Pros: Beautifully produced with content that matches
Cons: This is not a cookbook, so don't expect a recipe collection
Reviewed by Jim Berman
Todd Selby is not a chef. Rather, he is a photographer and illustrator. Since food really is the universal language, not being a chef didn’t stop Selby from culminating a book bursting with great food, interesting characters responsible for that food and whimsical dialog that runs droll and, often, irreverent. I like a little cynicism sprinkled on my eggs; it awakens the taste for digesting some different writing. Edible Selby is definitely different; it is not a cookbook and really will not fit neatly into your kitchen collection. Part travel, part food, part photo collection, Edible Selby speaks to me like few other books in the ‘food lit’ category have. Not shockingly pretentious or lavishly produced with way too many filtered pictures and hands-all-over-the-food shots, Todd Selby writes and shoots with an honest voice and wide-angle eye.
What is Edible Selby all about? Take a camera, a willing food adventurer and a crafty pen and spread them all over street food, awkward kitchens, artsy eateries and shake liberally over the myriad colors that usually make up the sect called Cooking. That would be a start.
Each ‘story’ opens with a photo or two of the kitchen characters in their native surroundings, usually artfully decorated with a Selby-drawing. A face to each story, there is a vignette on who we are going to meet and a little on their operation. The photo captions are hand-written and simple; not rustic, but concise and honest. A telling written interview is next, with questions about one or two well-known facets of the particular character’s life we are exploring. This little tell-all has a bit about the philosophy of our character’s psyche as well as some technical insight.
What are the two kinds of pizza on your menu?
“Margherita and Marinara.”
Why just two kinds?
“People -> Man. Woman.
Pizza -> Margherita. Marinara.”
What do you like about Italian women?
“They’re beautiful. And scary.”
Selby is a visual instructor. There is a enough verbiage to curate the illustrations that don’t necessarily need curating. The photos are conspicuously composed and frequently, in keeping with theme of the collection, candid. The honesty Selby uses comes through in his voice and visual aids, much as the food and food creators of whom he opts to focus.
Food and psyche, with a glimpse at the tools that make the food that make the people make them want to make food for you. In just under 300 pages, there are eclectic (and even illicit... if food can be illicit) looks at urban food experiences, craftily made cheese, subterranean urban fishing, tattooed bakery operators, and hippie foodies. Mostly all of the contenders in Edible Selby are hippie-ish in their collective food beliefs. There are a handful of ‘prescriptions’ for food along with some recipes. But that isn’t the point of Edible Selby. No, gratefully, this is a primer for that common language and those that are fortunate enough to live vicariously through Selby’s lenses.
(C) Selby, Todd. "Recipe." Edible Selby. New York: Abrams, 2012. N. pag. Print.