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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
James Villas's North Carolina daddy was fond of saying, "Listen, I've been to the circus and seen the elephant" -- meaning he had taken in the big show and absorbed a bit of wisdom.
Like father, like son: Over the past 40 years, Villas has enjoyed his time at the circus, seeing the culinary revolution up close and personal in his role as gadfly food journalist, gay blade, and for 27 years food editor at Town & Country and contributor to Esquire and Gourmet.
This memoir covers it all, and he packs it with a few recipes and many funny, good stories. Take the time he was sent to interview M.F.K. Fisher for Bon Appétit. It was to be the first time a national magazine would profile this now-legendary writer. Villas flew to San Francisco, ate some oysters for dinner, and arrived at Fisher's home in Glen Ellen the next day sick as a dog. Fisher calmly instructed him in the proper way to vomit (!) and later fed him milk toast and real Coca-Cola made with syrup from the drugstore. While Villas moaned and recovered on the sofa, Fisher turned on his tape recorder and for the next hour made up interview questions that she proceeded to answer.
Then there's the time he had to rescue Craig Claiborne from jail (drunk driving again), and the times he took James Beard out after a good dinner for a tour of the gay bars to look at the pretty boys. He once ate pot-au-feu with Salvador Dalí and his pet ocelot, shared a good bistro meal with Paula Wolfert and a crowd of dachshunds in Paris, and argued with Tennessee Williams at Antoine's in New Orleans about the proper way to make shrimp rémoulade.
In between these very amusing and gossipy stories shines the zeal of an extraordinary journalist, determined to track down the origins of tiramisù, prove the merits of Kansas City beef (and American regional food in general) to the editor of Esquire, or go undercover as a captain at a famous, upscale restaurant in Chicago. It's a delicious read.