Food: A Love Story

I have a complicated relationship with food.  It would never be a love story.  More like an I-hate-you-but-I-need-you-especially-Mexican-food story.  I know it's not healthy, but I'm working on it.

Jim Gaffigan, Funny Man, Has Many Children, seems pretty chill with loving food and not having washboard abs.  Despite the title of his first book (taken from something one of his kids said), dad is not really fat.  I've seen him in person, and he's ... I don't know, dude-sized?  Honestly, to me, most guys' bodies look alike unless they're bodybuilders.  They are ... man-shaped.  This is why I would make the world's worst police eyewitness, seriously.  "How big was he?"  "Man big?"

To take a quick jaunt off into how horribly messed-up society is, doesn't what I just said seem really odd?  Women are trained to notice size fluctuations in their own bodies, and told that they should feel a vicarious sense of schadenfreude if other women gain weight, and feel horribly, nastily jealous if another woman should lose weight.  We have to be perfectly lean!  Toned!  Bikini-ready!

But although guys also get messages about their weight, and guys do get eating disorders, it's not nearly as socially prevalent to talk about so-and-so gaining weight if so-and-so is a man.  I mean, if I wrote this book?  Or another woman wrote this book?  People would be all over it saying how the author is a fat pig who only thinks about food all the time and it's disgusting.  When a guy says it, it's funny.

None of that was aimed at Jim Gaffigan, by the way.  More so at society in general.  But that's not the main dividing line on positive versus negative reviews of this book.  The naysayers complain that it's all recycled material.

I haven't watched every Gaffigan special ever, nor have I seen every show he's done, but I think I'm pretty familiar with his schtick, and although there were repeats in here (I could pretty much recite the Hot Pockets chapter for you), that didn't bother me.  The Hot Pockets routine is much funnier when he actually does it, though, so nip on over to YouTube or Netflix and watch it.  When I saw him at the Pabst two years ago, he saved it for last.  As soon as he started in on that routine, the whole theater went wild: WE WANT HOT POCKETS.  BOILING LAVA HOT.

But trust me: it's not all about the HPs.  Gaffigan pretty thoroughly goes through the American food landscape, acknowledging that yeah, as a culture we have a serious issue with food, but dang if some of it isn't just delicious, even if it is made of unknown ingredients!  I got some hearty laughs out of the book.

Gaffigan also is surprisingly insightful about possible reasons his dad actually cooked steak (hint: not because he cooked steak well) and how we all have our own McDonald's, and it doesn't have to be food.  I totally cop to having a frappuccino and pretending it's coffee.  Er, "coffee."

But the most winning part of this book is how much love Gaffigan shows to my home state of Wisconsin.  Jeannie Gaffigan's family is from Milwaukee, which is how Jim became indoctrinated into the glorious mysteries of brats and cheese trays and fried cheese curds.  I love how he says time spent visiting Wisconsin is measured in pounds.

We like food in Wisconsin.  Preferably deep-fried, beer-battered, and with cheese.  And a beer.  My mom comes from a Milwaukee German family and my dad from a Polish/Russian/Slovenian family, and let me tell you that there are serious food rituals involved.  Hot ham and rolls on a Sunday for my mom; kluski and borscht and "schtew" for my dad.  When I was a kid, my grandpa taught me a polka called "Who Stole the Kishka?" (kishka [kiszka] is a type of blood sausage).  And going to the Wisconsin State Fair?  We go twice in order to eat all the things (not kidding).  I am a bit disappointed that Gaffigan left out our insanely delicious frozen custard--thou shalt get a Leon's Special Sundae with pecans at Leon's on 27th and Oklahoma in Milwaukee--but you can't fit it all in.

A word of advice: do not read this while hungry.  Jim will make you hungry.  I ended up eating a burger, fries, guacamole, and some Spanish rice while reading this.  I feel a bit ill.

This is lots of fun for Gaffigan fans, unless you want all-new, totally original content for ever and ever, amen, in which case, take your cranky patootie somewhere else.  And if you've not read or heard Gaffigan's routines before, this is a great place to start.


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