Thursday, June 25, 2020

Chowhound's Reading List

I just resurrected the old Chowhound Reading List. Take a look!

I'm particularly proud of my profile of John Thorne. If you don't know, he's the food writer's food writer - by far the best of the century, if not of all time.
John Thorne thinks deeply about food. In his personal, utterly unaffected voice (which is actually a hybrid of himself and wife Matt), he ponders the minutia of meatballs, the inner meaning of rice and beaning. Aptly illuminating quotations are cited, seemingly unrelated concepts elegantly connected; Thorne's rhythms are so honest, his erudition so copious and his iconoclastic conclusions so clever that the reader never suspects the daunting legwork that goes into it all. Thorne, the hardest working man in the food writing biz, erases all traces of these labors, so his prose goes down as easily--and as deliciously--as the most soulful polenta.

When the ruminations conclude--and you've discovered historical, cultural, scientific, and spiritual depths to, say, pancakes that you'd never suspected existed--Thorne presents recipes. Not dozens of variations on a cooking theme, but a few concentrated treasures, the distillation of the preceding essay's meditations. The recipes may or may not be to your taste, but such care went into their developement that they're manifestly more than tested, more than polished...they're downright perfected.
I like to flatter myself by imagining that this was the most befitting short profile of Thorne out there. He, in turn, had reviewed my first book, and his writing had the power to teach me who I am (most people don't know and really need to be told). It wasn't the praising that dazzled me. I'd have appreciated his perspective nearly as much if it were tepid or even negative. I was affected by the insight. With Thorne, it's always the insight. The rest of us are mere pikers.

John was also the only food "authority" to grok my smart phone app, "Eat Everywhere":
Eat Everywhere is the distillation of a lifetime of adventurous eating deftly brewed into an impressively designed and wickedly ingenious app: endlessly useful, surprisingly entertaining, and highly addictive.
A snarky reader would surely view this as a disgusting display of shameless back-scratching. But it was more than that. Yes, we were providing mutual support in a world that doesn't often comprehend, much less reward, heartfelt and idiosyncratic work. But more than that, we paid each other the honor of digging deep to extract real insight, the greatest gift a writer can offer one's subject and one's readership. Thorne and I both subscribe to the old-fashioned credo of a writer giving subjects their full due. Those of us who have the audacity to encapsulate a person or their work for crowds of other people have a duty to evoke and express the authentic heart, and not just blab descriptively (here are my Slog postings tagged as "profiles")

Chowhound and I received metric tons of press, all of it useful. But hardly a drop of it was insightful.

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