For my last review of 2012, it seems only natural to write about Best Food Writing 2012, edited by Holly Hughes. This is the twelfth year of the Best Food Writing series, and the most enjoyable anthology I've read in a long time. The contributors range from popular bloggers like Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, to accomplished authors like John T. Edge, and all levels of notoriety in between. I appreciated the diversity of topics, writing styles, and sources incorporated into Hughes' collection, a testament to her desire to provide a complete and rich representation of the food writing scene.
Happily, many of the pieces included in Best Food Writing are from books you've read about on this site in the past year—Tomatoland, An Everlasting Meal, and A Spoonful of Promises to name a few. Other pieces are from the New York Times, Gastronomica, or popular food magazines like Food & Wine and Saveur. But in addition to these high-profile foodie readers, there were also interesting and off-beat pieces from non-traditional food writing sources.
Contributions ranged from serious to light-hearted. Maureen O'Hagan tackles the tricky topic of childhood obesity through the eyes of two obese teens, providing a perspective on junk food and overeating that is rarely heard in the media. Kevin Pang tells the story of Brandon Baltzley, an up-and-coming chef struggling with a cocaine addiction. But more hilarious food reflections are provided by Joel Stein, who entertains with a piece on finding his manhood through barbecue, and David Leite, who recounts his Thanksgiving baking catastrophes.
Over the years, this series has incorporated more online writers into its pages, giving credibility and recognition to authors who primarily publish their work digitally. One of the most touching pieces in the book is from James Beard Award-winning blogger Elissa Altman, of the popular Poor Man's Feast. Her short memoir about her mother's egg obsession—and how different preparations indicated whether she was in a good mood or in a rage—is both heart-wrenching and funny. Such pieces show how creative and wide-ranging food writing can be.
Best Food Writing 2012 lives up to its claim—the work included in this anthology is some of the best food writing I've read this year. The book succeeds in demonstrating the depth and creativity that food writers can accomplish. A must-read for aspiring food writers, obsessive readers, or those just looking for a fast, enjoyable read this holiday season.
About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.
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