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Category: Food and Drink

Book news: Carlos Fuentes, Gastronomica, L.A. Kings and more

Though the publishing business slows down on Fridays, interesting book news does not.

Guernica has a previously unpublished interview with Carlos Fuentes, who died May 15 at age 83, conducted in 2008. "I am a writer," he says. "I spend all my day sitting before a notebook with a pen in hand, writing and writing and writing and reading and reading and reading. This is my life. From time to time I need a break. Giving lectures, traveling, going to the universities is a way of coming out of the solitude of writing, which I enjoy, I like, but I have to break it from time to time, and it is getting to know new people and young people, without consequences. So, it’s not bad. It’s simply my spring break."

Food and culture journal Gastronomica has relaunched its website. To kick things off with special Web-only content, the magazine asked food writer Ruth Reichl, novelist Francine Prose, writer Elizabeth Graver and poets Ellen Doré Watson and Patty Crane to reflect on a 1936 Walker Evans photograph, "Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead." It's a better-than-average way to connect writing, art and food. Annual subscriptions to the print quarterly are $50.

The Huffington Post is launching a magazine for the tablet called Huffington. "At HuffPost, we now have nearly 500 editors and reporters who produce between 70 and 80 original reported stories each day," Arianna Huffington writes. "Think of Huffington as HuffPost's more stylish offspring. Same DNA, different presentation." The app is free, but individual downloads of the magazine cost 99 cents to $1.99. Huffington notes that the tablet magazine will be "far away from the maddening crowds of banner ads, pop-ups, and drop-downs." What she doesn't say is that's exactly what the Huffington Post website delivers.

Twenty-one books by Patricia Highsmith are available as e-books for the first time, including "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and its sequels. With a catalog that large, publisher W.W. Norton has built the Highsmith recommendation engine, which guides readers to the Highsmith book that's best for them with such questions as, "Would you rather read about a strangulation, a shooting, or would you rather avoid a murder all together?"

Hachette Book Group announced Redhook, a new imprint within its science fiction and fantasy-focused Orbit publishing division. The emphasis will be on "commercial fiction," and the lead title is a historical epic, which is kind of confusing. "I have read the press release about Orbit's new commercial fiction imprint Redhook five times now, and I still have no idea what it's about," tweeted publishing observer Sarah Weinman.

After L.A. Kings' Stanley Cup victory, The Times has published "Crowning Glory: The Los Angeles Kings' Incredible Run" as an 128-page paperback and an e-book.


Carlos Fuentes and the art of cosmic daying

A new bar taps the literary history of Los Angeles

Twenty-nine literary films that should not be missed this holiday season

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Carlos Fuentes at a 2010 graduation ceremony. Credit: Andres Leighton / Associated Press


Festival of Books: Don't try to find authentic anything, food writers say

Click to view photos from the Festival of Books

What is “authenticity” as it relates to food, and what are we looking for when we search out “authentic cuisine”?

In the panel "Food Writing: American Potluck" on Sunday, moderator and L.A. Times columnist and restaurant critic Jonathan Gold explored issues of authenticity with writers Gustavo Arellano, Aaron Bobrow-Strain and Jennifer 8. Lee.

Gold noted “authenticity doesn’t stay still,” and what we may view as authentic today may not be considered so 20 years from now -- and almost certainly was regarded as such a century ago.

PHOTOS: Festival of Books

Arellano argued that “while we should value our traditions,” we “should not put food in a box.” His latest book, "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America,” celebrates food from places we might not expect -– like the the Taco Bells and Margaritavilles –- as Mexican food.

While he started out as an “auténtico,” Arellano came to the conclusion that there is no authentic Mexican cuisine. “To talk about ‘authentic’ Mexican cuisine is a foolish endeavor.”

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This Sunday: Spring books preview, Anne Lamott and jazz

Spring-arts-previewSpring may be more than two weeks away, but we are getting a jump on the season this Sunday with the Arts & Books section’s “Spring Arts Preview.”

