Reading Treats and Trends: The Tastemakers and Eating Wildly

19 Nov

Nibble your way through these two fun and insightful nonfiction works that will give you a new perspective on the food you eat!

The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up With Fondue (Plus Baconomics, Superfoods, and Other Secrets From the World of Food Trends), by David Sax

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The title fairly well hints at the variety of what this intriguing nonfiction book contains.  In The Tastemakers, David Sax looks at types of food trends, how trends start, their impact on things like money and politics, and finally how trends may fall out of favor.  Each section of The Tastemakers is linked with a specific food including bacon, chia seeds, red prince apples, Indian food, food trucks and more that exemplify the concept that Sax is conveying and about that foods specific rise to food trend status.

Although like me you may be familiar with some of these such as the cultural trend of the cupcake that arose from its appearance on Sex and the City, there are some areas I found very surprising.  It was fascinating to see how agricultural trends such as specific types of apples come about and how their proponents can be thwarted by things like unseasonable weather destroying crops.  You may have noticed how bacon has gone from once a simple breakfast food to becoming something that has been used to flavor everything from mayonnaise to vodka, but Sax looks at not only this trend, but how this has an economic impact on everyone from pig farmers to the sellers of bacon themed novelty toys.  I felt the book left me with not only a better understanding of trends in general, but also a better appreciation for the food I eat.

If you enjoy this book you can also check out Sax’s other work Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen available from BCCLS libraries.

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal, by Ava Chin

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Eating Wildly is a fascinating memoir framed by Ava Chin’s experiences foraging for food in New York City.  Foraging isn’t just a survival skill for scouts in the woods anymore, but currently a fad amongst some New Yorkers and other urban dwellers to find things to eat in parks and even in the sidewalk cracks near their homes.  An episode of Top Chef Duels even recently featured a challenge using foraged ingredients gathered by the chefs.  Chin wrote the Urban Forager blog for the New York Times for several years.  The book describes some of her finds including oyster mushrooms, blackberries, and wild garlic.

Her quests for mulberries reminded me of picking mulberries in the wooded area near my childhood home.  I can remember picking them with my parents when we were out walking our dogs and enjoying the sweet berries as they stained our hands dark purple.  I’m not sure though if I would be as comfortable picking things from the sidewalk cracks in the city, but it certainly made me rethink the “weeds” around me.

Although the foraging was interesting, I was drawn to her larger life story.  Chin’s father abandoned her mother when he found out she was pregnant and Chin works through her feelings about her father, mother, and grandparents who helped raise her, as she examines the natural world around her.  I found though her family life was fully explored, I would have liked more exploration of some of her romantic relationships who seemed to pop in and out of her life, without getting a feeling for them as people.

An important consideration for anyone who is taking up foraging is to read and learn from experienced foragers since edible plants, mushrooms, and berries can look very similar to poisonous ones.  Ava discovered this when she gathered up some tasty looking mushrooms which on further examination with a spore print (she details how to make one in the book) proved to be toxic.  Other tips for safe foraging are also included along with recipes, some of which have supermarket substitutions for the grocery store foragers amongst us.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

One Response to “Reading Treats and Trends: The Tastemakers and Eating Wildly”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. It Came from the Interwebz: Books that Started Out as Online Phenomena | Hoboken Library Staff Picks - May 10, 2017

    […] Williams Brown’s blog, Adulting Bon Appétempt based on Amelia Morris’s blog Bon Appétempt Eating Wildly arose from Ava Chin’s Urban Forager blog for the New York Times My Berlin Kitchen comes from […]

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