The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue, by David Sax, is a great book. I’ve been so caught up with YA lately that I haven’t read any social studies or food memoirs lately, even though those are my favorite types of non-fiction. So this was both a refreshing read and just a generally good one. You should read it, too. Especially if you like food books, but even if you just like books and also like food. It’s a good jumping-off point into the world of food writing.
Sax is a solid writer with a journalism background, so the book reads like a bunch of extended magazine features on different trends. I read it all the way through because that’s how I roll, but it would also be a great read even if you were just curious about how bacon became a thing (remember when all of a sudden, the reason for everything was “because bacon?” And you were confused, but you just went with it, because really, bacon).
The book touches on a bunch of trends really quickly, and then Sax spends a good portion really going through some of the bigger trends, like bacon, fondue, and cupcakes. I am not exaggerating or lying when I say that by the end of the bacon chapter, I smelled bacon. Everywhere. I kind of maybe sniffed a lady near me in the airport because I was convinced bacon was hiding in her pico de gallo. (Somebody, please make a bacon pico de gallo for me.) The fondue chapter was interesting, since I only knew it as a swingers thing and a chocolate restaurant thing, and the Melting Pot is actually a really fascinating restaurant. I’m dying to try a cronut and want someone to make a gluten-free version for me (and actually of all French pastries, please and thank you).
What’s great is that Sax clearly has a sense of humor, and yet he doesn’t disparage followers of trends or hipster critics of trends. He’s not overly snarky, he doesn’t call gluten-free people celebrity-following sheeple, he doesn’t make fun of overweight people – nothing. Probably all of us in the world would pick at least one of these trends to poke fun of or judge harshly (I choose Sex and the City
freaks fans, responsible for cupcake mania), and he manages to point out that it’s true and human to do so without doing it himself and ruining the integrity of his book.
This isn’t a book about the science of nutrition or about the complex economics of food. It’s a little bit of that and also just social observations. It’s a light read that you will still get a lot out of. Just be sure to have dinner plans for right after.