Carolyn Kellogg offers a listing of the leading book events in Southern California coming up in the next three months. That list includes Jonathan Lethem, Joan Didion, Rachel Maddow with Bill Maher, John Irving and The Times' very own Book Prize ceremony and Festival of Books, April 20-22 at USC. In a separate story, Kellogg also previews some highly anticipated books coming in the spring: Think Toni Morrison, Richard Ford, Anne Tyler, Jonathan Franzen and Robert Caro.

Book critic David Ulin talks to Anne Lamott about her latest memoir, which is a logical sequel to her extremely popular parenting journal "Operating Instructions." Her new book, “Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son,” connects the dots with her earlier work and moves it forward with Lamott’s new perspective as a grandmother.

Another anticipated book for the spring is “Half-Blood Blues,” Esi Edugyan’s jazz novel that was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 and has been released in her native Canada and finally here. Our reviewer, staff writer Chris Barton (who provides most of the jazz coverage for The Times), writes that Edugyan’s book is pitch perfect in its depiction of musicians looking for the authentic life.

More after the jump

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New online journal hopes to make literature real to kids

As the warm Sunday afternoon turned into a cool December evening, writers, artists and their supporters gathered in Altadena for a red-beans-and-rice showdown. The cookoff was between Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold and New Orleans-born author Jervey Tervalon. The judges -- who weren't particularly interested in casting judgment, after all -- were there for a fundraiser to support the upcoming launch of Literature for Life, an ambitious and multifaceted literary journal.

Spearheaded by Tervalon and run with the support of USC's Neighborhood Academic Initiative, Literature for Life will be, on the surface, an online literary journal like many others that includes fiction, poetry, nonfiction and art. Authors whose work will be found there include mystery writers Gary Phillips and Naomi Hirahara, novelist Janet Fitch (all of whom were in attendance) and USC alumna Susan Straight. The e-journal will have a clean, visually engaging, magazine-style look.

Multitalented Kenneth Kouot, who studied critical theory in USC's English department and is quick to say that learning programming languages is easy (it's not, for most people), showed attendees a preview of the website, which is expected to debut in January at LiteratureForLife.net.

Literature for Life has a layer beyond the magazine: It will connect the stories in its issues to schoolteachers, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas of Los Angeles, to help expand and deepen their efforts of teaching literature. Often the materials available to teachers have little connection to the world their students know -- Literature for Life will focus on stories of Los Angeles and of people with diverse cultural backgrounds to help make students understand literature's relevance.

USC's Neighborhood Academic Initiative is a rigorous six-year pre-college enrichment program that helps low-income students in Los Angeles prepare for college; those who meet the program's requirements receive scholarships to attend USC upon completion. With its support and a USC Neighborhood Outreach grant, Literature for Life is parsing curriculum requirements and preparing materials for teachers.

Earlier this year, Literature for Life sponsored the first USC Young Writers conference, connecting high school students with professional writers. "We want to encourage the young people of South L.A. and beyond to recognize themselves in authentic literature," Tervalon explained in April, "and thus begin to better see themselves as empowered readers and writers." Those voices may find a place in the Literature for Life magazine, next to established writers.

Its creators hope that as an online publication, Literature for Life will be a free, frequently updated resource that can step in to supplement the textbooks that strapped classrooms use. The fledgling nonprofit is accepting donations.

As for the red beans and rice? Tervalon's spicy version with cheap Bar S hot links was New Orleans authentic, but Jonathan Gold's dish, famed for using duck, goose and pork fat, was just as tasty.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Jervey Tervalon, left, and Kim Thomas-Barrios look on as Kenneth Kouot pulls up a preview of the Literature for Life website. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg / Los Angeles Times

Michelle Obama, author: Her book is coming in 2012

Next spring, when the warm weather brings on thoughts of gardening and summer harvest, Michelle Obama will publish her first book. "American Grown: How the White House Kitchen Garden Inspired Families, Schools and Communities" will be served up in April 2012.

