Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Review: Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear


Title: Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture
Author: Dana Goodyear
Publisher: Riverhead
Publication Date: November 14, 2013
Source: ARC received from the publisher for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

A new American cuisine is forming. Animals never before considered or long since forgotten are emerging as delicacies. Parts that used to be for scrap are centerpieces. Ash and hay are fashionable ingredients, and you pay handsomely to breathe flavored air. Going out to a nice dinner now often precipitates a confrontation with a fundamental question: Is that food?

Dana Goodyear’s anticipated debut, Anything That Moves, is simultaneously a humorous adventure, a behind-the-scenes look at, and an attempt to understand the implications of the way we eat. This is a universe populated by insect-eaters and blood drinkers, avant-garde chefs who make food out of roadside leaves and wood, and others who serve endangered species and Schedule I drugs—a cast of characters, in other words, who flirt with danger, taboo, and disgust in pursuit of the sublime. Behind them is an intricate network of scavengers, dealers, and pitchmen responsible for introducing the rare and exotic into the marketplace. This is the fringe of the modern American meal, but to judge from history, it will not be long before it reaches the family table.Anything That Moves is a highly entertaining, revelatory look into the raucous, strange, fascinatingly complex world of contemporary American food culture, and the places where the extreme is bleeding into the mainstream.


My Review:

2013 is clearly my year for foodie nonfiction.  So much good food-related writing out there right now!

If you've tried some food-related nonfic before, and found it a little too serious or technical for your taste (I know that can happen, especially with authors like Michael Pollan, even though I ADORE his work), I think Dana Goodyear's debut might be a better place for you to start.  In Anything That Moves, she gives us a glimpse into the alternative, rebellious side of foodie-ism.  The food bloggers in LA that spend their time searching for the perfect hole-in-the-wall diner; people who insist that eating insects is the sustainable-eating wave of the future; and even a young chef who hosts an underground "restaurant" (of sorts) in his apartment, off the grid of health inspectors.  This book is a great way to get your foodie fix, without too much technical jargon.

As a whole, I did really enjoy this book, though I found some parts slower than others.  For example, the section at the end about Wolvesmouth (a culinary "experiment" hosted by young chef Craig Thornton) was awesome, made me salivate with hunger, and had me wishing that I lived in LA so that I could get on the list to try out his culinary experience.  However, much of the second section (about the raw/unprocessed food movement) was a tad boring for me...perhaps because I had already read about a lot of that in Michael Pollan's Cooked?  I suppose the thing about this book is that if you are already familiar with some of the topics covered within it, you may not find it quite so captivating...but if many of these culinary concepts are new to you, it will probably keep you hooked from cover to cover.

As far as writing style goes, Anything That Moves takes a much more informal approach to the foodie discussion than other culinary-inspired books I've read.  This is good, in some respects--it matches the rebellious nature of many of the people described within the pages.  However, it was also a little disorienting at times, because Goodyear has a tendency to jump around from anecdote to anecdote, making her train of thought occasionally difficult to follow.  Even so, she has a much different approach to the food discussion (even compared to someone as off-the-cuff as Anthony Bourdain), so it was refreshing to get a new perspective on the topic.

Added plus: Goodyear actually manages to write an "ending" that's a bit of a cliffhanger, which you don't often see in a nonfiction book.  Part of me is dying to call her up and demand to know how that last food experience ended.

Even though a few parts dragged for me, overall I definitely give a thumbs-up to Anything That Moves.  At best, it will have you reconsidering your food options...and at worst, it will make you gag a little.  You know, in the name of edible ant pupae.

Readers: what's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?  Despite my love of foodie-ism, I'd have to say I've only gotten as adventurous as escargots...

10 comments:

  1. I think the strangest thing I've ever eaten is quail eggs or maybe alligator - although that really did just taste like chicken :) I loved Michael Pollan too, so I'd probably pick up Cooked before this one.

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    1. I've heard alligator is actually pretty good...I'll have to try it sometime!

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  2. I've been really interested in this book, I'm glad to hear it holds up pretty well to all the good things I've been hearing. I'm not too much of a foodie in the crazy brave sense, though I do like to try all the new, local restaurants that tend to pop up around here pretty regularly.

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    1. This book is pretty fascinating even if you aren't a hardcore foodie yourself. (If anything, it probably has more appeal if you're not...since it's such a foreign concept!)

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  3. I've been hearing a lot about this book and it's nice to know that it's pretty good. I like food, but I'm not an adventurous foodie so it's nice to read about the crazier foods that exist.

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    1. Agreed! I would probably be more adventurous if I could, but my area isn't exactly a mecca of food diversity...

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  4. I literally JUST saw this book on a gift guide and was on the line whether I wanted to read it or not. Oh, the irony of life.

    Thanks for this great review.. I'm definitely going to check it out now :)

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  5. Gah! Between you and Kim, I don't have a choice but to read this. It's right up my alley.

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    1. Most definitely, I know you luv the food nonfic! :)

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