When I picked up Shirley Law Jacobus We’re Eating What?, I immediately got really intrigued by its subtitle. A Memoir, Recipes, and How-To-Guide from America’s Longest-Running Gourmet Group sounded quite ambitious, and definitely interesting. Being quite a foodie myself, and not ashamed of admitting it, I am always curious about the path other people have taken in their discoveries of new culinary delights.
The story Shirley Law Jacobus wove in this book is a fascinating and deeply personal one, dealing with so much more than just the gourmet aspects of the group that was founded nearly 40 years ago. The reader gets to know a diverse cast of characters, most of which remained a constant for the entire time the group has been in existence, and follow them through life’s ups and downs, personal triumphs and tragedies, and all manner of changes. In addition to those stories, the reader is treated to description of dinners, some much more delicious than others, as well as many recipes guaranteed to inspire and arouse curiosity. If this book truly awakens a strong desire to experience something similar, Shirley Law Jacobus also includes a well-thought-out and helpful how-to guide on what to consider if one wishes to establish a similar dining group. Her many decades of experience clearly shine through in that part; I am certain that such a how-to section could prevent a lot of potential problems for any similar group.
The parts that I enjoyed the most were the ones dealing with the actual food, its sourcing and challenges in preparing it – and sometimes eating the less successful results. Possibly the most fascinating part for me was the description of the culinary landscape and the most common foods in the U.S. back in the 1970s, which was vastly different from what we ate in Europe during that same period of time. Such cultural tidbits always intrigue me, and “We’re Eating What?” was jam-packed with them. At the same time I had to chuckle out loud a few times at things such as a “German wienerschnitzel,” imaging the faces of the Viennese if they ever stumbled upon this reference.
While I truly appreciate the memoir portion of this story, particularly in view of courage it had to take to describe all of the tragedies that happened to the author herself as well as the other group members, I simply did not find it particularly interesting, and a lot of those minutiae slowed down the flow of the narrative and made it somewhat tedious to read. I would have preferred more recipes and fewer references to weddings, visits to the emergency room or merits of different types of hair goop.
Overall I found We’re Eating What? by Shirley Law Jacobus an enjoyable book, and I would recommend it to anybody who is curious about the culinary adventures in the U.S.
(Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views)