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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lunch Date: Bob Spitz

posted by on May 22 at 17:46 PM


(A few times a week, I take a new book with me to lunch and give it a half an hour or so to grab my attention. Lunch Date is my judgment on that speed-dating experience.)

Who’s your date today? Today is a special Lunch Date. W.W. Norton took a few local booksellers, a couple of reporters, and a certain Stranger Book Editor out to the Dahlia Lounge for a lunch with Bob Spitz, the author of The Saucier’s Apprentice. Spitz wrote The Beatles, the biography of, um, The Beatles, and he’s reading from Apprentice at Third Place Books tonight at 7.

What’d you eat?
This amazing five-course meal that wasn’t on the menu.

How was the food? See the word “amazing,” above. The best items, though, were at the beginning and end of the meal. Spitz made the appetizer, which was a morel and oyster mushroom tatin. The recipe is from the book, Spitz claims that it only takes ten minutes of preparation, and it’s motherfucking delicious, possibly because Spitz claimed that it took “about a half pound of butter” to make. I’m going to try to make it at home, and I’ll tell you if it actually takes anywhere near ten minutes to make. The dessert, which was a Dahlia original, was a cornmeal and olive oil cake with white chocolate, strawberry, and rhubarb. It was unbelievably good, fluffy, and sweet. Spitz called it one of the best desserts he’d ever eaten, and just about everybody at the table agreed with him. People should protest the Dahlia Lounge until it becomes available every day.

What does your date say about itself?
Dust jacket: “The education of a barbarian in the temples of haute cuisine. In the blink of an eye, Bob Spitz turned fifty, finished an eight-year project and a fourteen-year marriage that left him nearly destitute, had his heart stolen and broken on the rebound, and sought salvation the only way he knew how. He fled to Europe, where he hopscotched among the finest cooking schools in the pursuit of his dream. The urge to cook like a virtuoso, to unravel the mysteries of the process, was too tantalizing to resist.”

Is there a representative quote?
“One day, dreaming of food orgies, I came across a recipe for pan-roasted cod in the New York Times Dining section and immediately grew flushed. There was something sensuous about the way it appeared on the page. What I couldn’t get over was its aching simplicity, nothing more than a tiny saddle-shaped fillet dressed with a thorny sprig of thyme, looking lost and forlorn in a copper saute pan. No sauce, no vegetables, just as buck-naked innocent and provocative as the girl next door.”

Will you two end up in bed together? Spitz and I will not end up in bed together, as we are both heterosexual men in committed relationships. The book and I might just end up in bed together; I’m not crazy about while male midlife change books as a rule, but I am interested in the subject matter. Spitz is more of an everyman than, say, Bill Buford, and so his food writing is a little more accessible. I know that the book and I will wind up in the kitchen together, as I’m going to try that friggin’ delicious mushroom tatin, and I’m interested to see what other easy-fancy recipes are inside.

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You should also know that Spitz is a pathological liar. Only about 25% of what he says is true. No publisher ever wants to do another book with him because he so pisses off his editors--and anyone who gets to know him. He is like the character in the movie "Catch Me If You Can", seemingly charming, but reallya sociopath.

Posted by Jaqui | May 23, 2008 5:56 AM

I hated Buford's "Heat" so much that I refuse to ever read another book about a midlife crisis cured by culinary education in Europe.

Posted by giantladysquirrels | May 23, 2008 9:04 AM

All else aside, "easy-fancy" is my new fav phrase.

Posted by orangekrush | May 23, 2008 9:12 AM

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