Sun, Nov 11, 2007 - Page 19 News List

[BOOK REVIEW] The Book of Vice' relishes everything from food to sex

Peter Sagal's newest tome, with cleverly named chapters on prostitutes, scam artists and more, looks at society's naughty, sometimes ridiculous, aspects


(This particular indulgence was worse than Sagal thought. Last week, just after Vice was published, Brooks was arrested on 21 counts of embezzlement and other crimes; investigators say he charged that party, among others, to his company, which makes body armor for soldiers.)

One of the most hilarious chapters is about a dinner Sagal and his wife have at Alinea, a highly acclaimed Chicago restaurant. Its chef, Grant Achatz, is a practitioner of molecular gastronomy, an elaboration of culinary art cross-bred with chemistry, a rather chilly type of extreme cuisine.

As Sagal writes, a molecular chef "would look at a banana and see something to be frozen, microtomed, processed into foam or liquid, or maybe, through some magic bit of alchemy, turned into a meatball."

The result is both strange and irresistible: "Waiters carefully place in front of us: a square of Lucite, four inches by four inches by half an inch, standing on edge. On top of the square: a sliver of metal, holding what looks like a single yellow die on which the spots were applied by a blind person with a tiny brush. This is, according to the menu: 'corn, with coconut, cayenne, and lime.' It looks no more like corn (or coconut, cayenne, or lime) than a Whopper looks like the Queen of Romania."

But when he eats it, the result "is quite literally indescribable as if somebody poked your brain with an electrode and all of a sudden you started tasting things nobody had invented words for." After a couple of dozen courses and a lot of very fine wine, Sagal writes, "I paid the US$750 bill and licked the glass."

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