Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Review: Mission Street Food

I don't need another recipe book.  My wife states that categorically when we look over our 60+ cookbooked shelf squatting in the corner.  This does not include the boxes of magazines, coffee related fiction and other food fiction.  They are magazines and therefore do not count.

So, I did not want to like this first book in McSweeney's new food imprint called Insatiables.  It was so quick on the heels of their new "Lucky Peach" magazine.  What to expect from those crazy kooky crew from McSweeney's?

Well, the book is about an innovative restaurant that started out as a pop up taco truck restaurant that then morphed into a once weekly restaurant within a restaurant that eventually became other food related venues such as a hamburger joint and a full fledged restaurant.  These entrepreneurs gave the profits from their first few ventures to charity while creating innovative ways of starting food ventures.

The book is separated into three parts; taco truck, restaurant and recipes.  I became really pumped when reading the first two sections.  In inimitable McSweeney's style, there is a mix of structure when telling the story from fake business plan to interview style to comic book.  The design of the book seems to capture the spirit of the words from Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz.  The writing is snappy, irreverent and funny.  It matches the high style - high concept food ideas that are brought to bear on everyday good food.  It is what I expected but with less pretension.

This gives me some inspiration.  I having been trying to figure out a concept for starting my own food related business and these first two sections have fanned the spark once again.  For this alone, I would and will buy this book.

The last section on recipes is interesting.  It continues the current trend of header notes but with more of a difference.  I am not lead down some family reminiscence of southern hospitality or notes on what to do while my chicken is cooking. (Ruhlman!) I am given an insight into how this cook thinks about food.  The essence of which begins the section "Decision-making is more important to cooking than exact amount, temperatures, or times".  This is evident in the recipes which also, strangely, mimic the step-by-step photo setups of 1980's learn to cook books -- Pierre Franey is the first one that comes to mind.  But of course, it is showing how traditional French and modernist ideas can be adapted for home cooks.  It is a brilliant way to match high and low culture that reflects the overall mindset of Anthony Myint.

Anyone who includes a manifesto styled after the KLF and K Foundation of "How to Have a Number One the Easy Way"  and does it well has my attention.  They will also get some of my bucks. See!  That was easy... Oh and there is a reference to Toronto cuisine being a reputable city where no one's familiar with the food.  I am always tickled pink at backhand references that are also so very true.

So this is a long way of saying that I guess I will have to find a way of sneaking a new cookbook on myself...Since it is only 1/3 a cookbook maybe it should go on the nonfiction shelf.

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