It's the first book for the first lady, who went to Harvard Law and Princeton after starting out in Chicago's public schools. Her work life has included being a lawyer, community activist and staffer at the University of Chicago. During her marriage to Barack Obama, he's published three books: "Dreams From My Father," "The Audacity of Hope" and "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters."

Michelle Obama's kitchen garden is the first to be planted at the White House since since Eleanor Roosevelt's World War II Victory Garden. The fight now is not about trying to make it with scarce resources, as it was then, but about having too much. Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, we are told, and the White House garden is an example of growing vegetables and fruits to eat more healthfully. It's also about sharing that story, which Michelle Obama has done in the past by opening the garden to journalists and school tours.

That story will be told in  "American Grown," which publisher Crown promises wil include "ideas and resources for readers to get involved in the movement to create community, school, and urban gardens, support local farmers’ markets, and make small lifestyle changes to achieve big health results."


Barack Obama's summer 2011 reading list

Who shops at indie bookstores? President Obama

Chef and cookbook author Thomas Keller describes his recipe for success

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The cover of Michelle Obama's "American Grown: How the White House Kitchen Garden Inspired Families, Schools and Communities." Credit: Crown Publishing

A new bar taps L.A. literary history

In Hollywood, the Writers Room opens tonight. It's technically on Hollywood Boulevard, but is accessed through a rear entrance tucked inside a garden patio. That's because some bar-trepeneurs have taken over the space once known as the Back Room of Musso & Frank. It was a real part of the restaurant that became a shared space between the steak house and the famed Stanley Rose Bookstore; according to legend, writers William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, William Saroyan and Raymond Chandler would meet up there with Rose to talk books, kvetch about Hollywood and drink.

"We want to really try and re-create a little old-school Hollywood feel with the room based on the history and bring some class back," New York partner Nur Khan told the Los Angeles Times. Khan is behind Rose Bar at the Gramercy Hotel and the Electric Room in Chelsea. "We draw a musically literate crowd from the film and music world."

The Times got a preview of the bar:

High-back booths line one wall opposite the bar, softly lighted via sconces with a slightly Art Deco feel.

The cozy bar's most curious feature is an antique 1920s Parisian-style copper elevator cage sourced from a building in New York. Velvet cloth curtains conceal a daybed inside the regal-looking cage, where VIP patrons can sip craft cocktails in private.

The interior, as put together by Manavi and well-known local club designer Gulla Jonsdottir, is clean and understated, but the overall vibe of the lounge is nothing Angelenos can't already find at several other spots from Culver City to downtown.

Will today's writers make the Writers Room a regular watering hole? There was one on the board -- James Franco -- but he's no longer affiliated with the bar.


Getting lit two ways: the Goodreads bar crawl

How to find the best dive bars in L.A.

Hemingway's Lounge in Hollywood: Would it earn Papa's seal of approval?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Daniel K. Nelson, who will be the head bartender for the Writer's Room, mixes a Blue Blazer drink, which will be one of the drinks on the menu when the bar opens tonight. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times

The birth of a Twitter trend: #replacebooktitleswithbacon

  Bacon - #replacebooktitleswithbacon

It could have been movies. Around 2 p.m. Wednesday, Elissa Schappell was on Twitter and made up a silly movie-related hashtag. I follow Schappell because she once saved me: My shoe broke on a rainy awards night in New York, and she found a way to fix it. Also, she's got a very quick wit, writes for Vanity Fair and has a new serious collection of short stories coming out Sept. 6, "Building Blueprints for Better Girls"

Schappell tweeted, "Pretty in Bacon: #replacemovienameswithbacon." And I thought, that's funny. Could it work for books?

I tweeted, "The Lion, the Witch and the Bacon #replacebooktitleswithbacon." Then a moment later, followed with "The Thousand Bacons of Jacob De Zoet #replacebooktitleswithbacon." I was hooked.

