The Best Thing I Ever Tasted: The Secret of Food

Sallie Tisdale, Author Riverhead Books $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-57322-130-6

In this informal book-length essay, Tisdale (Talk Dirty to Me) examines food and our relationships with it. Tisdale's style is casual, yet never aimless; each chapter is a well-crafted part of the intensely thoughtful whole. Tisdale is specifically interested in Americans and their relationship to food: she discusses how eating habits change as immigrants become assimilated. She explicates clearly that cooking has remained ""women's work"" over the years and relates compelling stories of her mother's lackadaisical attitude toward cooking and the ways in which her own experiences both repeat and differ from those of her mother (""She was bound by routine; I'm bound by change""). Tisdale also explores whether processed foods help women (by freeing them from the drudgery of cooking from scratch) or hurt them (by eliminating a type of knowledge that previously had been handed down through generations). This book is peppered with recollections (Tisdale recently prepared homemade soup for her aging father, who informed her that he prefers the taste of the fat-free Cup-a-Soup) and facts (""People ate more meat and lard in 1839 than they did in 1939""). But in the end, Tisdale's forte lies in helping readers to see the big picture, in which she ties together history, folklore, personal anecdote and sharp analysis to show that we truly are what we eat. (Feb.)
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