A Glutton for Punishment

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Satisfy your appetite for humor by indulging in this delicious book. It takes the reader into the world of the hired food critic, the person paid to do what would be anyone’s dream: eating in restaurants free of charge, ordering the best meals, having companions begging for invitations to sumptuous dinners. Is it the utopia we imagine? Apparently not, according to Jacobs.

Setting himself up as a restaurant critic seems an unlikely occurrence for a person who thought he had reached heaven upon tasting army food. Reared by a mother who couldn’t cook, moving around from one hotel room hotplate to another, he had no expectations of fresh greens (not equating green with edible) nor hopes of seafood (mother’s mush of overcooked, overripe shrimp having been sufficient turnoff). After the army, Jacobs spent some time in India, where “most of the genuine Indian food [he] ordered bore a disconcerting resemblance to the contents of diapers.” Not until he married and spent a summer along the Maine coast did he take a serious interest in food and cooking.

The author had little experience with upper-echelon gastronomy when he applied for the GOURMET job. GOURMET demanded favorable critiques, so Jacobs, not knowing where the food was good, noshed through numerous lackluster meals in his search for reviewable establishments. With limited territory and employer-imposed restrictions, reviewing is not a piece of cake. The author’s developing gout adds many funny escapades and his faux pas such as serving rabbit for Easter (he cooked the Easter Bunny) will leave you in tears.

The author’s love of wordplay and his droll outlook on life make this a book to sink your teeth into, whether nibbled in short sessions or ingested as a whole.