On Thanksgiving, food is on everyone's mind. But for Adam Gopnik, author and staff writer for The New Yorker, this is nothing out of the ordinary. In his most recent book, The Table Comes First, Gopnik explores the meaning of food in culture, in family, and in society. This week, Gopnik appears at the Miami Book Fair International.
"One of the things I talk about in the book is [that] it's become a real convention now in contemporary literature to have somebody cooking when they have to think their way through a difficult problem," Gopnik says. "In 19th century literature, you usually sent them on a walk." A large part of Gopnik's book is about the role of food in literature – but he also writes about the role of literature in food – or rather, the role of the cookbook.
"What's fascinating about the recipe book is the first recipe books are sort of abbreviated guides for pros," he says. "And then they emerge as ways for middle class women to learn how to behave in the kitchen." After that, there was the narrative cookbook, and then we end up in our own day, with the cookbooks that are almost impossible to use.
"What shall we call it? It is essentially a guide to aspiration," Gopnik says of the modern cookbook. "It's things that you will never be able to make, prepared with methods you will never be able to master, and yet, nonetheless, which you will continue to aspire to as long as you have a kitchen."