Four months ago, Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining turned me on to the then newly published book, Fierce Food: The Intrepid Diner's Guide to the Unusual, Exotic, and Downright Bizarre by Christa Weil. After reading Eddie's review, I picked up a copy from my local bookstore and tore through the entire book in one sitting; not because it was that good, but because it was that short. Cover to cover, reading Fierce Food only took me an hour.
This trade paperback is far from an intellectual feast, weighing in at slightly over two hundred, double-spaced pages. Formatted as a guide for the adventurous diner, Fierce Food presents each featured food in a short essay that briefly covers history, cultural significance, and flavor.
Although the articles are informative, the problem with Fierce Food lies in its brevity. Few of the chapters are longer than two pages, giving Ms. Weil little room to cover a topic in anything approaching satisfactory detail. In addition, the list of foodstuffs seems almost random in its selection, with little focus or theme. Botfly larvae and human placenta are mixed in with foie gras and coconuts. The result is a book that feels shallow and incomplete.
My biggest issue with Fierce Food is that it seems like nothing more than a Dummies version of Jerry Hopkins' definitive Extreme Cuisine, the book Tony Bourdain himself refers to for all of his experimental eating. Some of the chapters in Fierce Food seem to be summations of chapters presented in Extreme Cuisine, often with disturbing similarities between articles.
On the other hand, Fierce Food isn't a bad book. Ms. Weil's prose is entertaining and occasionally engaging. She does a fair job providing the casual reader with a sampler of the delights this genre has to offer. If you're trying to open someone's mind to sampling exotic foods, Fierce Food may be the book you've been looking for. Just don't be surprised if it leaves them wanting something more.
Bottom Line: The book's structure and brevity make Fierce Food a decent addition to your bathroom or coffee table. It's an excellent conversation starter and would probably be a fun gift. The $14US price tag is also quite affordable. However, keep in mind that for $22US, you can pick up the highly detailed Extreme Cuisine, which you're sure to find much more satisfying.