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The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nationby David Kamp
I was recently in a chain grocery store in a very small town in Louisiana, and was surprised to find fresh, organic tofu on their shelves. (Not much of it, but still.) David Kamp knows how it got there. In The United States of Arugula, Kamp examines how we went from a nation of Jell-O salads to the gourmet-loving country we are today. Funny, smart, and very hard to put down, The United States of Arugula chronicles America's biggest and most influential culinary personalities and describes the dramatically changed landscape of American food. A must read for anyone who's interested in cuisine.
Synopses & Reviews
One day we woke up and realized that our "macaroni" had become "pasta," that our Wonder Bread had been replaced by organic whole wheat, that sushi was fast food, and that our tomatoes were heirlooms. How did all this happen, and who made it happen? The United States of Arugula is the rollicking, revealing chronicle of how gourmet eating in America went from obscure to pervasive, thanks to the contributions of some outsized, opinionated iconoclasts who couldn't abide the status quo.
Vanity Fair writer David Kamp chronicles this amazing transformation, from the overcooked vegetables and scary gelatin salads of yore to our current heyday of free-range chickens, extra-virgin olive oil, Iron Chef, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and that breed of human known as the "foodie." In deft fashion, Kamp conjures up vivid images of the "Big Three," the lodestars who led us out of this culinary wilderness: James Beard, the hulking, bald, flamboyant Oregonian who made the case for American cookery; Julia Child, the towering, warbling giantess who demystified French cuisine for Americans; and Craig Claiborne, the melancholy, sexually confused Mississippian who all but invented food journalism at the New York Times. The story continues onward with candid, provocative commentary from the food figures who prospered in the Big Three's wake: Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower of Berkeley's Chez Panisse, Wolfgang Puck and his L.A. acolytes, the visionary chefs we know by one name (Emeril, Daniel, Mario, Jean-Georges), the “Williams” in Williams-Sonoma, the “Niman” in Niman Ranch, both Dean and DeLuca, and many others.
A rich, frequently uproarious stew of culinary innovation, flavor revelations, balsamic pretensions, taste-making luminaries, food politics, and kitchen confidences, The United States of Arugula is the remarkable history of the cultural success story of our era.
"Kamp, a writer and editor for Vanity Fair and GQ, details the development of fine dining in the U.S. and proves healthy, even exotic food movements are having an effect on our diet. He highlights the great divide between a population that relies on McDonald's and those who savor gourmet cooking. Historically, the rich always had high-end restaurants; the rest contented themselves with recipes in the ladies' sections of newspapers and magazines. But thanks to 'the Big Three' — James Beard, Julia Child and Craig Claiborne — America had an eating revolution. Kamp supplies an engaging account of their careers; Claiborne has a particularly spicy life story. While The Joy of Cooking focused on helping housewives keep 'one eye on the family purse and the other on the bathroom scale,' says Kamp, quoting Irma Rombauer, Beard saw cooking as a passion. During the 1960s, restaurant reviews became respectable journalism and dining out a status symbol. As rebellion turned to affluence, 'eating, cooking and food-shopping were symbols for those who considered themselves upwardly mobile.' This cultural history makes for an engrossing read, documenting the dramas and rivalries of the food industry. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"David Kamp has seduced a tootle of food world idols into spilling the beans about who did what to whom in the decades when America was becoming obsessed with food. His Arugula world is juicy, irreverent, and full of bite." Gael Greene
"With the sweep of an epic novel, David Kamp takes us behind the scenes and into the sweaty, wacky, weird trenches of the Great American Food Revolution. His reporting is solid, his storytelling magnificent and his good humor is seemingly inexhaustible. I can't imagine a better guide for touring the United States of Arugula. This is a terrific book." Molly O'Neill, author of Mostly True: A Memoir of Food, Family and Baseball
"A great trip down memory lane and a must read for anyone passionate about the American food world of the last fifty years." Jacques Pépin
"There's plenty of dish in this insider's view of America's gastronomic coming-of-age — read all about the food fights and the food phonies. The United States of Arugula is as racy as it is relevant. I couldn't put it down!" Jean Anderson, author, The American Century Cookbook
"All the stars are here, from breakfast 'til midnight snack, in a page-turning insider's guide with an emphasis on 'dish.'" Kirkus Reviews
Kamp, a writer and editor for "GQ" and "Vanity Fair," chronicles the amazing transformation from the overcooked vegetables and scary gelatin salads of yore to the current heyday of free-range chickens, extra-virgin olive oil, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and that breed of human known as the "foodie."
About the Author
david kamp has been a writer and editor for Vanity Fair and GQ for more than a decade. He lives in New York.
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