To Drink And To Eat, Volume 1
Guillaume Long (Writer and Artist), Céline Badarous Denizon (Colours), DC Hopkins (Letters), Jeremy Melloul (Translation)
Gallimard (French), Lion Forge (English)
29 January, 2019
Guillaume Long is passionate about food and drink, and he wants to share this passion with the world. He’s spent his life learning and testing various ways to make the best food, and in To Drink and To Eat, he has tips for all of us who want to create a great meal.
Long has traveled around Europe and experienced different kinds of cuisines, in sometimes offbeat restaurants. Not only does Long advocate against judging a book by its cover—or a restaurant’s food by its interiors—but he also extols the virtues of expanding your culinary horizons to try new things, even if you don’t think you’ll enjoy it. As long as it isn’t breaded fish—that always sucks.
This first volume of To Drink and To Eat is a collection of Guillaume Long’s blogs and essays on food, drink, and travel. First published in French in 2012, the book is now available in English through Lion Forge. The book is divided into the four seasons, with Long’s travel diaries acting as bridges from season to season.
Long clearly adores certain kinds of meals and beverages, and he spends a great deal of time on those in this book. The opening chapter has Long painstakingly describing how to make the world’s best coffee. I found it a strange way to begin the book, especially as Long’s process seems overly complex. There are eight steps and three gadgets you need for this process, and I wonder whether readers will be put off by it. Needless to say, I’d rather just go to the Starbucks down the road than follow this advice.
The book gets better as it progresses and I found many of his succeeding tips to be extremely useful. Anybody who spends time in the kitchen will be grateful for the cooking tips in this book. I’m going to remember the tip on checking if my steak is done!
Long also has suggestions for the best tools to use in a kitchen (I have to buy a garlic mill, apparently) and which ones to avoid. This is very practical advice for those who are setting up a new kitchen or planning to overhaul their culinary life. I also liked the detailed descriptions of what one needs to have in their pantry. Long goes through his own pantry and comes up with practical advice on how to stock it so you have the essentials whenever the need arises.
I love how the comic form gives the recipes an extra dimension. You don’t quite see how the dish will look from Long’s art, but you get the essence of it, and his instructions are relatively easy to follow. Long’s artistic style is whimsical and comical, which gives To Drink and To Eat a feeling of fun. Long isn’t afraid of making fun of himself via his art, which is good, because this book isn’t in the least bit serious. I do like the way he draws food, but he executes individual food items better as opposed to meals. His pages dedicated to buying fish and the varieties of tomato are astounding and well-detailed, but the plated dishes aren’t executed as proficiently.
Long’s sense of humour is sardonic and quirky, but there’s no actual flow to the book. We’re jumping from recipes to personal anecdotes to travel journals to random asides about films or geekdom. Does it add to the central premise of the book? No, it doesn’t. The asides took me out of the reading experience, and the travel blogs felt underdeveloped and a little confused. I’m sure this all worked well in blog format, but as a book, the different sections are far too choppy and distinct from each other to make a coherent story. I wish that there had been a separate book dedicated to the different strands from Long’s blog and that this book focused entirely on recipes. In that way, it would have been a much better reading experience.
I’m of two minds about recommending this book. There’s plenty to enjoy in it, but the reading flow isn’t as cogent as it should be. I love the recipes, and I’m sure others will too, but the asides are distracting. I feel like the best way to read this book is to take each chapter at a time. Read it as a blog that is updated every day, instead of as a book to be consumed within a few hours. As a recipe book, To Drink and To Eat is an unexpectedly joyous experience, one that many readers will want to immerse themselves in.