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One of my favorite food blogs is the New York–centric Restaurant Girl by Danyelle Freeman. Although I'm rarely in New York, I still love reading about food and the city through her eyes (or is that through her stomach?). Plus you gotta love anyone who brings must-have gadgets to your attention, such as the s'more maker that was recently featured or the combo toaster/egg poacher from last year. Some of you may know Freeman from The Food Network, where she's been a judge for Iron Chef America and Top Chef.
When I learned that Freeman had written a book, Try This: A Modern Guide to Global Eating, I wondered if it would simply be a rehash of her blog or a collection of her food critic articles. I couldn't have been more wrong. Instead, Try This is—as the subtitle states—a country-by-country guide to eating the world's cuisine . . . no matter where you live. And in Restaurant Girl style, this is no hoity-toity tome of how to spend $200 on steak and a salad (although she talks about fine dining) but more like a descriptive menu dictionary:
I'm writing this book for anyone who's ever looked at a menu and had a question. Anyone who's had a plate put in front of him and wondered what the hell [he was] about to eat. Just because a cuisine is foreign to you doesn't mean you have to feel like a tourist at the table.Whether you're in a British-style pub wondering what bangers and mash are (sausages, mashed potatoes, and onion gravy) or thinking about trying chaat (Indian snacks) from a food cart or looking over the lists of cheese and wine in an exclusive Manhattan cheese cave, have no fear, Freeman has you covered. She's been there before you, clearing a path so you can order with confidence or at least know that you're not the only one to have been stumped by a menu.
Thanks to Freeman's personal, chatty style, you'll feel as if you were getting tips from your BFF. For example, you'll learn the correct way to pick up sushi, how to use the wasabi, when to eat the ginger, and the proper way to dip into the soy sauce. Headed to a Middle Eastern restaurant? Freeman assures you that she too "could have used a kebab manual" the first time she went to one of her now-favorite spots. Take advantage of her decoder, and you'll know just what to ask for.
Throughout the book are "Tasty Morsel" boxes with fun food facts, like how margherita pizza got its name and Hemmingway's favorite daiquiri when he lived in Cuba. Freeman shares her thoughts on how to negotiate a restaurant, your rights as a diner, and more in several longer features. Finally, each of the fourteen chapters ends with a section called "Table Settings and Modern Manners," which provides practical information and alerts you to good behavior.
- When in Spain, don't put your elbows on the table and don't let your hands stray out of sight under the table.
- When at a Korean restaurant, don't expect to see a knife.
- In Greece, all food on the table is for sharing, no matter who ordered it.
Give it to me quickly: Everything you've always wanted to know about restaurant eating but were afraid to ask.
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