Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture

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A new American cuisine is forming. Animals never before considered or long since forgotten are emerging as delicacies. Parts that used to be for scrap are centerpieces. Ash and hay are fashionable ingredients, and you pay handsomely to breathe flavored air. Going out to a nice dinner now often precipitates a confrontation with a fundamental question: Is that food?

Anything That Moves, a behind-the-scenes look at foodie culture, is simultaneously a humorous adventure and a ...

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Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture

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A new American cuisine is forming. Animals never before considered or long since forgotten are emerging as delicacies. Parts that used to be for scrap are centerpieces. Ash and hay are fashionable ingredients, and you pay handsomely to breathe flavored air. Going out to a nice dinner now often precipitates a confrontation with a fundamental question: Is that food?

Anything That Moves, a behind-the-scenes look at foodie culture, is simultaneously a humorous adventure and a serious attempt to understand the implications of the way we eat. This is a universe populated by insect-eaters and blood drinkers, avant-garde chefs who make food out of roadside leaves and wood, and others who serve endangered species, pets, and Schedule I drugs—a cast of characters, in other words, who flirt with danger, taboo, and disgust in pursuit of the sublime. Behind them is an intricate network of scavengers, dealers, and pitchmen responsible for introducing rare and exotic ingredients into the marketplace and, ultimately, bringing them to the family table. Highly entertaining and deeply revelatory, Anything That Moves explores the raucous, strange, fascinatingly complex world of contemporary American food culture, and the places where the extreme is bleeding into the mainstream.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The much ballyhooed Foodie Revolution is taking its ever-hungry followers in very strange (and sometimes strangely wonderful) directions. That, at least, is the thesis of this quotable and ultimately revelatory book by New Yorker regular Dana Goodyear. To open our eyes to avant-garde eateries, Goodyear escorts us to deliciously described meals in outposts of molecular gastronomy and a soon-to-be-banned Foie Grais Festival. Along the way, we visit with an underground Los Angeles restaurateur obsessed with obscurity and chefs who concoct glutinous specialties that will make you rethink what we eat and what we think about food—which, attentive readers might conclude, is the central point of the book. Editor's recommendation.

From the Publisher
"Goodyear's exploration of this engrossing and morally complex topic provides a solid footing for hearty conversations." —-Kirkus Starred Review
The New York Times Book Review - Thomas McNamee
Dana Goodyear writes with wit, grace and a contagious sense of humor about some of the most disgusting food you may never see fit to put in your mouth.
The New York Times - Dwight Garner
Ms. Goodyear is…the possessor of a gentle, almost demure prose style. Today's best-known food writers tend to be noisy boys; her soothing sentences are a balm. Like the shy girl in the back of class whose occasional whispered utterances are masterpieces of marinated snark, she gets off a lot of vivid observations…Anything that Moves is an eyes-wide-open exploration of the foodie avant-garde…Ms. Goodyear is a good-natured tour guide, and she possesses a (mostly) strong stomach.
From the Publisher
"Goodyear's exploration of this engrossing and morally complex topic provides a solid footing for hearty conversations." —-Kirkus Starred Review
Kirkus Reviews
Venturing deep into the underground foodie culture, New Yorker contributor Goodyear (The Oracle of Hollywood Boulevard: Poems, 2013, etc.) plunges into the world of dedicated individuals who routinely skirt the boundaries imposed by common culinary practices and tastes. The author is no stranger to ingesting foods many would forego. During a stint in China, she ate chicken feet and consumed a seven-course meal of dog meat. When Goodyear began hanging out with extreme foodies, the type of characters who consider insects, frog fallopian tubes and horsemeat as fair game for dinner, her food boundaries expanded. A dish composed of "slippery jellyfish in sesame-oil vinaigrette, and a raw oyster, poached quail egg, and crab guts, meant to be slurped together in one viscous spoonful" provided the author with an example of the "quiver on quiver on quiver" characterizing the "convergence of the disgusting and the sublime typical of so much foodie food." Goodyear skillfully stitches together the philosophical, psychological and legal underpinnings of this emerging movement with the stories of those consumers who seek out the sometimes-bizarre foods. She explores bits of culinary history, how culture plays a role in what's acceptable to eat and the ethical lines some individuals won't cross when it comes to exotic eating. The author visited underground pop-up restaurants, which combine "the raucous dinner with random tablemates, and the self-conscious staging of an elevated social interaction," and she spent time with the chefs who routinely traverse the outer limits of America's new food landscape. One chef, irate at the amount of waste in the meat industry, believes meat eating mustn't be easy but should force people to confront their food choices. Chris Cosentino, a well-known chef among adventurous eaters, "started serving the parts Americans no longer wanted to eat: spleens and blood and sperm; lungs, lips and livers." Goodyear's exploration of this engrossing and morally complex topic provides a solid footing for hearty conversations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452667942
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/14/2013
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: MP3 - Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Dana Goodyear

