The Best American Food Writing 2019 – Edited by Samin Nosrat

TitleBest American Food Writing 2019
EditorSamin Nosrat
TypeNon Fiction
Finished ReadingJanuary 25, 2022

You’ve probably played that game “Who would you invite to dinner?”. In the category of interesting person living today I’d invite Samin Nosrat. I loved her book and TV Series “Fat, Salt, Acid, Heat”. Watching her engage with people on the series I knew she’d be a great dinner guest – and I could pick up some tips! So when I received this book for Christmas I jumped on it.

Samin Nosrat and series editor Silvia Killingsworth compiled a selection of essays that cover the intersection of food and culture. Nosrat’s focus was on giving voice to people not usually included in the “Food Establishment” (i.e white males). She wanted to “push back against the notion that a handful of people in anointed positions are the only ones who should be considered food writers.” [Location 100]

The result is an interesting, if uneven, mix of writing. The longest, and my favorite, piece is “A Kingdom from Dust” by mark Arax. The essay is about Stewart Resnick the almond and pistachio king of Southern California. I related to this because of our periodic drives down I5 or US 99 where thousands of acres of almond trees grow in an area where there is little water. Resnick and his wife also worked to improve the diets and health of the workers. 

Another story covered the purveyor of my favorite beans – Rancho Gordo – and the quest to grow and promote Mexican heirloom beans. In other essays we discover why bees in Brooklyn were turning red and produced red honey, and the acquired taste of salty licorice – a Scandinavian treat (which my Swedish niece loves). The most poignant essay was “Why Do Poor Americans Eat So Unhealthfully?” By Priya Fielding-Singh. I loved Benjamin Aldes-Wurgaft’s “On Reading Jonathan Gold” (who died earlier that year) which closes the book. I immediately downloaded a book of essays from Gold and look forward to reading soon.

Most, but not all, of the essays are excellent. A few writers miss the mark a bit.  In “Sugartime” Ruby Tandoh Is a bit overwrought when she claims that sugar is modern history’s “original sin” [Location 3970]. For me it detracted from an otherwise okay piece on a serious topic of the human cost of producing sugar. In the end I most liked the essays that were originally published in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and other publications with a reputation for solid journalism.

For the record another person I’d invite to dinner is Simon Winchester. He wrote The Perfectionists and Pacific among other books and is a great lecturer.

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