Review by Linda Cannon
It’s been quite some time since I reviewed anything about food (astonishing, I know), so I was quite excited to see serious eats: a comprehensive guide to making and eating delicious food wherever you are, brought to you by the folks at the dandy website seriouseats.com (I checked it out, too. Lots of interesting stuff, including a bunch of taste tests for commercial products).
The book is a group effort put together by seven main contributors, with a little help from their friends. They certainly seem to know their stuff, and are most definitely serious (but not stodgy) about food. This is not a gourmet food book, but a “food of the people” book. No foie gras here. First up in the book is the brief questionnaire “Are you a serious eater?” The questions are these: Do you plan your day around what you might eat? When you are heading somewhere, anywhere, will you go out of your way to eat something delicious? When you daydream, do you often find yourself thinking about food? Do you live to eat, rather than eat to live? and finally, Have you strained relationships with friends or family by dictating the food itinerary—changing everyone’s plans to try a potentially special burger or piece of pie?
I will admit to answer yes to four of those questions. I’m not saying which ones, but if you talk to anyone I’ve ever travelled with, they might have something to say about question 5.
Moving on, the book consists of nine chapters and a directory (so you can find what’s close to home) and a pretty good index. The chapters cover breakfast, burgers, pizza, sandwiches (including hot dogs), barbecue, street food, fried foods, sweets and bakeries, and home-grown and house-made. I’ll admit to skipping through the breakfast section pretty quickly, as I am not a big breakfast eater. However, I read the burger chapter very closely. It, as well as the other chapters, includes information about the chapter’s food in general. History, definitions, regional styles, and that sort of thing are well delineated and are, as is everything in the book, presented in an interesting graphic fashion. Even without the photos, which are numerous and yummy, the book would be very colorful.
In addition to the background info on each food type, there are picks for the best of each type of item in various locations around the country as well as recipes produced by seriouseats in-house chef-turned-writer. I’m looking forward to trying the recipes for Kansas City style barbecue ribs as well as the barbecue spareribs with five-spice rub and sticky ginger glaze. Speaking of barbecue, there is mention of the great writer and humorist Calvin Trillin (born and raised in Kansas City if you didn’t know) and any mention of Mr. Trillin always gets extra points from me. Kansas City is well represented, by the way, mostly for barbecue but Stroud’s chicken is also covered in the Fried Foods chapter.
Sadly, there isn’t much closer to home that made it into the book. Bobo’s Drive-in in Topeka and the Cozy Inn in Salina made it in for Kansas, and several Kansas City barbecue places are included, along with Carl’s Drive-In in Brentwood (number 10 on the burger list) and the fabulous Ted Drewes in St. Louis. I’m trying to think of a reason for a St. Louis road trip right about now.
One place closer to home that did make it in isn’t a restaurant, but a chocolate shop. Askinosie Chocolates in Springfield won a number 6 spot on the Grown-Up Candy list for its chocolate hazelnut spread (think Nutella, only better!) Maybe if I can’t get to St. Louis, I might make it to Springfield for a little shopping.
Overall, I loved this book. I just hope they someday manage to find something closer to home! Guess I’ll just have to watch the website and keep my fingers crossed. I heartily recommend this book for any and all food fans.