Something to Read: Food and Trembling


I have so many cookbooks and books on food that my collection has its own shelf. We don’t really have room for it, but I’m quite happy to have a shelf full of books I don’t really have room for and won’t hear complaints about my hoarding, so Nick copes. My dream is that someday I will have a kitchen with two small rooms attached – one large pantry, the other a tiny library with a lamp and a desk and a chair. What a wonderful hiding place that would be! It would lock from the inside and maybe there would be a snack cupboard and a small electric kettle.

I wanted to tell you about some of these books. Between work and Toddler and all the little projects that turn into great big things I have to do, I have fallen out of the habit of working on things I’m actually excited about. So for April, while I am trying to wrap up a couple of things, I figured I’d get back into the habit of putting words on web-pages and talk books with you.

Yesterday, Alice B. Toklas; today, a strange Canadian named Jonah Campbell. His blog, Still Crapulent After All These Years, is one of my favourites. His December 24, 2013 posts, a “drink-by-drink Christmas eve exploration of Charles H. Baker’s 1939 cocktail compendium book, The Gentleman’s Companion,” had me all riled up and inspired and searching my local bookstore for a good drinks book of some glamorous vintage. Now that we have reclaimed Christmas Eve from the urgent familial madness that strikes us each November/December, I might go exploring my own book next year.


Campbell’s book, Food & Trembling, was an impulse buy when I had a giftcard and my neighbourhood store had no other books of food writing I didn’t already own. The back cover asks “What mysteries lie beneath the subtle perfection of the BLT? What is the etymology of the ‘croissant’? Why did I drink all that scotch?” and describes Campbell as “metalhead, misanthrope, unrepentant good eater,” and I was sold right then. I may never meet him, for he is in Montreal and airfare is expensive, but he seemed like my kind of people.

The book is good. It’s filled with little snippets, like his blog, and his words are like fatty bites of meat, all chew and savour, always with a little left on your tongue afterward. There aren’t really recipes. He is over the top and chaotic at times, but he is amusing and clever and I always get swept up by that.

“For whatever structural reasons, I seem to end up, as I am currently, drunk and alone in my brother’s house more often than my own (correction – getting and staying drunk and alone), and as such, a notable amount of my writing has emerged flanked by his giant cats, toy robots, tastefully arranged clutter, and just the right number of decorative bottles that I have somehow never managed to capture in my own life. The first week, more or less, of my blog’s existence, my late-night discovery of Julia Child’s twenty second omelet recipe, probably a bunch of stuff about fennel and/or rapini, because cheap fennel and rapini season often coincides with my brother needing a cat-sitter; I cannot discount this house in the framing of my creative production.”

It’s the kind of writing I really enjoy, the kind of thing you might devour in one or two long goes. If you buy it, and you read it, make sure you have chips. This seems important. Chips. Lots of them.

Julia Child’s 20-second omelette


2 thoughts on “Something to Read: Food and Trembling

  1. Now I want to read this. Like you, I love a good book and I love food (and cooking). I’ve never thought of a small study off the kitchen, not a private room, anyway. It is a splendid idea and might get worked into the house plans (for the house we aren’t building just yet, but hope to one day).


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