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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

HOLIDAY GIFT BOOKS: wine and food humour and diets

Part Four: HUMOUR & DIET

What's a holiday without humour? We seem to have another bumper crop
this year. DINNER PARTY DISASTERS; true stories of culinary catastrophe
(Abrams, 2007, 96 pages, $17.95 hard cover) is by Annaliese Soros with
Abigail Stokes. These are true tales of faux pas. Vital facts about
each party are followed by a first person account, accompanied by
sidebars offering real-life solutions (how to prevent fires, recovering
from a hangover, sparking conversation, mending broken furniture).
Soros also gives her formula for a goof-proof dinner party which is a
perfect mix of guests, food, decor, and entertainment.

THE FOOD SNOB'S DICTIONARY; an essential lexicon of gastronomical
knowledge (Broadway Books, 2007, 176 pages, $16.95 paper covers) is one
of series following on Rock Snobs and Film Snobs. David Kamp, one of
the authors, wrote last year's hit book "The United States of Arugula".
Essentially, this is a bluffer's guide which has been done before, but
now, of course, with the mushrooming information about food, needed to
be modernized. This compendium, alphabetically arranged, of food facts,
terminology, and names, is not a humourous book, but it does poke fun
at foodies. A lot of the material is useful, such as how to pronounce
names, definitive histories of foods and restaurants, and terms used.
But the sarcasm can be hard to handle, and the sentences written to
show usage are, quite frankly, useless. Typical entries include
"grassfed beef", "farmstead cheese", and "dayboat fish" There are also
internal cross-references. Fun to read before dropping off to sleep.

ALL GONG AND NO DINNER; home truths and domestic sayings
(HarperCollins, 2007, 414 pages, $24.95) is by the Brit wordsmith Nigel
Rees; he is the author of over 50 reference books. These are over 1000
homely phrases and curious domestic sayings, illustrating every aspect
of home life. They have been organized thematically, from the kitchen
to the bedroom. There are topics of food, drink, health, and money. It
is a humour portrait of British family life - and it is perfect it you
are British, less so if not. There is some US stuff here, offered by
comparison. For instance "delivered by the stork" is the same as "found
him under a gooseberry bush" or "found under a cabbage patch" (in the
US). BTW, the title is a reference to "all talk and no action".

MOONSHINE! (Lark Books, 2007, 176 pages, $19.95 paper covers) is a book
all about illegal distillation. There are recipes, "tall tales",
drinking songs, history of moonshine in the US, jokes, techniques on
how to make it, hangovers, and evading the law. Matthew b. Rowley is a
food writer and historian; he sits on the board of the Southern
Foodways Alliance at Ole Miss. There are good historical photos and
neat how-to instructions.

GASTROANAOMALIES; questionable culinary creations from the golden age
of American cookery (Crown Publishers, 2007, 176 pages, $29.95 hard
covers) is author James Lileks hysterical follow-u[ to his "The Gallery
of Regrettable Food" (2001). This is like volume two, and is a
collection of foodstuffs from the mid-century: pizza in the fifties,
scalloped ham and potatoes, the "Bacon-Egger" implement, recipes for
banana all-bran nut bread, the plate crab, the burning bush, and the
like. It is a totally funny compilation of restaurant items, strange
cocktails, "international: foods, and old menus. He's got illustrations
from old adverts, and lots of old coloured pictures.

DESERT ISLAND WINE (Ambeli Press, 2007, 190 pages, $14.95 paper covers)
is by Miles Lambert-Gocs. It is a collection of 28 humourous vignettes
on wine. His previous humour book was "Greek Salad" in 2004, from the
same publisher. He opens with a CNN-styled interview with Dionysus,
followed by profiling of oenophiles as a wildlife species, wine-food
combinations, and quality control. There are literary parodies and
sinister puns. Good fun...


Okay, this is the hard part since we must pay for our sins of
overeating during the December period. It is January 1, and the start
of a New Year (2008) means new resolutions to keep (or break). If you
are really comfortable with your friends, you could give them health
books for the holiday. At least, you might be able to use them

* THE TRUTH ABOUT FOOD (Bloomsbury UK, 2007, 240 pages, $34.95 paper
covers) is by Jill Fullerton-Smith, a BBC producer of science programs.
The title is derived from her TV series of the same name. The show
looked at our myths and asked: is drinking eight glasses of water a day
really useful? Do blueberries increase intelligence? Her topics are
about how to stay healthy, how to stay slim, how to feed the kids, and
how to stay young and beautiful.

healthy ways to permanently shed unwanted pounds. 2d ed. (Celestial
Arts, 2007, 320 pages, $23.95 paper covers) is by Ellen Kamhi, a
holistic nurse and a clinical instructor at a medical school. The first
edition was in 2000. Since then there have been major advances in
understanding weight loss and how to keep it off. There are newer ideas
here on major diet challenges such as a sluggish thyroid or sugar
cravings. She has eating plans, recipes, effective at-home exercises,
and detox ideas.

* THE EAT-CLEAN DIET COOKBOOK (Robert Kennedy Publishing, 2007; distr.
By National Book Network, 344 pages, $23.95 paper covers) is a follow-
up to Tosca Reno's successful earlier book, The Eat-Clean Diet - which
had only offered 30 recipes. Here she restates her dieting principles
and gives us 150 recipes, emphasizing low-fat meats, protein-rich vegan
dishes, gluten-free meals, and nutritional information on all the food
that we put into our system. Excellent photographs. Her basic
principles: eat six meals a day, drink two litres of water a day, avoid
fats and simple carbs, and exercise. Simple...check also

* WEIGHTWATCHERS' ALL-TIME FAVORITES; over 200 best-ever recipes from
the WeightWatchers test kitchens (John Wiley, 2007, 336 pages, $35.99
spiral bound) is actually a collection of 225 preps culled from all of
their previous books: a sort-of greatest hits anthology. Here are
appetizers to desserts, for all kinds of meals. It includes the POINTS
system for every recipe and both the Flex Plan and the Core Plan for
the whole meal. A good way to start the New Year...

Buy all of these books and have a great holiday season.

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