Tijuana and a year’s work in Manhattan to replicate.
I also would not have minded assisting with the experiments on the essay “Explaining Espresso” that involved 14 different home espresso makers and 16 types of coffee and discussions on which minerals in the water improve the taste. Steingarten regularly phones food experts all over the world and this time talked to Dr. Ernesto Illy of Italy. This book, It Must’ve Been Something I Ate, whet my appetite for more world travel, food tours, and reading more books by Steingarten.
There are about 40 short essays in this 500 page book filled with food, fun, new and foreign words, and plenty of recipes to try. Feel like you can’t read a 500 page book? Good news is that each essay is stand alone but tied together with Steingarten’s outrageous quests for food knowledge, his world travels, his kitchens in Manhattan and San Diego and his dog, Sky King. This book should be on your reading list this year no matter what genre of books you enjoy. The writing is as delicious as the food and would serve as a fun gift for a food lover.
Table Talk: What food or food category could you write an essay about? What food are you passionate about? What food would you like to investigate?