Review: The Tummy Trilogy

The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin (1994)

TTT consists of three collections of renowned foodie Calvin Trillin’s essays about traveling and eating: American Fried, Alice, Let’s Eat and Third Helpings. And Trillin is a prodigious eater indeed. Whenever he travels, which he does frequently, his primary purpose, it seems, is to eat–and to discover the best places to eat wherever he happens to be.

Trillin is not satisfied with the pseudo-Continental fare found in places that he calls “La Maison de la Casa House.” No, he wants the authentic barbecue that can only be cooked over a hickory fire, even if he is reduced to driving around with his nose out the window to catch a whiff of hickory smoke. He wants the kind of food you have to eat standing up at a local festival or the kind you eat at long tables covered with paper at Baptist wives’ dinners or fireman’s suppers.

If you aren’t a prodigious eater, you may find Trillin’s writing difficult to take in anything other than small helpings. An account of one meal can leave you feeling engorged, as if you had gained five pounds just from reading about it. But the writing is light and humorous and pulls you along, the observations are witty and always tinged with truth, and the eaters Trillin meets along the way are worth getting to know.

On a personal note, Trillin not-so-recently visited my fair town, which is located in the “heart of Carolina.” Some acquaintances of mine from the local University wined and dined him at The Lantern, which qualifies for trendiest restaurant in town. Usually, you can’t even get a table unless you are somebody who knows somebodies; I’ve never eaten there myself. But all Trillin could talk about during this meal designed to impress was how he was looking forward to going to Bullocks’ for some real North Carolina Bar-B-Que. Obviously, his hosts had never read his book, or they would have known exactly where to make the reservation.

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