Food can have less wholesome uses, as we learn from Jonathan Reynolds' boisterous Wrestling With Gravy. ''Food is controllable, while most of life isn't,'' he writes. ''And cooking is power.'' Power, for instance, to coax women or ''racehorses,'' as Reynolds calls them out of their clothes. If you can get past the smirky Playboy posturing, Reynolds writes about his rambunctious life with wit and gusto. As a child, he was abandoned by his tycoon father ''a flamboyantly excessive devourer of failing newspapers, radio and TV stations, highway billboards, real estate, food, booze, women, the air we breathe'' and raised by his sour mother (standard fare chez Mom: ''chicken so overroasted you could dry your hair with it''). He bounced between boarding schools, ran off to London to become an actor, and eventually traded the stage for screenwriting (his credits include My Stepmother Is an Alien). Along the way, like all of us, he ate. And his account of the meals awful, sublime, and indifferent anchors his life story, just as that life gives unique spice to the food.