Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Everything I Ate: Book Review

When I first started looking at food blogs I found that they fell into three categories, the good, the bad and the ugly. Lots of ugly. So many people seemed to be just "documenting dinner". They took bad pictures of mundane meals and then painstakingly described them. Blech! What was the point of that?

But then I changed my mind. I read Tucker Shaw's book, Everything I Ate A year in the life of my mouth. On a dare, Shaw documented everything that he ate, in admittedly not great photographs and minimalist notes that revealed only what he ate and with whom.

When I first heard about the book, I wondered what it would be like, a novelty? a joke? a journal? I was surprised to find much more meaning than I expected. The book reminded me of that quote from the famous French gourmet Brillat-Savarin, "tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are".

Like a cross between a parlour game and a cultural anthropology textbook, reading Everything I Ate A year in the life of my mouth is a new way of learning about a person, a culture, and all sorts of places in time. It made me reflect on all kinds of things; what we eat, the politics of how much we eat, where we eat. And at the same time it seemed to prove that what James Beard said was true, "food is our common ground, a universal experience."

Browsing the book became an addictive pleasure. I found myself noticing the little things--like what he ate for breakfast and the late night bowls of cereal. I looked up holidays to see where he had been, I recognized locations, restaurants and meals of my own too. What a cool book!

Note: Later this week I'll post my interview with author Tucker Shaw, so stay tuned...