I love books. I love food. I LOVE reading about food.If you are like me ( or even if you aren’t) you’ll love reading this book. You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy it.
“ Death by Pad Thai” consists of twenty different takes on ‘unforgettable’ meals – meals made memorable not just because of the food but by the occasion. Except for Jane and Michael Stern, who contribute separate pieces, none of the others are food writers per se. They are short story writers, novelists, poets and college professors. As a result, their efforts are more nuanced and do not concentrate solely on food. Some of the writers are well known ( Peter Mayle, Richard Russo); others ( Henri Cole, Michelle Huneven) not as well known , at least to me. All of them , however, write delightfully.
The meals they describe are as different as they can possibly be.Richard Russo tells us how he and his wife, Barbara, celebrated the acceptance for publication of his first book by taking the train to New York City for ‘Surf and Turf’ — they had pan seared scallops at the Top of the Sixes and then repaired to a legendary steakhouse for steak. Jane Stern writes about the first Thanksgiving meal when she prepared a thirty-five pound turkey for four people. (Thirty five pounds !) In ‘My life in food’ Ann Packer describes the role of food and cooking in the different phases of her life, youth, college , boyfriends, marriage and now, divorced.
The only essay that left me with mixed feeling was the title piece ” Death by Lobster Pad Thai” by Steve Almond. Not because of the quality of the writing, ( Almond writes very well ) but because of the wretched excess that it condones. Almond’s pals, Tom and Scott use four four lb. lobsters ( almost six pounds of lobster meat) in making their pad thai. That they would use so much lobster ( or even any lobster) to make a simple noodle dish smacks, to me , of decadence.
But perhaps I am being too nit-picky.The stories are all well-written and enjoyable, served up with lashings of humor and you’ll enjoy each and every one of them.
Death by Pad Thai. edited by Douglas Baer.Paperback. Three Rivers Press. (2006) $13.95.