Oftentimes, we regard food and the art of eating in such high esteem that we forget the basics. The basics being the simple pleasures of eating a good meal, around a sturdy table, with good people and good wine.
This is the French attitude -- the attitude that Adam Gopnik, author of national best seller The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food, attempts to dust off for the American world, where food is swallowed by commercialism and trends.
Take to any food column or online food blog, and the first thing we see is the hottest restaurant, run by the newest chef, with the trendiest bites in town. Gopnik, though not opposed to a good meal out on the town, prefers a meal at home, prepared with love, in the company of his wife and teenage sons. For him, this is the way lovers of food should eat.
"You know, you go to restaurants and midnight suppers before you have kids," he says. "And then when you finally do settle down and have them, it's the 6 o'clock dinners at home that frequent more than anything else."
For gourmands,The Table Comes First is a testamentto the pleasures of eating, often shadowed by outside interference. It's woven with historical accounts of the rich French influence on food and philosophical questions of the true meaning of food in our world. "I had difficulty with this book -- I wanted to balance a love for food with what people really think about it," he says.
"There are some extremely serious themes, and it can get awfully chilly in some parts." He goes on, "But I want this book to be loved."
"What makes a book a book is its light and darkness. The darker a shadow, the more clearly we can see the light."
Gopnik's approach to cast attention to the cold and comedic parts of his book invite readers into his mindset on food and eating, and the meaning of family (which ties it all together). He's aware of the irony, and even pokes fun at the fact that his wife is a terrible cook, who came from a feminist mother, who insisted she not waste her time in the kitchen.
Consequently, Gopnik finds himself barefoot and in the kitchen, preparing meals for his family most nights, and on those he can't, he receives predictable recipe questions from his wife via text message, like, "How long do I brown the salmon?"
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Gopnik sticks to the simplicity of a meal cooked with love and the tradition of his mother's recipes -- the kind of meal we, too often, overlook and simply forget.
Adam Gopnik will speak at Chapman Conference Center (Building 3, Second Floor, Room 3210) in MDC Wolfson Campus Thursday, November 15 at 8 p.m.. Find more information at miamibookfair.com.
Follow Alex on Twitter @ARodWrites.