Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto


by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide


REVIEW by Carrie Vasios

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

edited by Joan Reardon
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, December 2010
Hardcover: 432 pages
ISBN: 978-0547417714

Watching Mad Men, I was always skeptical of Don and company’s booze-drenched dinner parties, where hostesses served casseroles and jellied ham dotted with fruit and whipped cream. The writers have to be taking creative license, I thought. They’re making an exaggerated, comedic portrayal of dismal mid-century American cuisine. Right? Wrong. The writers of Mad Men must have read As Always, Julia, a compilation of letters written between Julia Child and Avis de Voto.

In one of their first exchanges, on January 4, 1953, Avis complains about dinner parties in America: “There isn’t one casserole in a hundred that is fit to eat. But because everybody wants to sit around and drink cocktails in a convivial fashion, and because the cook doesn’t want to miss the fun, nine times out of ten we wind up with a casserole.”

With not much more than cocktails, casseroles, and crudités being served in American homes, it’s no exaggeration to say that at the time that Julia wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, things were dire. Shallots, sharp knives, and quality home cooking were all but absent from the United States. Writing from her more gastronomically-advanced home in Europe, Julia wasn’t sure how much American housewives knew, or were willing to learn. As a result she relied on her friend and editor Avis de Voto to be her cultural touchstone. Their exchanges, though sincere at the time, are comical in retrospect. Avis sent Julia notes on her drafts such as, “Page 5-cleaning eggs. Wire wool—What do you mean? First place we never have eggs that are dirty.”

Julia was often frustrated, but she continued to champion French food and wine, determined to bring the same level of quality to the U.S. In fact, what makes the letters so enjoyable to read is Julia’s good humor, even in the face of set-backs: “Have just been re-reading your last, about shallots etc. That is just too bad and complicates things. How about us going into the business, the DeVoto/Child Shallot Packing Co. Inc...built on the un-American principal of not trying to make money, just on not losing it.”

The writing from both women is vivid and engaging—a real tribute to the lost art of the letter. Avis and Julia touch on every subject from culture, to politics, to gastronomy. But, most of all, this book gives the reader an intimate look at how a great cookbook, and a great friendship was formed. As Julia wrote after her visit to Avis in Cambridge, “We miss you terribly. It doesn’t seem at all possible that less than two weeks ago you were all of you but words on paper. It did not then seem that love on paper would not blossom into love in the flesh, and it certainly did with an all-embracing bang.”

Watching Mad Men is fascinating because we notice every little contrast between their world and ours. Reading the letters between Julia and Avis creates the same effect: I can’t believe frozen food was a novelty! How could Mastering the Art of French Cooking have been rejected by publishers multiple times!? Coupled with the women’s sharp wit and obvious mutual affection, this is a fascinating read that will make you reach thankfully for your mozzarella sandwich and your glass of Pinot Noir.

October 17, 2011