The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik - Book Review

The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik - Book Review
Promo image. Richard Kalvar/Magnum Photos, Barbara de Wilde

Richard Kalvar/Magnum Photos, Barbara de Wilde/Promo image

I follow a wonderful website called Food 52 and I've used many of their recipessince discovering it. They have a community of cooks who submit recipes and regularly have interviews with them. Invariably, the cook is asked the person, living or dead they would most like to cook for. It's a question that has always stumped me. Would I go for the emotional choice of a long deceased loved one? Or would I go for the the intellectual guest and risk intimidation? After having read The Table Comes First, I now know I would invite Adam Gopnik. He could bring his family, too.

At the risk of a pun, I devoured this book. Gopnik is a beautiful writer, and one of great charm. I had that delicious sensation of alternately wanting to rush through this book, but also wanting to hold back a bit and savour each chapter slowly. He covers so many things that I think about daily, but he also occasionally made me look at things in a different way. His writing about cookbooks and recipes had me nodding my head in agreement and his comparison of Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins cookbook writing style with that of Mark Bittman had me laughing out loud.

He pokes a bit of gentle fun at the local food movement, while trying to cook a meal sourced entirely from Brooklyn. He has a thoughtful chapter on the food of English chef Fergus Henderson embodied in his cookbook Nose to Tail Eating, and the French chef Alain Passard and his cuisine vegetale and how really similar they are in their philosophy. He also includes chapters on authors writing about food, and what it is that we imagine when we imagine food, and takes a trip to Spain in his own pilgrimage to elBulli.

There is much to delight in this book, and it's a great read for anyone who is interested in food, but also for those who appreciate a thoughtful writer capable of imparting both information and opinion and always remain fascinating. The book unfolds almost like a great dinner party would, with Gopnik a wonderfully entertaining and appreciative guest.