Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink
Reviewed by Wes Marshall, Fri., Dec. 5, 2008
Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drinkedited by David Remnick
Random House, 608 pp., $30
Since its inception under the watchful eye of founding Editor Harold Ross, The New Yorker's raison d'être has been maximum intelligence dished up with minimum words and served with healthy seasonings of irony and anomie. Ross wasn't a gourmand, but he just happened to have a few writers on his staff who were, as well as a collection of associates in the magazine's orbit who could qualify as both. New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik stated that all good food writing is either a "mock epic" or a "mystical microcosm." This book contains generous servings of both. Calvin Trillin presides over the mock epic school. His democratic appetites include bagels and big red herrings, such as his contention that blindfolded, no one on earth could tell the difference between a red and a white wine. At the mystic end, there are poetic confections by the brilliant M.F.K. Fisher. The New Yorker's greatest strength has always been humor, and this book has hundreds of pages of supersized laughs with great authors such as Steve Martin, Woody Allen, Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker, and S.J. Perelman. And then there are the cartoons. Is there any more easily skewerable subject for The New Yorker's brilliant cartoonists than the urban food and wine snob? Secret Ingredients is the answer to the question, "Well, now, what shall I do with all that time between lunch and dinner?"