I tried recruiting the Washington's Post's Ron Charles, who in his role as the video-ready Totally Hip Book Reviewer has worn bacon on his head. Charles was otherwise occupied.

But Sarah Weinman, former L.A. Times contributor and one of publishing's Internet movers and shakers jumped in. "In Search Of Lost Bacon; A Handful of Bacon; Bacon Revisited; The Call of the Bacon; The Savage Bacon," she added to the hashtag. Galleycat and Farrar, Strauss & Giroux got in on the action too. The Seussian "Green Eggs and Bacon" was thrown out by many.

And the game was on, with the help of Time magazine, which tweeted, "What we're playing RT @radhikajones: War and Bacon. Out of Sheer Bacon. Bacon and Sensibility. #replacebooktitleswithbacon" to its 2.8 million followers. By the time evening rolled around, #replacebooktitleswithbacon was a trending topic on Twitter nationwide, proving everyone loves books ... with bacon.

Here are some favorites:

hujane: "The Bacon of Wrath," "To The Bacon," "Brave New Bacon," "Tender is the Bacon," "Bacon in Love"

jaelmchenry: "The Particular Sadness of Bacon Cake"

slakemedia: "Something Bacon This Way Comes"

MattMarcotte: "We Need to Talk About Bacon"

TheoTypes: "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Bacon"

slaughter90210: "One Hundred Years of Bacon"

AClarkComedy: "Bright Lights. Big Bacon"

samanarama: "Sisterhood of the Bacon Pants"

Kate_M_Holden: "Guns, Germs, and Bacon: The Fates of Human Societies"

LBbooks: "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Bacon"

patricknathan: "Bacon and Nothingness," "The Critique of Pure Bacon," "An Enquiry Concerning Bacon Understanding"

KngdmfShamballa: "Children of Bacon," Heretics of Bacon," "Godemperor Bacon"

heliolithic: "The Bacon Stain"

lisatuber: "Portnoy's Bacon"

robspill: "Jesus' Bacon"

scottiegarand: "Eat, Bacon, Love"

seanpaulkelley: "The Power of Positive Bacon," "I'm Okay, You're Bacon," "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Bacon"

SpeedyEdits: "I Know Why the Caged Bacon Sings"

molleeeeee: "The Yiddish Policemen's Bacon"

MaryRocco: "Like Bacon for Chocolate"

donnalethal: "Bacon in the Rye"

MDorna: "The Lord of the Bacon"

BetsyBrownWrite: "Everything Ravaged, Everything Bacon"

JESilverstein: "I Have No Bacon and I Must Scream"

manticore_night: "Confessions of an English Bacon Eater"

LauraEmilyPDX: "What We Talk About When We Talk About Bacon"

crimsonsneakers: "The Bacon of Alice B. Toklas," "The Bacon Mystique," "I Am Bacon (And So Can You!)," "The Heart is a Bacon Hunter"

alanawilcox: "Charlotte's Bacon." Sniff.

obasZ: "Bacon in August"

tealeaves_: "A Farewell to Bacon"

BronwenRolands: "Bacon's End"

Here is the same list, adding the actual book titles before they were baconized.

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Happy birthday, Anthony Bourdain!

Anthonybourdain_medraw Anthony Bourdain may now be best known as a TV personality. He seems equally comfortable on camera waxing intelligently about a failed attempt at a complicated French dish on "Top Chef" as he does taking that one last ill-advised drink as the dancing heats up around him after eating who-knows-what in Iceland. He's somehow simultaneously an enthusiast an a skeptic, and as such he makes for a very good television foodie avatar.

But he became that TV personality first by writing. Technically, first he was a chef, then he wrote a couple of pulpy novels, then he became a chef-memoirist. It was that book, 2000's "Kitchen Confidential," that made Bourdain a household name.

