IT MUST'VE BEEN SOMETHING I ATE
by Jeffrey Steingarten
FOOD WRITING IS DIFFICULT. There are only so many synonyms for "delectable," and not nearly enough adequate verbs. You wind up saying "is" a lot—the beef is sticky, the oatmeal is gelatinous and fetid—or else you sound ridiculous. The beef arrives calls to mind a cow meandering through a restaurant; the beef comes is abundantly inappropriate.
But what Jeffrey Steingarten lacks in his repertoire of active verbs, he amply makes up for by being active. In his new essay collection, It Must've Been Something I Ate (he is also the author of 1998's The Man Who Ate Everything), we find him fishing in the ocean for giant bluefin tuna, poaching a pig's head over an outdoor burner, and scouring Paris butcher shops for spleen: "There is no spleen in Paris," he writes, "and very little shin." Nor is there any rooster to be found in Manhattan, frustratingly enough—male chickens are slaughtered young—and the French dish coq au vin, "rooster with wine," which Steingarten is determined to make one evening, requires one. (The book includes recipes for everything he eats.) One moment he's sawing through Black Forest ham on an airplane; the next, he's spreading bone marrow onto slices of bread. In addition to all the posh foodie fodder, the book also contains a fair share of reflective, lengthy, and hilarious argumentative digressions such as "Why Doesn't Everybody in China Have a Headache?," in which he debunks the myths of MSG.
"Nothing in the food world today is chicer than salt," he says—he's fond of universal superlatives. "Pizza is a perfect food," he insists, and "Steamed broccoli is the root of all evil." I've never thought poorly of or for very long about broccoli—what on earth is wrong with steamed broccoli?—but it's entertaining to read the thoughts of someone who has, and who articulates them with clarity and passion.