A Year in Books--FUCK, THAT'S DELICIOUS
I love food. I have always loved food. In fact, I consider my lifelong relationship with food to be one of the greatest love stories of our generation, one of those tragic tales like that overused Bukowski quote that everyone dramatically posts on their social media account says, "find something you love and let it kill you."
A friend of mine with a severe peanut allergy always tells me that growing up he was afraid of food because there was at least one type of food that he knew of that was out to kill him. That hyper-vigilance negatively influenced his relationship with eating, eventually causing him to treat food as little more than fuel for the body. To me this is inconceivable as many times during my childhood, food was the only thing which I was not afraid of, the only thing that was guaranteed to provide a continual sense of reliable comfort and reassurance if I was feeling wonky. Some of my earliest memories and some of my best memories center around food and eating. To me, it is a celebration of existence. Sex, music, and food are the most sensuous experiences you can have and at different points of my life I have wanted to drown in each one of them.
I bring this up because after reading Fuck, That's Delicious an Annotated Guide to Eating Well by Action Bronson with Rachel Wharton, I am 100% beyond a shadow of a doubt certain that Action Bronson shares this same intense love of food and eating. After opening the book with a very sweet and nostalgic essay on his relationship with food, the first "recipe" in this book is literally eating a bowl of Crispix over the sink. He even details what type of milk goes best with what cereal, and explains how he had to eat cereal out of the same bowl for years because it just made sense to him. C'mon, man...we all know that feeling right? Or is it just me? Hey Action, did you write this book for me? Because at some times it really feels that way.
There's even a section that's about chewy candies and which ones are the best. It's as if I'm speaking through him.
Though there are some great recipes, if you are going into this book expecting to leave as a better chef, you are barking up the wrong tree. This book is about appreciation and experience. There are recommendations for restaurants and dishes around the globe, and an approach to cuisine that is much more about the experience for the eater than it is for the chef. You will leave this book wanting to travel to Australia just to try their Asian food. It is a very unprofessional book, he preaches a love for the Maillard reaction though a disdain for its scientific side, preferring to call it "the crisp." He espouses the virtues of over-crisping certain type of food and doing otherwise non-cheflike things, and includes the transcript of a conversation between him and one of his co-hosts as they share a delicious Italian meal. In this way, it is a weird book, a strange take on food culture that attempts to deflate the self-seriousness that has erupted over the past few decades, and it does so in such a great way. If you love food and eating, this book is absolutely for you.
The section that sold me was called "Incredible Pairings," where he writes about the way that certain foods and experiences are meant to be experienced together. The list includes everything from fried chicken and natural wine to takeout eaten off the hood of the car to white truffles with vanilla soft serve to Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich with a Frosty to a fountain coke with those little ice pellets in a waxed cardboard cup and a slice of pizza. Bronson is analyzing food as an experience, and it is brilliant. It was in this section that I understood the book, he is dragging you through his relationship with food and letting you in on all of the little secrets that he has discovered over his lifelong love affair with eating. It truly is an annotated guide to eating well.
Fuck That's Delicious is the food guide for unpretentious foodies who are unafraid to admit how good a spicy chicken sandwich and a Frosty actually is, the kind of people who know that adding extra cheese to a pizza and ordering it well done is really the only way to go, and the kind of folk who would just as soon smash a bag of corner store egg and cheese sandwiches as they would order a $300 appetizer in a world class restaurant. The only criticism I can really think to share is the lack of Bronson's personal recipes. Instead, along with his few, we get recipes from famous chefs, friends, and even his mother. But, really, those things aren't even the point of this book. If you are a life long food lover, it will grab you and shake you to your core, bringing you back to memories of sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night and bringing your favorite combination of food and beverage back up to your room to eat in the dark, or forcing you to consider all of the strange pairings that make sense to you--a couple of mine: Snickers bars and lemon & lime Gatorade; ice cold Sprite with Chinese boneless spare ribs and pork fried rice; sweet cream ice cream (no, not vanilla) with gummy bears and Reeses Pieces; being outdoors and eating a garden salad with cheddar cheese, fried buffalo chicken tenders, and garlic croutons, with about 2 liters of the coldest lager available.
I really loved this book and felt a deep personal connection to it, so on my scale of bananas, I would give it 9.5 bananas foster served with vanilla iced cream out of the typical 5 banana scale--make of that what you will.
Read this book if you love food, you will not be sorry!
The next book I will be reviewing for A Year in Books is Actual Air, a collection of poetry by the Silver Jews mastermind David Berman.