In 2009, food editor Russ Parsons put Bourdain's literary role in perspective:

In the old days, chef stories followed a pretty staid outline: childhood in sunny France, first job, first great chef, own restaurant, and after many struggles, stardom. Like Horatio Alger stories they were at once almost ritualistic in their progress and thoroughly sanitized, yet oddly comforting in their predictability.

Bourdain changed all that with his "Kitchen Confidential."

The story of a wayward chef and his exceedingly merry ways, "Kitchen Confidential" turned food publishing on its head. Not only did it bear little or no resemblance to its chef-ography predecessors, it joyously trampled on their pieties. It was full of sex and drugs, and it described a cooking career that could most charitably be described as underachieving.

Restaurant kitchens, it turned out, were hotbeds of bad behavior, more akin to high school locker rooms than the artist's ateliers we'd been led to believe they resembled. And "Kitchen Confidential" cheerfully laid it all out with an attitude that was like a food version of "Seinfeld": "No hugging, no learning."

And like the television show, it was both utterly enjoyable and outrageously successful. Professionals and amateurs alike thrilled to the inside story of what life in a professional kitchen is really like. Published in 2000, "Kitchen Confidential" has sold well over 1 million copies.

While the success of "Kitchen Confidential" led him to television, where he had success with food travel shows first on the Food Network -- for which he now has few kind words -- and now for the Travel Channel, where the new season of "No Reservations" begins July 11.

And he keeps writing -- his style is straightforward but clever, just self-deprecating enough so it feels honest, insider but sharing, more frank, sometimes, than seems wise. People can read his blog, follow him on Twitter, or get his books. His latest, "Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook" was a bestseller.

Happy birthday, Anthony Bourdain. Fifty-five is the new 30.

-- Carolyn Kellogg


Festival of Books: Faux meat, faux cream, real vegan cooking

Tal Ronnen, author of “The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat,” and Kathy Freston, who penned the bestseller “The Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World,” led a Q&A about “leaning toward” a vegetable-based diet on the Cooking Stage on Sunday at the Festival of Books.

“It’s not all black and white,” said Freston, a lithe blonde wearing a bright orange sweater and high-heeled green satin sandals. Whether for their own health, the environment, or animal rights, many want to “go lighter on meat …. You don’t have to cut out all meat in one day. It’s progress, not perfection.”

While fielding questions from the audience on topics such as meat replacement products and how to make vegan cupcake frosting, Ronnen, in chef whites and white apron, whipped up a spring “cream” of asparagus soup, without the cream. (Ronnen’s vegetarian-chef bona fides include preparing a 21-day vegan diet for Oprah Winfrey and cooking the first vegan dinner at the U.S. Senate.)

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Chef and cookbook author Thomas Keller describes his recipe for success

In front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Cooking Stage on Sunday, Los Angeles Times Food Editor Russ Parsons interviewed renowned American chef Thomas Keller, who owns the landmark restaurants Per Se in New York and the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif. Both restaurants have received three Michelin stars, and Keller’s empire of restaurants also includes Bouchon in Yountville, Las Vegas, New York and Beverly Hills, and Ad Hoc, also in Yountville.

Keller has written several cookbooks, including “The French Laundry Cookbook,” “Bouchon,” “Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide” and “Ad Hoc at Home.” He talked about his influences, including the book “Ma Gastronomie”; his failures and successes; and the way he has approached writing his cookbooks.

Here’s an excerpt from the conversation.

Russ Parsons: When did you start cooking? What was the nature of the chef’s job then?

Thomas Keller: It was 1977; I was 21 years old. What attracted me the most was the physicality of it. It required strength, stamina, quickness, it was like being part of a sports team. I still feel like it’s a sports team. Working with other young men at that time in our lives, we were really pumped on testosterone, pushing it out, then partying all night.

Then I met my mentor Roland Henin, who made me aware of what cooking was all about and that was about nurturing people. I remember that July 1977 that I realized cooking, no matter what level you are doing it, is about nurturing people.

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