John Allison of the Post Gazette asked me to write a review of Adam Gopnik's newest book, "The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food" Sweet! Nothing more fun for an amateur writer than to criticize in print a professional writer! When I got the book, the first advance copy I of my life, anxiety set in. "I agreed to read this book, intelligently assess it, and deliver an engaging written review. All in a reasonable amount of time."
Turns out, getting the book read presented the biggest challenges. Two active young children, a busy and growing restaurant company, a professional spouse, and silly things like friends and sleep all conspired to keep me from finishing the book. After getting through a dozen or so pages over the course of three nights reading in bed, I switched to reading on the couch. I covered more ground but at the cost of having to drag myself up to bed at 4 AM.
John would send gentle e-mails, checking on my progress. Still not much past halfway through the book, I assured him that the review was progressing well and I just needed to do a little more work. I assume that this little lie to an editor surprises nobody. I look forward to a time in my life where I have an opportunity to deliver immense lies camouflaging catastrophic delays to a really powerful and frightening editor.
Finally I finished. I mostly dug the book. In reading it I saw the reflection of a lot of my thoughts on current and future food trends. Gopnik's dissertation on the birth of the modern restaurant out of the same social changes that drove the French Revolution engaged me.
But most of all, I developed an incredible jealousy of his life. How is it possible? Traveling the world, dining at brilliant restaurants, cooking for his family in NYC, chatting with hot French food revolutionaries like Zoe Reyners, being brilliant and well-educated, and seeming to have a blast at it all. Amazing! By what accident of birth did I miss that all?
Anyhow, here's the review. I haven't seen a check for it. When I get it, if I get it, I plan to use it all to buy Cognac.