Friday, February 14, 2014

The Gallery of Regrettable Foods by James Lileks

In this day and age people from all walks of life fret about the obesity epidemic. Why, we ask, are people struggling with this problem more now than in previous decades? Conventional wisdom says that the causes are too many snacks, too many sugary drinks and too little exercise. These logical conclusions are probably correct, but a reader of The Gallery of Regrettable Foods may discover another possible reason. Perhaps the food served in previous decades just did not look or taste good enough to tempt one to overeat.  James Lileks has been collecting post-war cook books and pamphlets for many years and has compiled the best (or worst) of them in this book. Here is a portrait of an earlier America when no one worried about salt or fat, salad was made with gelatin, famous chefs cooked with marshmallows, married women used their husbands’ first names and ethnic food meant a teaspoon of chili powder or soy sauce in a casserole. Do you need a new idea for refreshments for your sophisticated cocktail party? Try toast! Or jellied calf’s liver! Or frankfurters in aspic! There are few recipes in this book, just a lot of unappetizing pictures and some hilarious observations by Mr. Lileks. The Gallery of Regrettable Food will make you laugh out loud.