thursday's book

Feeding Frenzy by Stuart Stevens (Abacus, pounds 9.99)

Subtitled "A Race Across Europe in Search of the Perfect Meal", this sounds like one of those notions for a book which bubbles up over lunch sometime after the second bottle. Accomplished American travel writer (praised by Martin Amis, no less) takes Grand Tour of three-star restaurants in Europe platonically accompanied by stunning ex-model called Rat and golden retriever called Henry. Conveniently, Rat's lawyer boyfriend, still in New York, is picking up the hefty tabs from Tante Claire, Comme Chez Soi, Paul Bocuse, etc.

Nice work if you can get it - the only drawback being that the American gourmet/wordsmith truffling out fancy nosh in Europe is not exactly the freshest idea on the block. In the course of his gastro-pilgrimage, Stevens quotes such incomparable predecessors as Waverly Root, AJ Liebling, Patricia Wells and Burton Anderson.

He overcomes this problem by making food a recurring theme rather than an all-pervading obsession. At first, Stevens tries too hard to be amusing. A joke about a faulty Ford Mustang is run into the ground, ending with a slapstick incident where precious champagne is used to cool the engine. Across the Channel, he resorts to the hokey old gag about naming famous Belgians.

And yet Stevens stealthily grows on you. I feel a deep kinship with the author when the main courses are presented at the Riverside Inn at Bray: "I was seized with a desperate desire to eat both plates at once, first a few bites of the sea bass, then the lamb. So I did. Rat slapped my hand." At the legendary Taillevent in Paris, he's at it again. After sampling Rat's Boudin de Homard, Stevens feels the urge for a second mouthful. "You touch this plate once more and I will bury my stiletto heel in your ankle." How often have I heard those words, or some variant, from a female dining companion?

At the mid-point in his "29 days of gastronomic overkill", Stevens precisely captures the dreary over-the-topness of de luxe dining: "Romeyer reminded me of the aging movie queen of Sunset Boulevard, gaudy pretense and show gone to seed. Comme Chez Soi was inoffensive but terribly predictable, a long-running Broadway show that desperately needed new life." However, he gamely chomps on: "The scary reality is that I found it perfectly normal to spend three or four hours eating." Intelligent, amiable and well-read, Stevens has created a delicious souffle of a book - definitely not for those on a diet.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

    £15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

    Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

    £11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

    £15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy