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Many food books have been born from a successful blog or a clever gimmick, and Slice Harvester is no exception. Here's Hagendorf's story: In 2009, while out drinking with friends, he decided to begin a quest to eat a slice of pizza in every pizzeria in all of Manhattan. About two years and just over four hundred slices later, Hagendorf ate his last slice on Wall Street, sitting across the table from his girlfriend while a newspaper photographer recorded the event.
The plan: Hagendorf began at the north end of Manhattan and worked his way across and down the island until he had visited all the pizzerias he could find. He was an experienced eZine writer and publisher, so it seemed natural to him to start a blog, Slice Harvester, where he could make his reviews public.
The approach: Generally, Hagendorf would try four to six pizza places in one go, snapping photos and taking notes. He was often accompanied by a friend or two and would eat and/or share one slice of plain pizza in each place. He went on harvesting trip once every week or ten days.
What's in the book? Slice Harvester is a memoir; it's not a place-by-place description of eating pizza in New York. Written in a conversational, street-cool punk style, Hagendorf talks about his friends, his family, his life, and of course, pizza. Along the way, we learn about the punk scene, we meet the owners of pizzerias, and we get a unique view of the city. We also learn how he found a direction for his life and discovered that sobriety is not such a bad thing.
The good and the bad: I really enjoyed getting to know Hagendorf, whose life is so completely different from mine. He's a fairly good writer with a strong personal style, and I loved the many literary references that pop up throughout the memoir. On the other hand, some (okay, most) of the punk cultural references went over my head, and I have to admit to skimming every so often. Although I liked the handful of black-and-white illustrations, I wish the book had contained photographs of the places Hagendorf wrote about.
Recommendation: Colin Hagendorf's Slice Harvester is both an interesting memoir and a fun way to explore New York. It isn't the best food memoir I've ever read, but it held my attention. Be warned: by the time you finish Hagendorf's story, you'll be craving pizza -- especially one from the only pizzeria to have won his coveted 8-slice rating: Pizza Suprema, across from Madison Square Garden. (The link takes you to Hagendorf's original review.)
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2015
Source: Review (see review policy)
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