Today’s Read This! recommendation is especially for those who love both good food and good writing. And it’s a book by a lawyer, to boot: “It Must’ve Been Something I Ate,” by Jeffrey Steingarten.
The book is a compilation of columns that Steingarten has written for Vogue magazine as its food critic. One of his specialties is examining conventional wisdom to see how it holds up, a skill which he displays to particular effect in his essays on salt, MSG, chocolate, and cheese.
As a lawyer myself, I read “Cheese Crise,” his essay on raw milk cheese and the FDA, with especial delight.
Steingarten begins by recounting a Parisian cheesemonger’s telling him with satisfaction, “Not even the dogs at Kennedy Airport will smell through this,” while wrapping in several layers of plastic and carefully taped paper a package of raw milk cheese for Steingarten to take back on the plane to the US. With satisfaction equal to the cheesemonger’s, Steingarten then reveals his own elegantly simple and foolproof scheme for getting food items from abroad that are prohibited for sale in the US through US customs, which, as an additional advantage, ensures that he’ll never be prosecuted for violating any law: “My secret method is called declaring everything.”
For more good writing on food by a renowned nutritionist, check out Marion Nestle’s blog, “Food Politics.” Lately Nestle has been writing about S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which passed the Senate last week.
And for still more good, intelligent food writing, check out Mark Bittman’s columns in the New York Times (where Steingarten’s work has also appeared). If you like fresh, crusty bread, his column on Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread, accompanied by Lahey’s recipe and an instructive video, may change your life.