The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat by Thomas McNamee

70%

15 Critic Reviews

A highly readable, well-researched narrative chronicling America’s boring culinary past and the one man who altered its course forever.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

In the 1950s, America was a land of overdone roast beef and canned green beans—a gastronomic wasteland. Most restaurants relied on frozen, second-rate ingredients and served bogus “Continental” cuisine. Authentic French, Italian, and Chinese foods were virtually unknown. There was no such thing as food criticism at the time, and no such thing as a restaurant critic. Cooking at home wasn’t thought of as a source of pleasure. Guests didn’t chat around the kitchen. Professional equipment and cookware were used only in restaurants. One man changed all that.

From the bestselling author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse comes the first biography of the passionate gastronome and troubled genius who became the most powerful force in the history of American food—the founding father of the American food revolution. From his first day in 1957 as the food editor of the New York Times, Craig Claiborne was going to take his readers where they had never been before. Claiborne extolled the pleasures of exotic cuisines from all around the world, and with his inspiration, restaurants of every ethnicity blossomed. So many things we take for granted now were introduced to us by Craig Claiborne—crème fraîche, arugula, balsamic vinegar, the Cuisinart, chef’s knives, even the salad spinner.

He would give Julia Child her first major book review. He brought Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers, Paul Prudhomme, and Jacques Pépin to national acclaim. His $4,000 dinner for two in Paris was a front-page story in the Times and scandalized the world. And while he defended the true French nouvelle cuisine against bastardization, he also reveled in a well-made stew or a good hot dog. He made home cooks into stars—Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, Diana Kennedy, and many others. And Craig Claiborne made dinner an event—whether dining out, delighting your friends, or simply cooking for your family. His own dinner parties were legendary.

Craig Claiborne was the perfect Mississippi gentleman, but his inner life was one of conflict and self-doubt. Constrained by his position to mask his sexuality, he was imprisoned in solitude, never able to find a stable and lasting love. Through Thomas McNamee’s painstaking research and eloquent storytelling, The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat unfolds a history that is largely unknown and also tells the full, deep story of a great man who until now has never been truly known at all.
 

About Thomas McNamee

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Thomas McNamee studied writing at Yale under the tutelage of Robert Penn Warren. He is the author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone, A Story of Deep Delight, Nature First, and The Grizzly Bear. Thomas's essays, poems, and natural history writing have been published in Audubon, the New Yorker, Life, Natural History, High Country News, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Saveur, and a number of literary journals. He wrote the documentary film Alexander Calder, which received both a George W. Peabody Award and an Emmy. Thomas lives in San Francisco. Reader of over four hundred audiobooks, Dick Hill has won three coveted Audie Awards and been nominated numerous times. He is also the recipient of several AudioFile Earphones Awards. AudioFile includes Dick on their prestigious list of Golden Voices.
 
Published May 8, 2012 by Free Press. 354 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Cooking, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat
All: 15 | Positive: 10 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Apr 01 2012

A highly readable, well-researched narrative chronicling America’s boring culinary past and the one man who altered its course forever.

Read Full Review of The Man Who Changed the Way W... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Corby Kummer on Jun 08 2012

...Claiborne’s precise, prissy voice, which McNamee accurately calls “genial, magisterial, casually knowing and sort of funny-peculiar.”

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
Reviewed by David McCormick on Apr 23 2012

McNamee argues for Claiborne’s significance in connecting home cooking, fine dining, and classic and ethnic foods in the postwar period in this often light and uneven biography.

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LA Times

Below average
Reviewed by Russ Parsons on May 20 2012

Much of what he does reveal has long been hidden in the plainest of sight.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Phyllis Richman on Jun 15 2012

I like McNamee’s version better. And I like his book.

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Huffington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Jerry Harkavy on May 07 2012

Students of social history and readers with an abiding interest in food will find much to savor in this book. But those whose palates aren't attuned to the likes of foie gras and truffles may get their fill early on.

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Serious Eats

Excellent
Reviewed by Leah Douglas on Jun 10 2012

McNamee's book paints a detailed picture of a complicated man.

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nj.com

Good
Reviewed by Art Namendorf/Artful Diner on Jul 11 2012

A must read for all foodies. Craig Claiborne was truly The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat. Bon Appétit!

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East Hampton Star

Below average
Reviewed by Eric Kuhn on Jul 03 2012

Mr. McNamee’s style is clunky and colloquial at times.

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Food Republic

Excellent
Reviewed by Emily Saladino on May 29 2012

McNamee ultimately proves how Claiborne changed not just the titular way we eat, but also the way we as a nation consume culinary culture.

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513 Eats

Excellent
Reviewed by 513 Eats on Jun 04 2012

To all of my chef, cook, and foodie friends I recommend this as a must read.

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Inside F&B

Above average
Reviewed by Mort Hochstein on May 31 2012

There was no funeral service and no tombstone for Claiborne. Four years after his death, friends held a modest memorial service and hung a plaque...That plaque, and this book, are what exist to keep the memory alive of this man whose name was once so familiar to many.

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The Cyberlibrarian Reads

Good
Reviewed by Miriam Downey on May 21 2012

This is a straightforward biography--chronological, and tightly scripted.

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IRBRATB

Good
Reviewed by IRBRATB on May 08 2012

The best non fiction I’ve read in a very long time.

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A Library of Our Own

Good
Reviewed by Debbie on May 08 2012

If you are interested in food at all I think that this biography is definitely worth the time to read. I not only learned a lot about the food revolution in America but I was left with a respect for what it took to make it come about...

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Reader Rating for The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat
76%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 53 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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