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


ANCIENT FISH TALES by Paulette Licitra

Gastrology or Life of Pleasure or Study of the Belly or Inquiry into Dinner
by Archestratos
Translated by Gian Lombardo
Quale Press, December 2009
Paperback 86 pp., ISBN: 9780979299964

I’m a big fan of archaeology. I love looking at ancient stuff that people from thousands of years ago actually had their hands on. It’s hard to fathom. How can you capture ancient in your mind? Stand in front of the Roman Coliseum and let your head spin. I’ve done that a few dozen times. Still can’t really feel the years.

As far as what they were all eating back then you can look to a few sources. Of course, the Roman Apicius tantalizes your culinary imagination with flamingo tongues and everything bathed in fish sauce, but here’s another interesting blast from the past: Archestratos.

His reflections and recipes come to us from the mid-4th century BCE. He wrote for his fellow Greeks about the food ways of Sicily where he traveled through ancient Greek port towns. Despite the long circuitous title of the work, the pieces inside are short and ultra-pithy, sometimes just a sentence is a chapter: “To hell with side dishes of purse-tassel bulbs and silphium stalks, as well as any other appetizer of the same ilk.”

Gian Lombardo’s translation makes the ancient Greek especially accessible and entertainingly fun. We get the feeling we’re hanging out with a curmudgeon-y fussy eater who also has a broad culinary knowledge and pretty good taste.

Archestratos gives us recipes: “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice: Eat braised ray in the depths of winter. Give it some cheese and silphium. This is the only way to cook up any of the sea’s progeny that has flesh that’s not fatty. Got it?”

Much of the food talked about comes from the sea—Karystian dolphin fish, sand sharks, grey mullet, and Siracusan tombarello are among the swimming menagerie. Archestratos instructs on where to find lobster colonies, how in Sikyon you must have their conger eel, and to buy scorpion fish and octopus in Thasos. He also has some opinions about the natives: “Don’t let any Siracusan, or Italian for that matter, get near when you’re cooking.”

Opinionated and brutally to the point, he doesn’t mince words (but probably herbs): “Siracusans call foxfish dogfish. That’s thresher shark in Rhodes. If no one’s willing to sell you one by any name, steal one—even if you wind up strung up by the neck. One taste and I guarantee you’ll gladly suffer whatever fate throws at you.”

The book is a slim pocket paperback, easy to carry around. Read the short passages on the bus or train or even at a stop light. Not only will each entry get you giggling, it’ll also transport you to the table of the ancients, where, apparently, eaters were just as obsessed about food as we are.

February 1, 2010