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Alt-picks: 'Why Italians Love to Talk About Food'
Instead of: Jonathan Safran Foer's new "Eating Animals" (Little Brown, $25.99), in which the author of "Everything Is Illuminated" considers the things we tell ourselves to justify eating meat (one chapter is titled "A Case for Eating Dogs"), or Julie Powell's "Julie and Julia" follow-up, "Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession" (Little Brown, $24.99), in which Powell takes time off from her rocky marriage and leaves town to learn butchery.
Give: "Why Italians Love to Talk About Food" (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $35), a wandering encyclopedia, travel guide and history, at times ploddingly told, but unlike much else. Elena Kostioukovitch, who was Umberto Eco's Russian translator, walks us from north to south, each stop densely researched. There are no recipes. Photos are gorgeous, if sparse. And the tone is reminiscent of a long, discursive meal. (Risotto, for instance, is "always finished after the famished guests have already arrived.")
December 7, 2009