I once mentioned that my love for novels began the day I realized that enjoying a single novel was like watching a fantastic movie for an entire week. Reading a book by Jim Gaffigan—be it Dad is Fat or Food: a Love Story—is akin to feasting on a week-long stand-up routine. Jokes in the books might be repeats of what he’s been telling for years, but that doesn’t make them any less funny. Jim Gaffigan is my favorite of all comedians, and I don’t say that simply because I’m also a pale father and husband who sometimes loves food more than family. I say it because he’s a genuinely funny guy who is, for the most part, clean.
In Food: a Love Story, Gaffigan expounds upon virtually every food group or type, every location or event, and most every popular restaurant chain (along with some unknowns). It’s an amazing culinary tour hosted by a guy with admittedly white-trash roots, taking readers from the exotic pizzerias of Brooklyn for more than a slice, through every Subway drive-through for something “fresh,” to every American grocery store’s frozen aisle for exactly what you’d expect from Jim Gaffigan.
I guess one of things that draws me to Gaffigan so much is that, in general, we think exactly the same about food. Here are a few examples of things I’ve been telling my wife for years:
• “If the buffet is twenty bucks, you must eat at least twenty dollars’ worth of food. If you eat twenty-one dollars’ worth of food, you make money, right? It’s a rule everyone knows. Eating your money’s worth at the buffet is a rule that should be known as the ‘Buffet Rule’.” (24)
• “I don’t know much about grammar, but I think kale salad is what they call a ‘double negative.'” (79)
• “Hearing something is better for me always gives me license to eat five times as much.” (154)
Another thing that I enjoyed about this book in particular were Gaffigan’s references to three places that hold a special place in my heart: Wisconsin, China, and Waffle House.
Wisconsin (my home):
• Every December Jeannie and I and our five hundred children travel to Milwaukee for the holidays. It’s hard enough to eat healthy during the holidays. In Wisconsin, it’s impossible. We usually are in Wisconsin for about ten pounds. That means one week for those of you who have never visited Wisconsin. That is how time is measured in Wisconsin. Well, it should be. “How long have you been in Wisconsin?” “Forty pounds.” “Oh, you came during Summerfest.” I don’t know if it’s possible to visit Wisconsin and not gain weight. Eating healthy doesn’t seem like an option in Wisconsin. I don’t think they even sell salads. And why should they? Wisconsin is the home of the butter burger, the kringle, the bratwurst, and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Eating healthy in Wisconsin makes as much sense as going to rehab in Amsterdam. It just doesn’t work. Some of my favorite things on this planet are from Wisconsin: beer, bratwurst, cheese, and, of course, my wife, Jeannie, in that order. Good food is everywhere you look. If you visit someone’s house in Wisconsin, a cheese plate is put out. It could be eleven in the morning or ten o’clock at night. There will be a tray with Cheddar cheese and summer sausage. As a result of this plethora of edible happiness, people in Wisconsin eat all the time. Eating is important in Wisconsin. Even their beloved Green Bay football team is called the Packers. The state is about eating. It makes sense that the serial killer from Milwaukee was also eating his victims. He was simply doing what a serial killer from Wisconsin should do. (45)
• Any state that puts cheese and butter together should get two stars on Old Glory. (124)
• In Wisconsin they have deep-fried cheese curds, which taste like French fries and heaven had a baby. (151)
China (my second home):
• There is cheese from just about every country in the world except China. No cheese from China? Maybe tofu is Chinese cheese. No wonder there was a cultural revolution. (152)
• The Chinese have a truly amazing culture. Supposedly, three thousand years ago they were performing brain surgery in China. Yet they still haven’t figured out dessert. (166)
Waffle House (my home away from home):
• You’ll never hear “Nice job cleaning up” in a Waffle House. If you’ve never had the chance to visit a Waffle House, simply imagine a gas station bathroom that serves waffles. That sums up the atmosphere pretty well. (224)
My apologies to Jim Gaffigan for posting such large chunks of text from his book, but I do think there’s no better way to market his goods. Hopefully these little tastes are a bit like Munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts, the “gateway doughnut” (220) getting you hooked for life.