Dana Goodyear is a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of a collection of poems entitled Honey and Junk.

Jane Jacobs's audiobook credits cross the genres of history, fiction, self-help, business, romance, and children's stories. Jane's voice is also featured in television and film, corporate narration, and interactive games.

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Dana Goodyear, Author of Anything That Moves

How do you define a "foodie"?

A foodie is someone who takes deep and specific, almost zealous, pleasure in eating. Fifty years ago, the ready image of the gourmet was a rotund, late-middle-aged white guy with a monocle and a gold pocket watch. Today, anyone can be a foodie—a Mexican-American teenager with a penchant for punk rock, a white West Virginian fan of Anthony Bourdain, a middle-aged Filipina social media addict. (All these characters, incidentally, appear in my book.) What foodies share, rather than a demographic sector, is an attitude toward food. They are adventurous, curious, competitive, opinionated, thrill-seeking, obsessive. They find eating meaningful. Most essentially, they make a social identity out of their attitude toward food. Maybe it shouldn't be, but "foodie" is a word people use to describe themselves.

It can be easy to lampoon foodies, always taking pictures of their food before eating it and boasting about their gustatory feats, and as the phenomenon has grown more widespread a backlash has started. Writing in Harper's, the novelist Will Self, a former London restaurant critic and possibly the inspiration for Anton Ego in "Ratatouille," disparaged those who "seek acculturation through the crudest form of assimilation, the oral." Others dismiss the preoccupation with food as mere self-indulgence, gluttony excused—celebrated—as a cultural fad. But I think there is something more at work. Foodies embody our anxiety, both about the next meal and about the next century. They are teaching us how to eat like survivors, as people in cultures older than ours have been doing for hundreds if not thousands of years—even as those same cultures begin to imitate the unsustainable, unscalable Western diet. As champions of the obscure, often defiant toward mainstream and increasingly outmoded American notions of edibility, foodies are enlarging the popular conception of what constitutes food.

Is there something that the serious foodies you write about have in common? Something in their backgrounds or habits or culinary goals?

Many of the people I write about are willing to break not only taboos but also laws—and talk about it! Among foodies—eaters, chefs, and purveyors—there is an intense longing for a return to a pre-regulatory time, when the range of available food was much wider. There is a strong sense that the cascade of laws set in motion by the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 has contributed to the industrialization of the food system and the alienation of the consumer from the sources of nutrition. In conversation after conversation with food people from all over the country, I heard enormous frustration with the limitations that our food laws place on their curiosity. No wild birds! No raw milk! No tonka beans! No horse! (At least for now.) In California, no foie gras.

In this context, eating ingredients that fall in a grey area or are fully illegal is not just titillating to foodies but appeals to their sense of righteousness. This, more than any food they have in common—for nothing is more niche than appetite—is what makes for a movement.

