Even the casual Jim Gaffigan fan knows the man thinks a lot about food. One of his earliest chunks to break through was about Hot Pockets, and people still sing the jingle to him in airports. He’s the definitive comic voice when it comes to bacon. He named his 2004 CD The Last Supper, and was pictured on the cover presenting a giant pile of hot dogs as if they were frankincense and myrrh. In his second book, Food: A Love Story, Gaffigan gives an exhaustive view of his complete food knowledge, which he has researched, he says, mostly by eating a lot.
The book reads a bit like Gaffigan’s greatest hits, as he has performed much of this material onstage. Some of it, like his riffs on fruits and vegetables, doughnuts, Southern food, hot dogs, seafood and fried bread come right from his April special, Obsessed, with a few minor changes.
In this respect, it’s less personal than his first book, Dad Is Fat. There was material from the act in that, too, but not nearly as much, and there was insight into his family life. A small glimpse into the routines of a touring comedian is offered when Gaffigan talks about the boredom-induced gluttony of eating at an airport Cinnabon or how he receives suggestions for places to eat on Twitter. And he does open up at the end to tell readers that life is short and filled with disappointments, and “Food can make it better.” To quote Warren Zevon, enjoy every sandwich.
A bit of philosophy emerges: Gaffigan doesn’t recommend anyone follow his unhealthy path. He recognizes there is an obesity problem in America, and lampoons it frequently. But he still wants to love what he’s eating, which means no vegetables and especially no kale, and a steady diet of pizza, cheeseburgers (“There should be way more poetry written about cheeseburgers,” he writes), French fries and other coma-inducing delights.
Gaffigan maps out the entire country and labels each region by its specialty. The northeast is “Seabugland” for its love of seafood, and much of the Midwest is “Superbowl Sunday Foodland.” New Orleans, and by extension Louisiana, is “Food Anxietyland,” because there are too many unique choices of where and what to eat that it actually causes Gaffigan to feel angst-ridden. He breaks down most of the major fast-food places by cuisine, and it’s easy to flip through and find a particular place. Burger King is sad, and Wendy’s, which he calls a “high-end McDonald’s,” is Gaffigan’s addiction of choice. He wonders how it’s legal for White Castle to be open during daylight hours, how everything on the menu at Domino’s can be a carb, and how clean the plastic gloves the employees at Subway wear can possibly be, since they never take them off.
There’s a chapter devoted to Hot Pockets, which Gaffigan considers a “blessing and a curse,” writing, “It’s almost embarrassing when I contemplate the impact Hot Pockets has had on my life.” He also describes his favorite kinds of bacon, “the candy of meat,” which includes everything but turkey bacon and fatback, the name of which scares him. If you can eat it in America, Gaffigan has probably covered it.
That leads to some repeated material, and Gaffigan’s bigger fans can probably recite some passages as they’re reading. There are 334 pages here about eating, which are best not tackled in one sitting. Pick Food up and read a few bite-sized chapters at a time. It’s easier to digest that way.