My sister once commented to me that there are two kinds of people: those who live to eat, and those who eat to live. And that I fell squarely in the second category. She’s mostly right. I usually don’t care all that much about what I eat, as long as it’s not liver and onions. I do have memories of some fabulous meals during my travels, but most of the time I’m just as happy with a can of soup as I am with an expensive meal out. Jim Gaffigan falls into the first category, but with a comedic, low-brow twist. Which is why I enjoyed his newest book, Food: A Love Story (Crown, 2014) so much.
If you’re one of the very few people who haven’t seen Jim Gaffigan’s stand up comedy routine, I suggest you watch a few YouTube videos of him before reading this book. It helps a lot to hear his voice as you read. I had actually heard several of his jokes from this book when I took my husband to a live Jim Gaffigan performance for his birthday, so it was especially fun to re-live that. What I like about Gaffigan is that he comes across as a “regular” guy, and his food tastes reflect that. He loves cheeseburgers, brats, pizza, bacon, and believes that “even bad Mexican food is better than 90 percent of all other foods.” While I disagree with him about seafood (he likens eating crab or lobster to eating bugs), I do secretly enjoy many of the same food vices he admits to, which made this book a fun diversion. Yes, I’ll say it. I love French Fries. And Gaffigan devotes an entire chapter to them! Yes, I’ve even driven through a McDonald’s just for the fries. I tend to agree with Gaffigan that “no sane adult has ever had too many McDonalds’s fries.”
I also share the comedian’s wine anxiety:
“Wine intimidates me. At fancy restaurants all the names and types of wines seem infinite. It’s like no wine name can appear on more than one wine list. Every time I open one of those huge wine list books I try to identify one wine that I’ve seen before, but I just end up looking like an idiot. It’s exactly like the nightmare you have before finals in high school where you don’t recognize anything on the test and it all looks like gibberish. When it comes to the fancy wine list, I am 100 percent white-trash hick.”
Whew. Someone else!
Some of Gaffigan’s most enjoyable chapters explain his division of the United States into different food zones. Just the titles give you a clue as to his take on American geography: “Seabugland. Eating BBQland. Super Bowl Sunday Foodland. Mexican Foodland. Wineland. Coffeeland. Food Anxietyland.” Other countries aren’t spared, either, with a description of an Irish Breakfast and its black pudding that I wish I had read before a particularly bad experience a few years ago in Dublin.
The best comedians are those who are also a sort of cultural spokesman. In this book, Gaffigan presents a uniquely American voice. He pokes fun at us all, but mostly at himself, in this light-hearted and engaging little book. No, it’s not Nobel prize level literature. This is, after all, a comedian who made his name skewering “Hot Pockets”. But that’s sort of the point.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.