I’ve always been more of a people-watcher than a beach reader. Before our recent vacation, I planned to listen to a lot of Bob Dylan and flip through some magazines between my frequent bouts of stir-craziness. I brought two books to the beach in case I got the itch to read something longer than a few paragraphs. One was Purple Cow, an advertising/marketing book. The other was Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill, a very large and heavy coffee table book. Purple Cow was pretty good, but I was on vacation to get away from work. Oddly enough, I read Frank Stitt’s cookbook cover to cover.
I bet I’m the first person to lug his three-pound hardback to and from the beach over four days. I was careful not to ruin his signature with my wet bathing suit. (Thanks again, Toots!)
You might be wondering how a person reads a cookbook. Well, this one’s different from the ubiquitous picture books that Barnes & Nobles sells on the bottom rack of the discount case. It’s laced with historical, botanical and gastronomical history and anecdotes. Even the recipes relay stories and advice that goes beyond the typical list of instructions. Perhaps most importantly, Frank’s cookbook has all of the intrigue of a memoir, but none of the condescending pretense and Chicken Little fear-mongering that’s so prevalent in ‘foodie’ writing today. I highly recommend it.
Just like last year, we also went through a couple of audiobooks during the long drive. On the way down to Florida (with a stop in Birmingham), we listened to The Templar Legacy. It’s another treasure hunt story that mixes historical fiction and fact. Think of it as a cross between The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure. I enjoyed it, but it was hard to follow when the story bounced back and forth through time.
On the way back home, we avoided the interstate altogether. Our bucolic adventure added a few hours onto an already long trip, but we got to see countless slices of urban, rural and redneck Americana. Along the way, we listened to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. It was a highly entertaining series of culinary-related short stories and ominous warnings about food quality. I’ve always thought opening and operating a restaurant is a form of economic and social suicide. Bourdain’s book confirmed that suspicion.