LIFE IS MEALS FOOD DIARY
Review by Barb & Ron Kroll
Life is Meals - A Food Lover's Book of Days
(Alfred A. Knopf) ISBN 978-0375711398 0375711392
This food diary provides daily musings on culinary history, food and wine. James Salter, and his wife, Kay, cover topics as diverse as California wine, olive oil and cookbook authors.
Food lovers will find the authors' favorite recipes interspersed with culinary tips (peaches and melons do not ripen after picking). An ideal hostess gift, Life is Meals provides helpful household hints (salt absorbs red wine spills) and dinner party etiquette (what to do if guests arrive on the wrong date).
History of frozen food
It is nearly impossible to restrict your reading to a single day's entry in this 461-page food diary. Entertaining and informative, the food memoir has easy-to-read one- to two-page seasonal entries.
For example, James Salter's December 9th entry in Life is Meals tells the culinary history of frozen food. Clarence Birdseye froze barrels of fresh vegetables in seawater during a cruise to Labrador in 1916. He pioneered retail sales of frozen food, ultimately founding the company that became General Foods.
Color illustrations by graphic artist, Fabrice Moireau, depict restaurants, food scenes (e.g., a Paris boulangerie), foods and wines described in Life is Meals.
Wines from California
The October 22 entry on California wine states that the great California red wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Merlot and Zinfandel. The best California white wine is Chardonnay.
Life is Meals explains that California wine country extends from the north, around San Francisco, to the center of the state. James Salter notes that most California wines have no vintage year because they are consistent blends of older and newer wines. He also claims that California wine has a high alcohol content (15%).
Food trivia questions
The Salters' culinary memoir is also a comprehensive source of food trivia. Here are just a few examples: Which fruits go best with Gorgonzola cheese? (Answer: peaches and oranges.) With chevre? (Answer: bananas.) How many peanuts in a 12-oz. jar of peanut butter? (Answer: 550.) Which apples make the best pies? (Answer: Granny Smith, Rome Beauty, Cortland and Pippin.) Who invented the microwave oven? (Answer: Percy Spencer in 1947. It weighed 750 pounds and was as large as a fridge.) How many bottles of wine in a Salmanazar? (Answer: 12.)
Sample dinner party recipes
Creamed chipped beef. Caviar pie. Blini with salmon filling. Gratin Dauphinoise Madame Cartet. Risotto alla Parmigiana. French chicken. Rosti. Cucumber soup. Gravlax. Chicken marengo. Figs in whiskey.
James Salter is the author of ten books. Kay Salter has written for several publications, including Food and Wine.