Poor Man’s Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking by Elissa Altman, PDF, 0425278352

Poor Man's Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking

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  • Title: Poor Man’s Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking
  • Autor: Elissa Altman
  • Publisher (Publication Date): Chronicle Books; 1/30/13 edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: Choosing Words That Influence and Inspire

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From James Beard Award-winning writer Elissa Altman comes a story that marries wit to warmth, and flavor to passion. Born and raised in New York to a food-phobic mother and food-fanatical father, Elissa was trained early on that fancy is always best. After a childhood spent dining everywhere from Le Pavillion to La Grenouille, she devoted her life to all things gastronomical, from the rare game birds she served at elaborate dinner parties in an apartment so tiny that guests couldn’t turn around to the eight timbale molds she bought while working at Dean & DeLuca, just so she could make tall food.

But love does strange things to people, and when Elissa met Susan — a small-town Connecticut Yankee with parsimonious tendencies and a devotion to simple living — it would change Elissa’s relationship with food, and the people who taught her about it, forever. With tender and often hilarious honesty (and 27 delicious recipes), Poor Man’s Feast is a universal tale of finding sustenance and peace in a world of excess and inauthenticity, and shows us how all our stories are inextricably bound up with what, and how, we feed ourselves and those we love.

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Elissa Altman was possibly starved in utero by an ultra-thin model mother who was paranoid about gaining weight. (Elissa was born at 4 lbs, because Mom was on a diet during pregnancy.) Did that, and her mother’s constant nagging form her deep interest in food? And of course her father was completely opposite, sneaking her off to the best restaurants of New York City (Lutece, La Grenouille) as well as the famous dives in Hell’s Kitchen and Little Italy. There they feasted, in defiance of Mom–and the cardiologist. This backdrop of a troubled, wealthy Jewish family in New York and Altman’s path to becoming, not a great chef but a noted food writer is amazing reading. Altman’s writing reminds me of Laurie Colwin, also New Yorker and food writer and gone way too soon (she wrote for the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine and she passed away in her forties of an undiagnosed heart condition.) Colwin and Altman share the same dry sense of humor, the same warped way of looking at crazy New York life and the same deep love of the essential and the elemental in good food, whether it’s Polish stuffed cabbage or artisanal goat cheese. While Altman’s writing is less spare than M. F. K. Fisher, there is plenty of the introspection as well as opinionated holding forth on what works and what doesn’t in food. And Altman has the same ability to laugh at youthful foibles. There’s also a love story in this memoir–Altman is gay and she finds a long-term relationship with Susan, who has a similar love of good food but comes from as different a background (New England working-class Catholic) as you could hope to find. They couldn’t be more different in how they cook–but deep down, they both appreciate what works, what is truly delicious and the attention to detail that makes cooking rise to cuisine. I couldn’t put this down. If you like M. F. K. Fisher, books like  Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously  or food bloggers, you’ll love this book.

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