Karla, August 13, 2009 (view all comments by Karla)
The book cover says...."A portrait of American food - before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional". I was expecting a light read, with some humor thrown in - and I was blown away.
At the height of the Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was developed to put many of America's jobless to work doing things such as building parks (Dubuque, Iowa's Eagle Point Park with gorgeous Frank Lloyd inspired architectural pavilions and ponds)or painters such as Grant Wood (American Gothic) who has huge murals painted in the Iowa State Library, and many other creative projects to preserve America's rich history. One of the projects the WPA started was the Federal Writers' Project to help record and preserve for history the regional and ethnic foods that someone had the foresight to see were going to change, or disappear altogether with the increasingly easy transportation and influx of new ideas from different areas of the US and the world.
The book is broken down into regional areas and features short vignettes written about foods, food customs, recipes, and how they played a social role in a time now long past. Many of the short essays were written by authors who went on to become famous, others were written by average writers who simply had a tale to tell. What came out of it is a book that literally transports you back in time and enriches your sense of history in a very real way. Some of the foods talked about made my mouth water with anticipation, others made me cringe, but all showed just how much we've lost in the last century with the shift to frozen and shelf-ready standardized foods as well as the limited choices in drive-ins and chain restaurants. Many people have lost the knowledge and the eagerness of delayed gratification of biting into the first fruits and vegetables of a given season and the recipes that sprang from them, the delight of the special recipes that only a neighbor could make for the town festival, and the richness of choice and taste that came from each region's way of using what was produced close to home.
This book is a time transporter. Don't miss a chance to take the trip!
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Sabrina5000, April 23, 2009 (view all comments by Sabrina5000)
A Younger Land, Yes, what better way to think of America. And a younger era, that alone should make you want to read this book, to find out the foods and traditions of times past.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"A genuine culinary and historical keepsake: in the late 1930s the WPA farmed out a writing project with the ambition of other New Deal programs: an encyclopedia of American food and food traditions from coast-to-coast similar to the federal travel guides. After Pearl Harbor, the war effort halted the project for good; the book was never published, and the files were archived in the Library of Congress. Food historian Kurlansky (Cod; The Big Oyster) brought the unassembled materials to light and created this version of the guide that never was. In his abridged yet remarkable version, he presents what some of the thousands of writers (among them Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston and Nelson Algren) found: America, its food, its people and its culture, at the precise moment when modernism and progress were kicking into gear. Adhering to the administrators' original organization, the book divides regionally; within each section are entries as specific as 'A California Grunion Fry,' and as general and historical as the one on 'Sioux and Chippewa Food.' Though we've become a fast-food nation, this extraordinary collection — at once history, anthropology, cookbook, almanac and family album — provides a vivid and revitalizing sense of the rural and regional characteristics and distinctions that we've lost and can find again here." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From the "New York Times"-bestselling author of "Cod" and "Salt" comes a remarkable portrait of American food before World War II.
Eat your way around the world without leaving your home in this mouthwatering cultural history of 100 classic dishes
When we eat, we travel.” Thus begins this irresistible tour of the cuisines of the world, revealing what people eat and why in forty cultures. Whats the origin of kimchi in Korea? Why do we associate Argentina with steak? Why do people in Marseille eat bouillabaisse? Whats the story behind the curries of India? Bubbling over with anecdotes, trivia, and lore—from the role of a priest in the genesis of camembert to the Mayan origins of the word chocolate”—The World on a Plate serves up a delicious mélange of recipes, history, and culinary wisdom to be devoured by food lovers and armchair travelers alike.
Can a song change a nation? In 1964, Marvin Gaye, record producer William andldquo;Mickeyandrdquo; Stevenson, and Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter wrote andldquo;Dancing in the Street.andrdquo; The song was recorded at Motownandrsquo;s Hitsville USA Studio by Martha and the Vandellas, with lead singer Martha Reeves arranging her own vocals. Released on July 31, the song was supposed to be an upbeat dance recordingandmdash;a precursor to disco, and a song about the joyousness of dance. But events overtook it, and the song became one of the icons of American pop culture.
The Beatles had landed in the U.S. in early 1964. By the summer, the sixties were in full swing. The summer of 1964 was the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the beginning of the Vietnam War, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the lead-up to a dramatic election. As the country grew more radicalized in those few months, andldquo;Dancing in the Streetandrdquo; gained currency as an activist anthem. The song took on new meanings, multiple meanings, for many different groups that were all changing as the country changed.
Told by the writer who is legendary for finding the big story in unlikely places, Ready for a Brand New Beat chronicles that extraordinary summer of 1964 and showcases the momentous role that a simple song about dancing played in history.
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