This little slip of a book is especially appealing to me as it highlights some of restaurant culture and history in Vancouver over the past 20 years, overlapping exactly with my own time period of dining here. From that point of view, this book has a very narrow audience. However, it is also an interesting commentary on the modern focus on food as fashion, with trends, must-haves, and elements of status symbol previously the realm of more tangible things such as clothes, cars and technology. Timothy Taylor presents the evolution of eating out as two-fold. First, he convincingly aligns the modern status associated with fine dining out with the Luxury Debate of Rousseau and Mandeville in the 1700s; his quote about Rousseau, although intended for the description of foodie culture, reads ominously familiar in today’s US politics:
“…those beholden to fashion must therefore look to the observer to find the…validation of their own public worth.”
His other observation is one I’d concur with entirely. He describes the evolution of food culture, from the mid-20th century to the early 21st, as thus: where once the principles were reproduction of classics, simple elegance, and international flavours (see Julia Child), there is now gastronomic innovation (see molecular gastronomy, or the foaming of every food imaginable), unexpected flavour pairings, and emphasis on local sourcing of everything from water to condiments. I would add to that the “trending” of things in food culture, including the eras of chipotle, pomegranate, kale, quinoa, and cajun anything.
6. A non-fiction book
7. A book written by a male author
12. A book set in or near where you live now
19. A book you can finish in a day
25. A book about food or cooking (not a cookbook, although it can include recipes)