Book Reviews

Book Review: The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat.


Craig Claiborne cam to prominence after Julia Child, and James beard started to change the culinary “scene” in the U S A. Claiborne served in the US Navy although twice recruiters rejected him. Somehow he managed, mostly through persistence and hard work, to get into the US Navy.

Then he went to the Swiss Hotel School in Lausanne to learn about food, restaurants, and service.

He developed a fine and appreciative palate for fine and rich food, a quality that ultimately led to serious health problems for him.

The reader will, if nothing else will learn that the human body evolved to consume “natural” and unrefined food to remain healthy.

Refined, fibre-poor, and rich food may be acceptable a few times a month, but constant and abusive alcohol consumption will endanger several organs over time. These illnesses may not be fully curable even with invasive surgery.

The author’s detail about Claiborne’s life is detailed, and exemplary, which he admits to have extracted from detailed entries of the subject’s dairy.

Claiborne’s New York restaurant critics appeared in New York Times and other publications pointing out shortcomings to which the dining-out public was oblivious.

The food in so-called fine New York restaurants may have been better that what other establishments were serving, but far removed from what they pretended to represent. Sauces were, among others, well short in both taste and texture that original recipes called for.

Craig Claiborne published several cookbooks with extremely well researched and detailed recipes, and most have been great successes not only for him financially, but for the public at large to understand and appreciate the real taste of high-quality food.

Unfortunately, Mr. Claiborne had no financial sense. He constantly spent far too much, and saved little.

His biggest problem seems to have been extraordinarily high salt and alcoholic beverage consumption.

The author’s narrative is “warm” and often funny. His style pulls the reader along from one page to the next, so that before you realize the book is finished.

Claiborne introduced salad spinners, balsamic vinegar, crème fraiche to Americans and taught them how to gustatorily evaluate food and appreciate attentive service.

This is an excellent book for anyone, but more so for employees of the hospitality industry, especially restaurants and hotels.

It involves the history of gastronomy and food, and how it evolved in the U S A.

Highly recommended.

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