This book is fascinating, hilarious, a must-read. Steingarten delves into different food/cooking categories chapter by chapter; I couldn't believe how interesting it all was. His voice is light, self-mocking, truly engaging. I have read this book over and over--and I am NOT a cook or even very much of a "foodie." This is one of those books that transcends its subject matter--similar to Seabiscuit and In the Heart of the Sea in that way, enrapturing even folks who don't care for horseracing or sailing. It doesn't matter if your version of cooking is pouring milk over Rice Krispies, I bet you will enjoy this book!
Other fun-food-tales books: Peter Mayle's excellent series (very similar to TMWAE), Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (inside view of the life of a chef), The Soul of a Chef and The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman.
Fascinating and amusing book. The title & back cover are misleading, though. The first essay talks about what he currently won't eat and needs to dispense himself of the invalid hang-ups. However, he only twice leaves the Western world after that--once to Japan, and once to Tunsia. So he never runs into really strange concoctions.
Which isn't to say the book isn't good--it very much is--it's just not what I was expecting. The author has a fun view on life and food, and little patience for un-supported health-caused food pickiness. I think he underplays allergies a bit, but his discussion (rant?) on raw foods was intriquing. He claims many raw vegetables prevent you from absorbing some of their nutriets, as a defense mechanism that breaks down after they are cooked. Which, if true, changes a lot of information on veggies. But I want to find it elsewhere first.
I also like his wife (who gets grumpy if it's midnight and dinner isn't ready). She's not a large part of the book, but he mentions her here and there, and she seems to serve as a reality check for him. I don't cook large, complicated meals, but somehow I feel with him as he struggles through a particularly obtuse one, or watches a skilled cook make the same thing over and over so he can learn how. And the food...I'm almost convinced I will love fish--despite many many data points to the contrary!
He tosses in a handful of recipes, which I didn't try, though I am copying the pie crust one out. The "Drying Sneaker" one was amusing, in his experimentation with microwaves. I was also amused (for unintended reasons) by the comment about a diet being a throwback to the Atkins diet. Atkins hadn't resurfaced when the book was printed, but it certainly has now!
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Enough I gave it to my father-in-law as a gift, and he says he did as well.
(Edited to add later: I am now reading his It Must Have Been Something I Ate, the sequel, and in that one he does go eat lots of odd and strange foods. So I guess they should have switched the titles!)
As the food critic for Vouge, Jeffrey Steingarten is curious about food. All types of food. From everywhere. Wildly entertaining while explaining away myths and misconceptions we are fed by the nutritionists - this book is a must read. Loved it!!