Finger Food: Pretty Much Everything


Melina Shannon-DiPietro's charming post reminds me of how thoroughly I've changed my habits since reading Walter Hoving's Tiffany's Table Manners For Teenagers, which I found at my uncle and aunt's house at a tender (pre-bar mitzvah) age and which made such an indelible impression that I have given it to many children and a good number of adults too.

Then I fell into the wrong crowd. I started hanging with people who toss salad with their hands--only. Then eat it with their hands too. And why stop at salad? Vegetables, anything not with a messy sauce--Hoving illustrated a teenager holding an asparagus spear with her fingers (one of the only foods freely, unrestrictedly allowed to be eaten with her fingers), and what's wrong with broccoli too?

A lot, I found out when I was having a family meal at my parent's house in Connecticut with my brother and his then-teenaged children. Throughout Friday night dinner, the formal occasion of the week, I ate the broccoli my stepmother had made with my fingers--and without thinking.

Until the next morning, when my brother and I were having a frank and useful exchange, something we were of course seldom known to do (we shared a room growing up) but happened to be doing then, reason long forgotten. "I'll do that," he said, agreeing to whatever let's-do-this-better-in-the-future request, "if you'll promise never to eat with your fingers in front of my children again. Do you know what kind of example you're setting?"

"I'm sorry," I said. "I've fallen into the wrong crowd. Food people eat with their fingers."

Thus it was and thus it will ever be--except when I try, laboriously, to mind my manners. But now we have Melina, backed by Alice Waters no less (and unsurprisingly) to point to, not just Walter Hoving and a few lovely spears of asparagus.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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