Winner of the Julia Child Book Award
A James Beard Book Award Finalist
When Jeffrey Steingarten was appointed food critic for Vogue, he systematically set out to overcome his distaste for such things as kimchi, lard, Greek cuisine, and blue food. He succeeded at all but the last: Steingarten is "fairly sure that God meant the color blue mainly for food that has gone bad." In this impassioned, mouth-watering, and outrageously funny book, Steingarten devotes the same Zen-like discipline and gluttonous curiosity to practically everything that anyone anywhere has ever called "dinner."
Follow Steingarten as he jets off to sample choucroute in Alsace, hand-massaged beef in Japan, and the mother of all ice creams in Sicily. Sweat with him as he tries to re-create the perfect sourdough, bottle his own mineral water, and drop excess poundage at a luxury spa. Join him as he mounts a heroic--and hilarious--defense of salt, sugar, and fat (though he has some nice things to say about Olestra). Stuffed with offbeat erudition and recipes so good they ought to be illegal, The Man Who Ate Everything is a gift for anyone who loves food.
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October 27, 1998
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Excerpt from The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
When I arrived at the spanking-new Canyon Ranch in the Berkshire Mountains, I was coming down from an intense eating binge as Vogue's monthly food correspondent. No sooner had I polished off a metric ton of mail-order Christmas treats than I was on a plane to Paris, where I had squeezed twenty-two restaurants into sixteen days. Then I was off to Texas, roaming between Dallas and Fort Worth in an extremely rewarding search for world-class barbecue joints. My weight had climbed into a new zone, and I was getting nervous about it. Five days later, Canyon Ranch had changed my life.
-- From now on, I will always use conditioner after shampooing. The shower room had pump bottles of conditioner, which left my hair so much softer and easier to manage. Where have I been all these years?
-- I will become a serious weight lifter. See below.
-- I will strive to become merely chubby again. That was twenty pounds ago.
-- Until then, I will wear sweatpants as often as possible. They bind and chafe less than regular trousers and slip on so much more easily.
-- I will become a spa junkie, if I can afford the habit.
Canyon Ranch's publicity material scientifically estimates that more than half of America's population has heard of the original Canyon Ranch in Tucson. I was vaguely aware that it was the first major coed fitness resort, not just another plush pamper palace exclusively for women. And that it was a magnet for socialites, movie stars, and CEOs, a lush oasis where you eat one thousand exquisite gourmet calories a day yet never go hungry. I also knew they were building a Canyon Ranch clone in Lenox, Massachusetts, near Tanglewood and Jacob's Pillow and, for those like me who are old enough to care, Alice's Restaurant. It opened on October 1.
Even if you've been a guest before (three out of four have), the first thing you get is a guided tour with lots of numbers: forty million dollars to build on 120 wooded acres, an inn for two hundred guests with 120 rooms and suites (each with a VCR), a spa with 100,000 gleaming square feet for fitness and health, an 1897 mansion called Bellefontaine for dining and wellness, thirty-two fitness classes daily, sixty massage therapists, three hundred staff members in all. Newcomers may find themselves winded before the end of the guided tour.
Next you fill out some medical forms. The final page strikes you as particularly bellicose and hypocritical. "Do you find yourself obsessing about food?" it asks. "Not at all," you reply, "but I think about almost nothing else." So, you soon realize, does everybody at Canyon Ranch, including the three hundred in staff.
Then you meet with a program adviser who guides you through a bewildering range of possibilities: aquatic fitness, aromatherapy, arthritis consultation, badminton, basketball, behavioral therapy, biking, bingo, biofeedback, body composition, body contouring, breathing, cholesterol evaluation, clay treatment, cranial massage, cross-country skiing, European facial, food habit management, funk aerobics, handwriting analysis, high- and low-impact aerobics, hiking, hydrotherapy, hypnotherapy, inhalation, intensive treatment facial, Jacuzzi, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Lifecycles, Lunch & Learn, makeup, meditation, minitrampoline, nutrition counseling, posture and movement, racquetball, reflexology, rhythms, rowing, running (indoor and out), salt treatment, sauna, shiatsu, snowshoeing, squash, steam room, stop smoking, stretching, Swedish massage, swimming, tennis, treadmills, volleyball, weight lifting, wellness counseling, whirlpool baths, yoga.
I was growing acutely anxious about exercising in public. I flashed back to those agonizing afternoons in summer camp on the dusty baseball diamond--where three of us were always dispatched to far right field and spent two hours in the blinding sun praying that the ball would never come our way. My wife could hardly wait. A dancer and star high-school sprinter in California when she was young, she doesn't get much practice in either of them around me. She immediately signed up for a facial, three types of massage (cranial, sports, and shiatsu), body composition analysis, aromatherapy, and a herbal wrap, and filled in the rest of her schedule with classes in rhythm aerobics, flexibility, and strength training. Then she sprinted across the hall to the Canyon Ranch Showcase shop, unavoidable as you enter the spa building, where they sell athletic clothing, shoes, books, and tapes. She had not gone shopping for thirty-six hours and was beginning to show the strain.
As I had signed up for nothing but a late-afternoon tennis lesson (with an excellent pro), I rented a tape of Tequila Sunrise with Michelle Pfeiffer, Kurt Russell, and Mel Gibson, and returned to our comfortable room after lunch. Except during meals, there is no coercion at Canyon Ranch, nobody following you around to make sure you are doing what you should. Tequila Sunrise, it turns out, is a much underrated film.
On our second day, my wife's schedule was so crammed with exercise and pampering that we saw each other only at meals. By dinnertime, her skin was pink and smooth as a baby's. The skin-care person urged her to wear plastic bags filled with lotion on her hands all night. The skin-care person is divorced.
I spent my time wandering around, watching but not engaging, until I dropped into Gym 4, where they keep the aerobic and strength-training machines, beautiful glittering things in chrome and brass made by a company called Keiser. The fitness staff were unaccountably squandering their afternoon break lifting weights and futilely trying to climb the StairMaster; when they were done, I asked for a demonstration. Before you knew it, I had completed the full circuit, at modest levels of resistance, of course, and had mounted the treadmill for a snappy walk as I gazed through a huge picture window at the New England countryside. The Appalachian Trail passes just beyond the property.