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 Alice Tsay

Full English:
A Journey Through the British and Their Food

by Tom Parker Bowles
Ebury Press, August 2009
Paperback 320 pp., ISBN: 978-0091926687

I once sat next to an elderly British gentleman at a dinner party in which the conversation turned to home cooking. My mom, I confessed, dislikes the heaviness of traditional Taiwanese cuisine; she loves sticking vegetables briefly in boiling water and then giving them a light touch of salt and oil—much to my brother’s longtime disgust. Before I could add that I quite liked the crisp textures and clean flavors that result, my new friend shuddered and burst out, “My mother was just the same when I was growing up." Grimly, he revealed the emblem of his childhood distress: “Boiled cabbage, all the time.”

One picks up a book like Tom Parker Bowles’ Full English suspecting it will redress the familiar stereotype of British cuisine being bland, overcooked, and uninspired—the sad boiled cabbage of the world’s vast culinary offerings. After all, the cover features a cheery Parker Bowles seated in what almost looks like an American diner, except that what he nurses between two hands is almost certainly not a cup of Joe, but a steaming mug of Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea, topped with the measure of milk that no true child of Albion ever goes without. And there, in front of him, a steaming plate of the delightful morning repast from which the book takes its name: the full English breakfast, which generally contains sausages and thick-sliced bacon, fried eggs, sautéed mushrooms, baked beans, broiled tomatoes, and perhaps some black pudding and hash browns and toast served with orange marmalade. Though Parker Bowles’ particular helping looks a bit slight, he does not have the look of an unhappy man.

He is saving room, perhaps, for the other hearty English foodstuffs that he will linger over in his tour of the tongue, subtitled A Journey Through the British and Their Food; not for the son of Camilla are the lofty establishments in which cutlery radiates out from the plate, glamorous servers wear silk dresses that appear more costly than the monthly rent, and the pastel-clad man sitting behind your dining companion has a single pearl drop earring that winks and glistens in the light, distracting you from the three tablespoons of risotto that appear to comprise your entree. Instead, Parker Bowles—author of The Year of Eating Dangerously (2007) and E is for Eating: An Alphabet of Greed (2004)—rolls up his sleeves on appetite-whetting excursions through traditional Cheddar cheese farms in South Somerset, bacon-curing operations in Wiltshire, fruit orchards and sheep-covered pastures in Kent, gastropubs in Lancashire, the great salad bowl of London’s current eating scene, and more.

To create some space for digestion between his many, many meals, Parker Bowles peppers his third book with anecdotes, quotations and the occasional historical blurb. Armchair tourists who want a taste for themselves can choose from twenty-six recipes, including ones for raisin-studded Eccles cakes, roasted wood pigeons, Balti chicken and mushrooms, and deviled bones. Though the fun facts and character sketches can be arranged on the pages in a manner that feels a bit canned at times, they are nevertheless filtered through the vibrant vocabulary and practiced charm of good weekly columnist or television show host—familiar occupations, it turns out, for Tom Parker Bowles, who appears frequently as a presenter on the UKTV Good Food Channel’s Market Kitchen and has a regular food column in The Daily Mail.

While Full English honorably acquits the task of mapping the pleasures of honest, home-cooked British fare, however, Parker Bowles’ greatest achievement in the book may be in his visceral and sometimes poetic descriptions of foods that fail to hit the spot. A particularly offensive vegetable pie is described as “somewhere between glum and suicidal,” with a “mean and purse lipped” crust. Tripe, he concludes after a long passage musing on its various attributes, is “a piece of offal that is capable of offending all five senses.” Dismissing PR-friendly claims that chicken tikka masala is “Britain’s true national dish,” Parker Bowles blasts it as “a wretched hybrid of a dish, a plodding dilution of the world’s greatest food cultures.” These sections, just as much as the starry-eyed praises of delectable cheeses and luscious cakes, provide a rejoinder to the trepidations of old British gentlemen raised on mushy cabbage and dismissive Americans regaled with tales of the same, proving quite definitively that English cuisine is certainly not boring even when it is bad.

September 12. 2010