Books

Refried Odysseus

ALICE, LET'S EAT by Calvin Trillin

Sandra Peredo January 1 1979
Books

Refried Odysseus

ALICE, LET'S EAT by Calvin Trillin

Sandra Peredo January 1 1979

Refried Odysseus

ALICE, LET'S EAT by Calvin Trillin

(Random House, $10.50)

"My wife, Alice,” writes Trillin,“has weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day.” The major threat to their marriage came when he called Alice as he was about to dine at his favorite New Orleans soul-food restaurant and she told him to go on a diet. “There must be something wrong with this connection,” he said, although it occurred to him that in the interests of atmosphere he could have shut her up with a simple “Watch yo’ mouth, woman!”

In this sequel to American Fried, Trillin’s odyssey through junk food, he quests his way from the country hams of Horse Cave, Kentucky (the bits of newspaper and what appeared to be mould and dirt sticking to the hams add authenticity), to Kansas City ribs (the flavor comes from the counterman’s hands as he puts them on the plate) to fresh crab stands on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf (three minutes before the crab is ready, dash two blocks

to a bakery and return “on the dead run” with a loaf of hot sourdough bread).

Trillin’s enthusiastic gluttony rivals the best days of Henry VIII, but his disappointments—his children prefer frozen fish sticks and Cheerios to almost anything, Alice asks “the Man with the Naugahyde Palate” to dinner the day they cook the Kentucky ham— provide the most entertainment.

Alice, Let’s Eat won’t offer much to posterity: it’s uneven, has some funny incidents, and offers a lot of tedium about finding the best green-corn tamale in New Mexico, or superior steaks in Omaha. But it will do wonders for posteriors, and may eventually be patented as a miracle cure for people who have trouble adding to their subcutaneous fat layer. For the rest of us, reading about Trillin’s eating is probably not as much fun as the meal one could buy for the price of the book.

Sandra Peredo