The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat by Thomas McNamee
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Free Press (May 8, 2012)
In the 1950s, America was a land of overdone roast beef and canned green beans—a gastronomic wasteland. Most restaurants relied on frozen, second-rate ingredients and served bogus “Continental” cuisine. Authentic French, Italian, and Chinese foods were virtually unknown. There was no such thing as food criticism at the time, and no such thing as a restaurant critic. Cooking at home wasn’t thought of as a source of pleasure. Guests didn’t chat around the kitchen. Professional equipment and cookware were used only in restaurants. One man changed all that.
From the bestselling author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse comes the first biography of the passionate gastronome and troubled genius who became the most powerful force in the history of American food—the founding father of the American food revolution. From his first day in 1957 as the food editor of the New York Times, Craig Claiborne was going to take his readers where they had never been before. Claiborne extolled the pleasures of exotic cuisines from all around the world, and with his inspiration, restaurants of every ethnicity blossomed. So many things we take for granted now were introduced to us by Craig Claiborne—crème fraîche, arugula, balsamic vinegar, the Cuisinart, chef’s knives, even the salad spinner.
He would give Julia Child her first major book review. He brought Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers, Paul Prudhomme, and Jacques Pépin to national acclaim. His $4,000 dinner for two in Paris was a front-page story in the Times and scandalized the world. And while he defended the true French nouvelle cuisine against bastardization, he also reveled in a well-made stew or a good hot dog. He made home cooks into stars—Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, Diana Kennedy, and many others. And Craig Claiborne made dinner an event—whether dining out, delighting your friends, or simply cooking for your family. His own dinner parties were legendary.
Craig Claiborne was the perfect Mississippi gentleman, but his inner life was one of conflict and self-doubt. Constrained by his position to mask his sexuality, he was imprisoned in solitude, never able to find a stable and lasting love. Through Thomas McNamee’s painstaking research and eloquent storytelling, The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat unfolds a history that is largely unknown and also tells the full, deep story of a great man who until now has never been truly known at all.
Being a food lover, I was really excited to have the chance to read this book. What I found inside the covers was way more than what I expected. The author takes you through the changes we’ve made over the years concerning not only the way we think about food, but the type of foods we eat. It also gives an in depth account of Craig Claiborne’s life.
To be honest, this was the best non fiction I’ve read in a very long time. The authors words seemed to pull me along from one page to the next page, and the next, and when I finally looked up to see what time it was, it was way past the time I had intended to read.
The book is not only full of statistics, it is full of heart. It’s very well written and is perfect for anyone who loves food or how we came to consume so much processed food instead of the healthy, made from scratch meals our grandmothers and great grandmothers made.
This book reads more like a fiction, and not the non fiction it is. I highly recommend this book!
Meet The Author:
I am the author of The Grizzly Bear (Knopf, 1984), Nature First: Keeping Our Wild Places and Wild Creatures Wild (Roberts Rinehart, 1987), A Story of Deep Delight (Viking, 1990), The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone (Henry Holt, 1997)and Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution (The Penguin Press, 2007). My latest book, THE MAN WHO CHANGED THE WAY WE EAT: CRAIG CLAIBORNE AND THE AMERICAN FOOD RENAISSANCE, was published in May 2012.
My essays, poems, and natural history writing have been published in Audubon, The New Yorker, Life, Natural History, High Country News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Saveur, and a number of literary journals. I wrote the documentary film Alexander Calder, which was broadcast on the PBS ‘American Masters’ series in June 1998 and received both a George W. Peabody Award and an Emmy. Many of my book reviews have appeared The New York Times Book Review.
After twenty-three years in New York City and five in rural Montana, I have lived in San Francisco since 1998–albeit with frequent returns to New York and as much of every summer as possible in Montana.
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