“The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite.” A. J. Liebling
Calvin Trillin, author of Alice, Let’s Eat, is a writer clearly convinced of the wisdom of Liebling’s dictum. Alice, Let’s Eat, subtitled Further Adventures of A Happy Eater, recounts Trillin’s love of food, and the lengths, generally humorous, that he would go to, to obtain great food.
Trillin falls into a line of American humorists that runs from Twain, Rogers, and Liebling himself, through to such more recent writers as Barry and Sedaris. To Calvin Trillin, food is something to be enjoyed. Food is a unifying principle to organize one’s life around, This is a man who developed a system of getting deliveries of his favourite foods to New York, from friends traveling to places as far afield as Kansas City, New Orleans and other places in between.
These habits are ones he indulgences in, frequently to the display of his wife Alice. Vacations meant to be spent studying historic architecture become trips spent visiting obscure restaurants. Not to mention the Christmas and birthday presenst of the romantic kitchen utensil variety.
Along the way, details of wondrous, and not so wondrous meals are accompanied by descriptions of wondrous characters such as Fats Goldberg, the perpetually slim pizza baron and developer of bad business ideas. Or Jeffrey Jowell, professor of law, gentleman farmer and supposed connoisseur of chicken eggs. Trillin has a diverse food palate, and a sense of humour to match.
While there is definitely a timeless quality to Trillin’s writing, there is also a certain sense of datedness to it. This is perhaps natural given that some of the things that he writes about, such as vegetarian cooking have changed and diversified greatly in the last 35 years. Some of it is also undoubtedly due to the way cultural mores and the roles of men and women have changed in the same period. Still, Trillin brings a welcome touch of levity to the subject of food, which has all too often been a topic for fighting rather than laughing in recent years.
Anytime you find yourself taking your thoughts about food a little too seriously, pick up Calvin Trillin’s, Alice Let’s Eat, and a pour a little laughter over your meal. You’ll enjoy your meal more, and if you’re worried about such things, it’s entirely, fat, sugar, gluten, and calorie free.
“The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose.”