Since I’m a book editor by day (and often by night), I spent Saturday afternoon at the Midwest Booksellers Association conference at the Excel Center. I live a couple blocks away, so I grabbed a morning coffee and wandered over there on foot. I was surprised at how quiet it was, but maybe that’s more a factor of the Excel and St. Paul itself. The halls were bare, and even the Headwaters cafe that might serve up a cup of coffee to these folks was closed. What kind of an image does that portray to visitors? Hmph.
Even more surprising, though, was the surfeit of free books everyone was carrying around in their overstuffed tote bags. Do regional trade shows open up their book vault more generously than BEA? Even though I didn’t intend to, I ended up with an impressive collection. Here’s my favorites.
Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This
M.F.K. Fisher among the Pots and Pans by Joan Reardon
Fried by local author Steve Lerach
Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life by Jamie Oliver
These books are all so beautiful and touchable I don’t know where to start. Reardon’s book is a classy square shape with elegant internal design. Learch’s looks like a fun, quick read and I’ve heard quite a bit about this local writer in the past few weeks. This’s (pronounced teess) looks so damn clever and full of smart lessons in food. And Jamie’s, well, just look at this beauty of a book and tell me you wouldn’t commit yourself to a lifetime of cooking on the spot. It pleads to you “Will you please come cook with me?” Yes, Jamie. I will.
After all this hard work, it only made sense to take myself out to lunch, so I headed over to Mickey’s, the famed art deco dining car. The place was packed to every wall with families, hipsters, and old folks, all fed by one woman effortlessly working the grill, pouring out puddles of pancake dough and omelets and browning a snowbank of potatoes. It took awhile to get all the orders out, but it was easy to bide my time in such a lively place. The young server/bus boy filled my Diet Coke at the first sign of an empty glass, and the waitress was perfectly rude and friendly to everyone she talked to. You could take lessons in life from this place.
The BLT finally arrived looking like an ideal model of itself. The fries were fresh, crispy, and worth every calorie, and the BLT was exactly what you’d expect. That must be the goal of every great diner, to serve the canon of quintessential food with no surprises and no disappointments. The economy has tanked, global pressures are high, and the presidential election has become more than a little absurd, but a BLT will always be a BLT, and the Heinz ketchup at a diner always flows more smoothly than it does at home. At least there’s a few things in life we can rely on.