Synopses & Reviews
n a groundbreaking new anthology, celebrated food writer Molly O'Neill gathers the very best from over 250 years of American culinary history. This literary feast includes classic accounts of iconic American foods: Henry David Thoreau on the delights of watermelon; Herman Melville, with a mouth-watering chapter on clam chowder; H. L. Mencken on the hot dog; M.F.K. Fisher in praise of the oyster; Ralph Ellison on the irresistible appeal of baked yam; William Styron on Southern fried chicken. American writers abroad, like A. J. Liebling, Waverly Root, and Craig Claiborne, describe the revelations they found in foreign restaurants; travellers to America, including the legendary French gourmet J. A. Brillat-Savarin, discover such native delicacies as turkey, Virginia barbecue, and pumpkin pie. Great chefs and noted critics discuss their culinary philosophies and offer advice on the finer points of technique; home cooks recount disasters and triumphs. A host of eminent American writers, from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Walt Whitman to Thomas Wolfe, Willa Cather, and Langston Hughes, add their distinctive viewpoints to the mix.
American Food Writing celebrates the astonishing variety of American foodways, with accounts from almost every corner of the country and a host of ethnic traditions: Dutch, Cuban, French, Italian, Jewish, Chinese, Irish, Indian, Scandinavian, Native American, African, English, Japanese, and Mexican. A surprising range of subjects and perspectives emerge, as writers address such topics as fast food, hunger, dieting, and the relationship between food and sex. James Villas offers a behind-the-scenes look at gourmet dining through a waiter's eyes; Anthony Bourdain recalls his days at the Culinary Institute of America; Julia Child remembers the humble beginnings of her much-loved television series; Nora Ephron chronicles internecine warfare among members of the "food establishment;" Michael Pollan explores what the label "organic" really means.
Throughout the anthology are more than 50 classic recipes, selected after extensive research from cookbooks both vintage and modern, and certain to instruct, delight, and inspire home chefs.
"This exhaustive collection of essays, anecdotes, and recipes spans three centuries of American food writing, from Meriwether Lewis's account of killing 'two bucks and two buffaloe' during his famous trek across the continent, to Michael Pollan's up-to-the-minute account of the politics of organic food. In between are countless gems: Alice B. Toklas's baroque recipe for lobster, Richard Olney's meditation on paté and Edna Lewis's poignant description of killing hogs on her family farm. Ably organized and edited by the former host of the PBS series Great Food, this collection features numerous accounts of foodways long since vanished in this country; take, for instance, Charlie Ranhofer's thorough analysis of the thirteen-course society dinner, complete with 'removes or solid joints,' 'iced punch or sherbet,' and 'hot sweet entremets'; or Maria Sermolino's memories of the Italian meals served at her father's Greenwich Village restaurant back when spaghetti was still a novelty. Famous food writers are well represented here (James Beard and Calvin Trillin, M.F.K. Fisher and James Villas), but perhaps even more rewarding are the wonderful but lesser-known players on the American food scene; either Elizabeth Robins Pennell's discussion of the spring chicken or Eugene Walter's tale of gumbo alone would make this volume a treasure. With so many wonderful ingredients, this rich, delectable treat is a must-have for American foodies." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In Corby Kummer's tribute to the Vermont cheesemakers Cindy and David Major....Ms. Major says of her first mouthful of the first batch of their cheese that they deem worthy of the annual conference of the American Cheese Society. 'It tasted so rich, creamy and sweet. I just knew we'd finally figured it out.' That cheese won a blue ribbon. So should this book." Roy Blount Jr., New York Times
"[T]he value and attraction of this volume is not as yet another cookbook, but rather the light it sheds on how food shaped our culture and vice versa." San Francisco Chronicle
"The lack of explanation tends to get one's back up about the absence from the collection of one's own favorite authors....Still, the challenge has been met; the passion for food is expressed in written form." Los Angeles Times
A celebrated food writer gathers the very best from more than 250 years of American culinary history and chronicles the astonishing variety of American cuisine. The contributors cover a range of subjects and perspectives on all things food related; also includes more than 50 classic recipes.
About the Author
Molly O'Neill, editor, was food columnist for The New York Times for a decade and host of the PBS series Great Food. Her work has appeared in many national magazines, and she is the author of three cookbooks, including the award-winning New York Cookbook. Her most recent book is Mostly True: A Memoir of Family, Food, and Baseball. She lives in New York City.