cover image Steal the Menu: A Memoir of Forty Years in Food

Steal the Menu: A Memoir of Forty Years in Food

Raymond Sokolov. Knopf, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-307-70094-0

Sokolov invites readers to join him around the table and to share the many repasts he’s consumed, skewered, and roasted over the past 40 years as a food critic in this delightful remembrance of meals past. In 1971, Sokolov joins the New York Times as its chief food critic, succeeding the popular Craig Claiborne. Although a bit cowed by this new assignment, he embraces it with gusto, recalling his the ways that his earlier experiences with food and eating have prepared him for this moment. In the summer of 1960, eating his way across Europe, Sokolov says he “acquires a huge new vocabulary of dishes—andouillette, marcassin, cou d’oie farci aux lentilles—I tasted every one of those dishes with gusto and could still give you a vivid account of the flavors and textures in many of them.” Such experience gives him the confidence, the vocabulary, and the judgment that stays with him over the course of his career as a food critic. In his Times reviews, Sokolov famously knocks the until-then well-regarded French restaurant Le Grenouille off its pedestal, calling it on the cutting board for its “canned-tasting peas and clams in white wine too humdrum for a top restaurant.” At the same time, he elevates the status of Lutèce, which “feels like a real French restaurant with topflight dishes you might find in France.” Captivating and humorous, Sokolov’s inviting memoir joins the ranks of Ruth Reichl’s and Judith Jones’s elegant recollections of a life lived at table. (May)