Al Ridenour's OFFBEAT FOOD
of the relationship between disgust and delight is the lingering subtext
of "Offbeat Food"; this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Ridenour trips lightly over religious food ("Manna Mania," "Sweet Crumbs
of Jesus"), insect appetizers ("Wok Full of Wasps"), acquired tastes of
the famous ("Celebrity Cannibals") and exotic meats ("The Pit of Vegan
Hell"). This is the worst of it, though, and by the third chapter Ridenour
is deep into an irreverent look at "Americana," from "Dogs 'N' Burgers"
to Spam and Popsicles.
What could have
devolved into a culinary "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" is saved by Ridenour's
gift for warped humor, as well as a talented graphic designer credited
as Ken "Design Boy" Niles, with illustrations by J.T. Steiny.
Packed with odd
visuals and generous type fonts, "Offbeat Food" is the kind of book that
has children running to bother their parents with odd facts, and that adults
may grudgingly read with glee. Who wouldn't want to know the history of
processed cheese, which Ridenour calls the "Cheese Man Was Not Meant to
Know"?: "The horrors of war come in many forms, and some of them are edible,
as was the case during the height of World War I when cheese wholesaler
James L. Kraft unleashed a substance unlike man had ever seen . . . once
all inhibitions had been broken down, it would appear in aerosol cans that
could spray cheese on crackers or directly into the mouth."
by Kyla Wazana, Dec. 17, 2000
"In a tour of
world foodways, this is a side trip in an off-road vehicle. Behind the
weirdness, though, is some truly interesting research about the ways and
whys of what we eat."
repast of weird edibles...Some of the material in the book, cannot be mentioned
in a family newspaper"
Those with squeamish
stomachs may not want to read Offbeat Food: Adventures in an Omnivorous
World, Alan Ridenour's rollicking (and, at times, mind-boggling) crash
course on exotic (read: weird) foods, who eats them and why, as well as
tons of food-related lore from the ancient Romans' vomitoriums, to tasty
rodents, to edible underwear; if it's about food (or even distantly related),
it's in Ridenour's book. Trivia never tasted like this before."
. . . Ridenour lays out all that is vile, disturbing, kinky, quirky, and
enticing about food and how we eat, prepare, wear, and a whole other host
of squirm-inducing inhabitations of our life-blood. . . truly quixotic
and provocative" New
Believe-It-Or-Not feeling pervades this repellent yet oddly fascinating
primer of offbeat foods, although be forewarned that the queasy should
excuse themselves from the table now." Kansas City Star
eclectic whirlwind" Food
for those who enjoy knowing stuff that no one else knows, if for no other
reason than to know it" January
researched compendium of the oddest foods ever consumed perfect for the
compulsive Jeopardy fanatic, junk-culture aficionado or trivia buff with
a strong stomach" Canadian
amusing, and, at times, unsettling" ForeWord Magazine