Monday, January 12, 2009

The Perfect Gift?

There are some people who are easy to buy for during the holidays. Part of the challenge is just finding something that they’ll enjoy, the real trick though is to make sure that you can renew this gift every year!! My mother now gets flowers and a subscription to ‘The Week’ delivered every month, my brother and sister 3 bottles of wine each month. These all seem very popular and have made holiday shopping that much simpler, although it’s still nice to get them some other little thing to keep the element of surprise!

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law have found that perfect gift for me. They’re so pleased to have found this that they’ve forced me to swear on my favorite Espresso machine that I’ll never jump the gun and get this for myself.

It’s not the Michelin guide or the Zagat survey, which would make perfect gifts for me except that they are now published in October and no one could get me to wait till December for my copies. There’s a whole blog waiting to be written there as to why Zagat and consequently Michelin (the newer competition - in New York that is!) choose to publish in October - I seem to remember that after 9/11 Zagat bought its publishing date forward from November to October and that seems to have stuck, but otherwise I’m baffled why they don’t publish closer to the year which they are supposed to represent – I’m sure there’s an easy explanation.

No this is the “Best Food Writing” compilation that has been coming out annually since 2000 and is edited by Holly Hughes. For all I know this may also be published in October but this one I can wait for!

For anyone who’s interested in the food industry this is a must have – leave the research and the tedious sorting through all that is written on, about or around food to someone else and enjoy a great collection of food writing.

I haven’t read all the articles yet, but it’s well laid out so that you can go to one section and read articles on the restaurant business, including a hilarious piece by Dan Barber where they mistakenly identify a certain food critic, or you can go to other sections to delve into the whole localphile movement, another for the origination of our food, yet another for the economics of the industry or just the importance that food should/does/did play in our lives.

In the ‘Dining Around’ section there are some great articles on dining outside of the US, including a trip by Calvin Trillin to the Hawker Centres in Singapore that bring the old street sellers into a sanitary environment where the most amazing street food can be tasted - safely! - (it’ll make you want to book your air ticket tomorrow!)

My favorite article though has to be “New Day, New Devon” by Raphael Kadushin. As a Brit, from Devon no less, who is somewhat used to having my country’s cooking prowess unfairly maligned, this piece is a breath of fresh air and really does reflect the culinary revolution that has taken place in the UK. Interestingly enough it is the same addiction with locally sourced produce, naturally reared meat and fish and seasonal freshness that we find in the US that is responsible for this interest by some of the UK’s greatest chefs to move away from the cities to the more traditional pubs and hotels in the countryside.

Which brings me to my only peeve with this collection of articles. It’s a little bit like the World Series – if this is the ‘Best Food Writing 2008’ where are the other countries’ authors represented? I know, a little pedantic, but still, in the spirit of the more modest and globally integrated atmosphere that we will hopefully soon be embracing and fostering, perhaps we should call this ‘Best U.S. Food Writing 2008’! Meantime – I’m looking forward to digesting this collection over the next few months, and will keep it with all my other back copies to occasionally reference or just pick up for a quick, entertaining read, as I longingly look at my espresso machine waiting for the next year to arrive!

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