Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cookbook review: America the Edible by Adam Richman

Full disclosure: I’ve slept with this book’s author.

Not recently: not even in this decade. This was at least…13 (?) years ago, long before he had his own TV show and book deal. We were both poor interns, I was carrying on a miserable and scorching-hot affair with someone else, that’s pretty much the whole story. We dated (ahem, “dated”) for a grand total of about two weeks. That was that, and I don't think I ever thought of him again until I turned on the TV one day and had an epic “WTF?” moment.

(He is now the host of the Travel Channel’s “Man Vs. Food.”)

“I know that guy,” I thought. “Where do I know him fro—oh. OH."

And then:

"WAIT. How the hell does HE have a TV show and I don’t?”

Then I told all my friends I’d had carnal knowledge of a celebrity. And that’s my Adam Richman story.

So of course I had a vested interest in reading this book. Because we all get a vicarious thrill in checking up on our exes, don’t we? I confess, I’ve watched his show and it’s not for me. He travels to various BBQ joints, dives, etc., and eats their epic food challenges—72-oz steaks, 8-lb burgers, pizzas the size of Subarus, that sort of thing. It’s less a show about travel, or food, and more a paean to gluttony. Why eat any size burger, I think, if you’re shoving it down your throat too fast to actually taste it?

Fortunately, the book is not about how to eat 72 ounces of steak in under an hour without hurling. Actually, it's not really about his show at all. (I was surprised by that.) His book is more a collection of loose travel essays about nine different food cities: LA, Brooklyn, Honolulu, St. Louis, Cleveland, Austin, San Fran, Savannah, and Portland, ME. What he ate in those cities, why, which restaurants he'd recommend.

At least a quarter of the book is dedicated to the many nameless women accompanying him on his adventures, and at times he sounds like he's writing a bad romance novel. ("I braced for the arrival of this switchblade-sexy rockabilly baby who couldn't have weighed more than 105 pounds yet flattened me like a 17-ton tidal wave...Her sudden, summer-storm flashes of passion or petulance captivated me completely...She made me a lion, and for sport would slaughter me like a lamb.")

However, purple prose aside, the book is actually pretty good. I love reading about other people's food adventures, especially in cities I know/have visited/would visit, and Adam Richman is nothing if not well-traveled. It's also peppered throughout with recipes (including one from his mom), random bits of information, and lists like "Great Food Songs" and "Top Ten Eating Streets in the US."

So, the real question: would I recommend this book? Yes, of course. I would have enjoyed it, even without the salacious backdrop. But I knew him a realllllly long time ago, during a particularly sad and fucked-up time in my life, so I can't really think of Adam/watch his show/read his book without remembering how sad and fucked up I was once. I like to think I've improved a bit in my old age.

So, in the interest of good-ex-karma, I'm giving away my copy to one lucky reader! Leave a comment about your favorite food celebrity by midnight tonight (Wednesday), and I'll choose one at random!


  1. Alton Brown is my favorite food celebrity!

  2. Hey! Alton Brown is my favorite food celebrity, too!

  3. I love food shows so its a hard choice, but I'd have to say Tom Colicchio. Top Chef sparked my insane interest in cooking competition shows. Also, his book Think Like A Chef helped me look at food and cooking differently and helped me break out of the college "eat anything" mindset. Excellent chef.

  4. Lately, my favorite celebrity food person is Ree Drummond, the Oklahoma blogger. She has written a book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks..., and she's been making the rounds of different morning shows, demo-ing her recipes. The most recent is a Thanksgiving Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

    And, I do watch MVF with Adam Richman. His book would make a great holiday gift form my husband who is a big fan of Adam's.

  5. I don't have cable. I've seen part of a Rachael Ray episode. I don't think people who are so obviously in it for the money are worth their salt at cooking. Who sells stuff at Target?!

    I'd like to win the book. Sounds interesting. Sorry it brought back negative memories.