Al Ridenour's OFFBEAT FOOD  in SF Chronicle
A consideration 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."

Reviewed 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."
Associated Press

"A satisfying repast of weird edibles...Some of the material in the book, cannot be mentioned in a family newspaper"
New York Newsday

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."
Publishers' Weekly

"Dizzying, awe-inspiring . . . 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 City Chicago

"A Ripley's 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

"An impressive, eclectic whirlwind" Food Museum

"A must-graze for those who enjoy knowing stuff that no one else knows, if for no other reason than to know it"  January Magazine

"A thoroughly 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 Living Magazine

"Interesting, amusing, and, at times, unsettling"  ForeWord Magazine