Simon Majumdar and Jay Rayner: writing about eating

I write for a living. Morning to night I put words on paper to help clients sell or explain technical products. For fun, I eat, cook and write about it. I’m not alone in this: there are lots of food bloggers out there doing the same. Edinburgh has plenty of good food and many passionate foodies sharing their adventures. If you want to learn to write you have to read so to improve food writing, it makes sense to read about food and cooking. It even makes sense to read about food writing.

Lifting my head from online content and taking a walk in a local bookshop I came across two books about eating (and writing about it).

Eat My Globe

Simon Majumdar’s book Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything is an amusing and engaging tale of Simon’s big life change: quitting his job and travelling the world in the search of good food. Jay Rayner’s The Man who ate the World is a book about haute dining all over the world.

Where Simon started as a food blogger, travelled the world and wrote the book, Jay was a journalist, travelled the world and wrote a book. These are the kind if picaresques that I enjoy: local colour, local food, amusing writing.

The two books have some very strong similarities:

  • The authors turned forty soon before starting the research for their books.
  • They have a long history of being interested in food, and writing and talking about food.
  • They are funny, very personal accounts of a foody journey.

I read  a review for Jay Rayner’s book which started “part character driven travelogue, part food critique“. That summation fits boths books. The motivation behind the journey, the authors’ distinct voices and the places they go, is what sets them apart.

The Man Who Ate the World

The man who ate the worldJay Rayner’s The Man Who Ate The World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner is the story of Ray’s journey to the food capitals of the world, looking for the perfect Michelin starred meal. What drives him is the conviction that Michelin starred restaurants are worth it, that they offer a unique and special experience that you cannot get anywhere else. A chef had suggested that they were not that special, that all that a Michelin star really means is that rich people can eat the same thing there as in all the other Michelin starred restaurants in the world. A kind of McDonald’s stamp of similarity for the very wealthy. Some of the restaurants he eats in seems to have that approach but as Jay points out, it’s not just the wealthy who eat in these restaurants. People save up and go to Michelin starred restaurants for special occasions. They want a unique and special experience. The restaurants that don’t provide that experience do not deserve the stars.

Simon’s Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything takes us along on a journey of eating pleasure that Simon left his job to undertake. He eats in people’s homes, snacks on street food, visits good restaurants and bad. As much as anything, the story he tells is about the people he meets and his focus is not as narrow or as professional as Jay’s. The two writers know each other and mention each other, which is amusing when you read one book after the other.

I have these two on audio and enjoy listening to them when I cook. They are the perfect accompaniment to chopping and crushing, frying and boiling. These books are well-written, entertaining and decidedly moreish.

Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything
Simon Majumdar @Simon Majumdar
Published by John Murray, 2010
ISBN-10: 071952024X
ISBN-13: 978-0719520242

The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner
Jay Rayner  @jayrayner1
Published by Headline Review, 2009
ISBN-10: 0755316355
ISBN-13: 978-0755316359

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

5 Comments

  1. I read Simon Majumdar’s book this year on holidays and it was brilliant. Took me a while to get into it for some reason, but once I did I loved it. Has really made me want to go to Senegal and to South Africa, so I guess a trip is on the cards soon!

  2. I think I may have just found my holiday reading material, I shall be looking for both these books when I’m next in town. Thank you.

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