The man who ate everything : and other gastronomic feats, disputes, and pleasurable pursuits

by Jeffrey Steingarten

Hardcover, 1997




New York : Knopf, 1997.


Winner of the Julia Child Book Award A James Beard Book Award Finalist When Jeffrey Steingarten was appointed food critic for Vogue, he systematically set out to overcome his distaste for such things as kimchi, lard, Greek cuisine, and blue food. He succeeded at all but the last: Steingarten is "fairly sure that God meant the color blue mainly for food that has gone bad." In this impassioned, mouth-watering, and outrageously funny book, Steingarten devotes the same Zen-like discipline and gluttonous curiosity to practically everything that anyone anywhere has ever called "dinner." Follow Steingarten as he jets off to sample choucroute in Alsace, hand-massaged beef in Japan, and the mother of all ice creams in Sicily. Sweat with him as he tries to re-create the perfect sourdough, bottle his own mineral water, and drop excess poundage at a luxury spa. Join him as he mounts a heroic--and hilarious--defense of salt, sugar, and fat (though he has some nice things to say about Olestra). Stuffed with offbeat erudition and recipes so good they ought to be illegal, The Man Who Ate Everything is a gift for anyone who loves food.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member browner56
As any regular viewer of Iron Chef America on the Food Network knows, Jeffrey Steingarten makes occasional appearances on that show as a sarcastic, sardonic and often severe judge. He is sort of the Simon Cowell to the chef set: “This food is overcooked, unseasoned, and simply awful—and that toque makes you look fat!” He is the one that all competitors fear and respect the most and the only jurist who appears to make Bobby Flay nervous.

I do not read his regular contributions in Vogue magazine, so I did not know that Steingarten can also be a subtle and wonderful writer. He has been a dedicated “foodie” for at least a decade before that term became fashionable and his passion is reflected throughout this series of essays that encompass such diverse topics as the best way to bake bread, how to judge a pork rib cooking contest, why the French diet is healthy, and what makes salad so bad for you. Beyond that, he writes about his gastronomic travels around the world with such unrestrained relish that it is easy for the reader to be pulled right along with him.

Not all the essays in this book are successful; Steingarten’s penchant for “research” can be cloying and pedantic, as in the pieces on cooking with fat substitutes, trying to find best ketchup, or testing the chemical composition of water, while other essays are hopelessly dated (e.g., how microwave ovens work). However, he is more often very insightful and genuinely funny when writing about both the mundane (salt) and the more exotic (producing true choucroute). His chapters on cooking seafood in Venice and eating his way through Tunisia are nothing short of brilliant.

Steingarten does not pretend to be an expert on any particular topic but, as an attorney by training, he definitely knows the right questions to ask and he is never afraid to put theory into practice in the kitchen. This book definitely could have used better editing—at about 500 pages, it is really way too bloated for comfortable consumption—but ultimately the good does outweigh the bad.
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LibraryThing member vsmoothe
This book is hilarious and informative. I love Jeffrey Steingarten. He's absolutely the best thing about Vogue.
LibraryThing member anikins
funny, witty, informative, honest. it's comforting to know we have the same obsession for and favorite brand of ketchup. overall a good read!
LibraryThing member calotype
A great deal of fun–far more so than his second book, which is heavily marinated in his colossal ego. The chapter on pie crust both screamingly funny and the best how-to on pie crust I've ever read.
LibraryThing member LynnB
This book was fun to read. The author is a food writer for Vogue, and the book is part cooking, part travelogue, part science and always entertaining. There are some hilarious moments, like the episode when he tries to make a coconut cake for Thanksgiving, or conducts a ketchup taste test. And, his chapter on microwave cooking had me chuckling and cheering at the same time. There are recipes. My only complaint is that they are, for the most part, far too complicated for me to actually make at home.

If you like to eat, you'll like this book.

p.s. My son and I actually made the "mock apple" pie which uses Ritz crackers instead of apples. It was good -- and we fooled most of the family with it!
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LibraryThing member herschelian
Funny, thought provoking, and informative, with some recipes thrown in.
LibraryThing member mrtall
This highly-enjoyable collection of Jeffrey Steingarten's food essays includes several absolute classics, including 'Salad the Silent Killer'. Steingarten's take on food is simple: if it's tasty, let's eat it, and to hell with all those neurotics who think of it only as 'fuel' or 'poison'.

Steingarten's also a consummate stylist, with a distinctively playful voice. His flights of egotism are neatly balanced by self-deprecation, and his willingness to march off on quixotic food quests (e.g. trying to come up with his own recipe for good-tasting water by mixing distilled H2O with pharmaceutical chemicals).

