From his first day on the job as the New York Times food critic, Craig Claiborne excited readers by introducing them to food worlds unknown, from initiating them in the standards of the finest French cuisine and the tantalizing joys of the then mostly unknown foods of India, China, Mexico, Spain, to extolling the pleasures of “exotic” ingredients like arugula, and praising “newfangled” tools like the Cuisinart, which once he’d given his stamp of approval became wildly popular. A good review of a restaurant guaranteed a full house for weeks, while a bad review might close a kitchen down.
Based on unprecedented access to Claiborne’s personal papers and interviews with a host of food world royalty, including Jacques Pepin, Gael Greene, and Alice Waters, Tom McNamee offers a lively and vivid account of Claiborne’s extraordinary adventure in food, from his own awakening in the bistros of Paris, to his legendary wine-soaked dinner parties, to his travels to colorful locals from Morocco to Saigon, and the infamous $4,000 dinner he shared in Paris with French chef Pierre Franey that made front-page news. More than an engrossing biography, this is the story of the country’s transition from enchantment with frozen TV dinners to a new consciousness of truly good cooking.
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