Stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan may not be a chef, or even know how to cook much of anything outside of a microwave, but that shouldn’t make his opinions in Food: A Love Story (Crown Archetype, 2014, $31.00) any less reliable. He has a passion for food equivalent to any gastronome, even though his tastes tend to be less haute cuisine and more hot dog. His enthusiasm is evident in statements such as: “A world without cheeseburgers is not a reality I want to partake in,” and “It is a known fact that it is impossible to eat quality Mexican food and not be in a good mood afterward.”
Gaffigan insists that he is not part of foodie culture, and he simply claims to be an eatie, which he defines as someone who continually looks for the best meal in the near vicinity. He admits, “I often find myself thinking about what I will eat at my next meal while I’m in the middle of eating a meal.” He doesn’t have the stamina of foodies searching for the next best dish, and his only research comes from his own meals with food that he really likes. As a comedian travelling the country, he has eaten everywhere and has devised a United States map based on food, with regions such as Coffeeland on the Pacific Northwest coast and Mexican Foodland in the Southwest states.
Although he does address a wide spectrum of cuisine, Gaffigan prefers junk food. Super Bowl Sunday is not so much about football, as a culmination of all the unhealthy food in one sitting. He approaches food with wild abandon. When eating a pint of ice cream at home, he always tosses the lid in the garbage. He knows he won’t be needing it because he’s not a quitter and won’t stop until the carton is empty. He approaches an All-You-Can-Eat buffet as a challenge, and doesn’t want to let the buffet down by not eating enough. He feels bad if he leaves when he’s full because that would make it an All-You-Want-To-Eat buffet. Or picking only a few healthy options off the buffet would make it an All-You-Should-Eat buffet. Only by emphasizing the CAN does he get his money’s worth. He has such an attachment to pizza that he once considered a paternity test to see if two of his children were actually his own, after they told him that Chicago deep-dish pizza was weird because it was different than flat pizza.
Even though Gaffigan stresses that being slightly overweight gives him experience in the field, some readers may disagree with his assessments, given that he has no problem with pigs in a blanket, but has a strong dislike of all seafood: lobster and shrimp are too close to bugs; fish are just too fishy tasting; using a hammer and a nutcracker to get meat out of a crab should be a red flag that it’s not worth the effort. But he does have an intense appreciation of New York City bagels, poutine, doughnuts, cheesecake, and quiche. He also has a tremendous love of steak and bacon, and dedicates many pages to those meats and others that he loves, like bologna, bratwurst, and pastrami.
Nor does he have much good to say about vegetables and fruit. He writes: “Even when people seem excited to see fruit, they are really just relieved it’s not vegetables.” He goes on to say that “the only thing that raw vegetables have ever been good for is the careers of hummus and ranch dressing.” The one redeeming vegetable he acknowledges is the carrot when he writes: “Cake is so powerful it can even make carrots appealing. This is accomplished in the form of carrot cake covered with cream cheese frosting. The best part of all? It doesn’t taste like carrots. That’s why instead of a salad, I normally just order a carrot cake.”
Gaffigan’s relationship with food is not politically-correct or pro-organic (his way of supporting farmers is by ordering a hamburger with a fried egg and bacon, so that one burger covers the cow, pig, and chicken raised by the farmer). He is often irreverent and disrespectful to healthy food, and the book might even be classified as an ode to unhealthy food, but his observations are funny — LOL funny, ROFL funny, and unexpectedly-snort-through-your-nose funny — with an endless string of one-liners combined with a hilarious commentary on his personal obsession with food. His parting words of wisdom for his readers are: “I hope your coffee is strong, your cheese is sharp, and your guacamole is chunky.” That is sound advice from a self-proclaimed eatie who knows his way around Seattle, Wisconsin, and New Mexico.
Jim Gaffigan will be performing standup comedy at The Colosseum at Caesars in Windsor on February 7.
DARIN COOK is a freelance writer who lives and plays in Chatham-Kent, and keeps himself well-read and well-fed by visiting the bookstores and restaurants of London.