It’s not at all fair, but the entire time I was reading 50 Foods by Ed Behr, I referred to it as 50 Shades of Food. I couldn’t help it. This is no cookbook of course. Behr, editor of serious food periodical of The Art of Eating, has written an encyclopedic book on what he has determined the 50 essential foods. So you know. It’s just like the steamy “erotica” of 50 Shades of Gray. (Imagine those quote around erotica as air quotes and me rolling my eyes as I make them.)
You’re probably wondering why you should read this book at all at this point, but I say do read it. You don’t have to even read it narratively! Each alphabetical chapter, accompanied by a charming illustration, defines the food and its history, tells you how to buy said food, and wines that can accompany it, if there are any. Behr’s dry writing style becomes charming once you get used to it–again it’s a compliment I promise. Fascinating tidbits abound and the author’s enthusiasm for his subject carries him away occasionally in fun ways.
If you read the introduction Behr makes it clear that this is a subjective list of what he considers the 50 most essential foods. 6 of the 50 are cheeses after all, he says, trying to explain his judgement, by which I think he means is too much cheese for the list. I like that it’s all his opinion and that he’s clear that these are opinions not facts. It makes it easier to disagree. You can never have too much cheese on a list!