A generation ago, things like sushi were fringe in this country. What will we be eating at home 30 years from now that the average eater can't conceive of now?

I want to say insects because there is the greatest resistance and the greatest momentum, but there are some practical considerations when it comes to popular adoption, starting with the fact that there is no large-scale insect rearing and production operation in this country and wild-harvesting is inadvisable due to the potential for pesticide exposure. I take that back: I did visit a mealworm factory in Compton (the sweet smell of bran and barn is with me still) that sells billions of beetle larvae to zoos and pet stores. But regulators don't want us eating things "diverted from the pet-food stream" that were never intended to be eaten by people.

So instead I'd put my money on offal. People with European grandparents have sense memory of it. There's a latent culinary tradition and an existing industry. We are already fattening the pigs, and each one has two ears, so why not sell those ears to restaurants? (As it is, many chefs complained to me that much of the offal in this country is ground up for dog food.) I think the change is underway. The past several years have seen pigs' ears go from being a provocation on daring menus in expensive restaurants to almost a fine-dining cliché. Fried, they look sort of like a McDonald's hot apple pie, but macho. I think a lot of people could go for them.

What surprised you the most in your research and reporting?

I started this project wanting to explore the impulse toward danger, disgust, and taboo in high-end, for-pleasure eating. So I was expecting to find—I was looking for—outré displays. Nonetheless, I was really shocked by the lengths to which the people I met were willing to go to eat according to their desires. They risked disease, disgrace, financial ruin, and in some cases jail for the sake of food.

The implications of foodie-ism were so much wider than I initially assumed. A small, aesthetic observation—increasingly, we go to fancy restaurants to be challenged rather than to be coddled—led me to a subculture, or a series of overlapping and occasionally warring subcultures, whose collective work is to argue for a broader, more inclusive American diet.

The other thing that really surprised me is that I like ant larvae and pupae, a.k.a. Mexican caviar. And frog fallopian tubes, done right, taste like lychee fruit.

How much of the fringe food culture is tied to wealth? Could these trends exist without it?

Foodie-ism is, make no mistake, a leisure pursuit. But two things struck me, again and again, over the years I spent researching the book. One is that to an amazing degree the behavior of American foodies, down to the obsessive and time-consuming pursuit of a meal, apes that of subsistence eaters. The foods themselves—insects, innards and extremities, wildflowers and weeds—were often until recently associated with poverty. Now they are taking their place beside foie gras and caviar on the menus of the country's most expensive restaurants.

The second fascinating development is the democratization of foodie-ism. Jonathan Gold, who won a Pulitzer for writing about holes-in-the-wall for the L.A. Weekly, gets the credit for this. He made readers see, as one put it, that "food writing doesn't need to be so hosh-posh, snobby, and froufrou. It can be ghetto." Then there was the Food Network, and the Internet.

Has writing the book changed the way you eat in general?

Eating brains, hearts, ears, sex organs, bugs, unhatched duck eggs, and drinking coffee made from beans excreted by a civet, I learned, for the first time in my eating life, restraint. You just don't want to eat too much of any of these things. I pray it lasts; I fear it won't.

Who have you discovered lately?

I recently (finally) read The Gastronomical Me, by M.F.K. Fisher. It purports to be a food memoir, but that's like calling "Ariel" a collection of mom poems. Fisher's subject is "the dark necessity of eating" and the hungers (emotional, physical, psychological) that gnaw at every life. She is a sentence writer, and she enchantingly abuses ellipses. I love how she admits that she can't actually remember what anything tasted like, only that it was the best thing she ever had. Her descriptions of how the food looked are incredibly vivid, as are her sketches, sometimes accomplished in just a few strokes, of the people who prepared, served, and shared it with her.

I wish I were doing more than reading Saving The Season, the extraordinary, witty, literate, soulful guide to preserving by my friend Kevin West. I should be following his advice and putting up the peaches as they peak. But they are irresistible.

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