Best Food Writing 2003
. Da Capo Press, $14.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-1-56924-440-1
Reflecting on her selections for this amusing and informative anthology, the fourth she's edited, Hughes explains that she's attracted to good prose, to things that are humorous and to pieces that resonate:""Just as I want a meal that satisfies my hunger, I look for food writing that stays with me."" In magazines, newspapers, books and websites, she found 50 such articles on topics from bacon and caviar to Cheez Whiz and Sloppy Joes. She also came across essays on take-out, butter and burgers by New Yorker and Vogue veterans Calvin Trillin and Jeffrey Steingarten and Saveur editor Colman Andrews. Witty and wistful, their pieces have become staples in these compilations over the years. Among the other standouts in this year's edition are New York Times reporter Joyce Chang's examination of the fondness, at once peculiar and practical, that chefs and chefs-to-be have for their knives--""the haves talk about what kind of knives they own,"" she writes,""the have-nots stand stupidly silent, making a mess of carrot bits at their stations""--and Los Angeles Magazine senior editor Dave Gardetta's meditation on the Awesome Blossom--""a giant onion sliced into neat tiny quadrants, battered, and then deep-fried."" A signature dish at Chili's restaurant, the Awesome Blossom is used by Gardetta as a culinary metaphor in his trenchant analysis of the way corporate chains currently dominate the rural American restaurant scene. Wry, investigative pieces such as these give Hughes's collection depth, even as she satisfies readers' cravings for a well-wrought tale.
Reviewed on: 09/01/2003