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Meggo
This book consists of a series of essays written by Steingarten from 1988 - the mid 1990s about his favourite subject, food. Clearly a man who loves his work, he tackles topics as diverse as baking a loaf of yeast-free bread, finding the perfect french fry, and the challenges of returning to American cooking after time spent abroad sampling authentic Japanese cuisine. Educational and entertaining, the essay format lends itself to bursts of reading in the tub, before bed, or on the subway. Steingarten includes some of his favourite recipes, which alas seemed far too complicated for my simple abilities, but still interesting. Worthwhile and engaging.… (more)
LibraryThing member John_Vaughan
With a sense of ingratitude I realized that I had never written a review saying just how much I have enjoyed reading and rereading this delightful feast of the author's witty writing. I have cooked from this book, and reading this work led me on to other treasured books and authors and I learned about foods that I both love and dislike. However; I do not suffer from any Phobias about food, having tried most at least once in my travels. But if I did this book just might cure me!

The most humorous piece, for me, is Salad the Silent Killer where the former New York Lawyer turned gourmet-author lays out a perfect ‘brief’ on the fact that plants only have one defense – poison, Denied the option of Fight Or Flight they poison each other – and us! The piece is a beautifully witty piece of writing and guides us away from ‘lowering a snout into a fake-wood plastic bowl and shoveling greens into your mouth'.

This work neatly destroys many food and culture myth and may well be responsible for a distinct lessening lately of those horrid but obligatory ‘salads’ US restaurants always plunked down in front of us.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
I didn’t find this earlier collection of essays to be as enjoyable as It Must’ve Been Something I Ate, I think because they had more of a scientific, research-ly approach. But there is still a lot of terrific reading about food here, even if some essays seem a little dated. Of particular interest are the chapter on french fries — one of my favorite foods — and the one on salt. Steingarten’s mission is to prove that all those foods they say are bad for you really aren’t, and he makes a convincing argument here.… (more)
LibraryThing member Carrie.deSilva
A great read from a highly literate and entertaining man with a deep understanding and great pasion for food. This volume won The Guild of Food Writers Food Book of the Year Award 1999.
LibraryThing member Elpaca
Totally enjoyed this well written, funny book. My husband however is glad I'm finished since he finds my relentless quoting a bit tedious. My favorite essay: Salad, the Silent Killer.
LibraryThing member dms02
Was sad to see that the whole book was not about his experiment to get rid of his food aversions. Instead a collection of essays on food. Not bad - just not what I was in the mood for.
LibraryThing member Anne_Green
One reviewer suggested he had an unhealthy obsession with food, but if so he’s not bothered by it. He became the food critic of Vogue in 1989 and the book is a selection of some of his articles from there and other publications.
He is nothing if not thorough, pursuing the subjects of his current fascination with unrestrained zeal and a level of persistence that would make him fairly unbearable, if he didn’t have such a dry sense of humour.
The book is a series of travelogues as well as food explorations, as he flits all over the world with carefree abandon in search of the answers to whatever his current burning question is, apparently unrestricted by any considerations of money or other commitments. Oh for such a lifestyle.
It’s a very long book (360 odd pages) and by the end I found myself wishing he’d run out of investigative missions, especially when he made the discovery that the very best French fries need to be cooked in horse fat. And then set out to acquire some.
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LibraryThing member Jeannine504
This book is as refreshing as a cool, green salad on a hot summer night. Steingarten is both serious and funny, sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes culture-deprecating, but always with a sense of humor and a rigorously tested palate. Funny, entertaining, and flavor-enhancing.
LibraryThing member sarcher
Most collections of previously published material (short stories, newspaper columns, etc.) suffer from a wide disparity in quality as well as un-linked subject matter making it difficult to develop an understanding of the "text" as a whole.

The chapters which discuss health research/health impacts have aged the worst, because they are an inch-deep in their information and largely outdated. The more personal chapters are much more rewarding and interesting.… (more)
LibraryThing member Paulagraph
TMWAE is the local chapter of Slow Foods' book club selection for November. Although I don't participate in the book club, I checked out a copy from the library nevertheless. And, I really enjoyed the first third of the book. Thereafter, my reading experience started to resemble one I often have when consuming an elaborate multi-course meal. I arrive hungry. The first couple of courses taste fabulous. At the point at which I'm satiated, the food still tastes good. Then, whoops, I've eaten too much and I don't feel as great. Unfortunately, eating to excess has the effect of revising my overall opinion of a meal downward. And so it went with Steingarten's book, which I read as a book, straight through. His chapters, however, were originally written as food columns and should probably be read as such for maximum enjoyment. Meaning, read one now and one tomorrow or the next day and so on and so forth. That said, Steingarten writes well and with a lot of humor. I particularly enjoyed the chapters in which I either learned something useful ("Ripeness is All" & "Pies From Paradise") or those in which he narrates a quirky obsession that he follows through on to the limit, such as testing all the various "subsistence" diets that he can lay his hands on or preparing all the "back of the box" recipes that he's able to collect. Although I don't share many of Steingarten's food festishes nor food aversions, I did nod synchronistically while reading his account of spending 2 weeks in Japan eating nothing but Japanese food ("Kyoto Cuisine"). I had a similar experience after spending a month in Japan in the 1970s. I was sure I must have been Japanese in some former life, since I never tired of the food and never felt any acute craving for other cuisines all the while I was there.
Read this book as one should eat, in moderate-sized portions, and enjoy the feast.
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