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"Feeding Frenzy"

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"Feeding Frenzy"

JD | Feb 21, 2002 03:28 AM

I've just come across a book that was first published in 1997 and should have been fascinating to Chowhounds, so much so that I was surprised not to have seen it mentioned either in this board (I searched every page) or in the international board.

So at the risk of repeating a post I missed in my search, here is a quick review.

The title is "Feeding Frenzy: A Race Across Europe in Search of the Perfect Meal" and the author is Stuart Stevens.

Stuart and his friend Rachel (known as "Rat") decide to go to Europe: "I think we should go," she said decisively. "Just to eat."

He wants to make the trip "in a very American car ... an old Mustang convertible ... that way no one could think we were English -- a particularly disturbing notion -- or French, which would also be highly regrettable." She wants to bring along Henry, a golden retriever. They want to eat at every Michelin 3 star restaurant in Europe. Rat's friend Carl offers to pay the bill as long as they visit all 29 restaurants on 29 consecutive days.

They set out to do all these things. The resulting story is sufficiently strange that at first I was convinced it was fictitious. Rat, a former model, is so ravishingly attractive that doors of 3 star temples fly open to them on minimal notice. Star chefs invite them for drinks and spend hours talking with them. The Mustang suffers repeated mechanical troubles, yet makes it from one end of Europe to the other, always reviving miraculously after the latest complete breakdown. Henry the dog is somehow admitted into trains, hotels and restaurants.

But at least for England and France (it also covers Belgium, Italy and Germany which I don't know as well) the details seem completely right, and my guess is that the real story generally matches this entertaining tale.

Stevens is knowledgeable about food and some of the best food writers, so the coverage of the meals is interesting and at times deeply insightful, though he doesn't feel duty bound to describe every dish, every wine. Devout foodies will complain that he spends too much time talking about things other than food: his lovely companion, his troublesome car, his hatred of Germans. He runs out of space (or energy) toward the end, and rushes through 10 of the 3 star places in the final 35 pages of a 265 page book. Finally, since many of the places mentioned are either out of business or no longer hold 3 stars, it is not useful as an up to date travel guide.

Nonetheless the book works well for what it is. Like much of what goes on in Chowhound, this is a light, quick read, not a book to pore over...a raspberry soufflé, not a 3 day lièvre à la royale, a book to be enjoyed on an airplane flight.

It is out of print in the US (though widely available used) but recently reissued in paperback in the UK.

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