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Last Chance to Eat


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Mallet, a former restaurant and theater critic, has turned her attention to the state of food today. The result is a recipe-sprinkled memoir cum examination of modern agriculture. Five iconic food groups-cheese, eggs, beef, fish, and vegetables-are viewed through the lens of history, including Mallet's childhood in postwar Britain and France, and then compared with the current situation. The book is quite up-to-date, including the discovery of mad cow disease in U.S. beef in December 2003 and the reports of high levels of chemicals in farmed salmon in January 2004. Mallet closes with a grimly futuristic epilog in which beef is outlawed owing to pathogens and home-cooked meals are so obsolete that they are called "granddads." Overall, a well-crafted and engaging book; the reminiscences about food in Europe after the war provide a welcome personal touch. Recommended for public and academic libraries with food collections.-Susan Hurst, Miami Univ. Lib., Oxford, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Being a gourmet isn't simply about ferreting out the best victuals; it's also about luxuriating in good food the way others might stroke a new mink coat. Toronto writer Mallet is one such epicure. In this combination of memoir and essay, she balances remembrances of growing up in wartime England with zesty opinions on various foodstuffs ("I don't consider cod a fish at all," she writes. "It's like eating twenty-dollar bills"). Mallet opines that in an era of Big Macs and a dizzying array of snack foods, people don't know what they're missing. Rather than delight in a few gulps of richly flavored raw milk, she laments, consumers today simply go for quantity over quality. Readers of this work will know better, however, since Mallet goes beyond describing comestible ecstasy and digs deep into topics like cheese, beef and fish. Like an excellent dinner guest, Mallet lets her thoughts roam freely, yet always with focus and a dose of intriguing fact. In writing about kitchen gardens, for example, she begins with the loss of her mother's vegetables and herbs from an errant German bomb that destroyed land and greenhouses alike. From there, she chats about Versailles, organic farming and supermarkets. This breadth of insight, mixed with Mallet's childhood memories, makes for a tasty treat. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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