American Food Writing Review
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“Food, glorious food! Eat right through the menu.”

Readers will be tempted to follow that lyrical advice when they discover the mouth-watering recipes in American Food Writing, a veritable historic and cultural feast that traces our love affair with food from Thomas Jefferson’s favorite ice cream to Michael Pollen’s comments on the upsurge of interest in organic foods.

Charles Ranhofer (1836-1899) was the chef at Delmonico’s in New York City for some 30 years—and if anyone could describe how to serve an epicurean feast he could and did.

Thoreau, of course, had quite different ideas about our daily bread. We read: “I learned from my two years’ experience that it would cost incredibly little trouble to obtain one’s necessary food…that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength.” Not every man’s idea of dinner, I imagine.

Jade Snow Wong (1922-2006) gives instruction on how to shop on a budget for the very best in meat and produce—and how to cook rice.

One of my favorite entries, however, is Julia Child’s reminiscence about her television series. But picking a favorite isn’t an easy task in this 784-page volume, which holds, among others, praise of the oyster by M.F.K. Fisher and William Styron’s delight in southern fried chicken.

Laced throughout this volume are comments by notable chefs, critics, and home cooks—plus 50 recipes, both vintage and modern. Seldom has food been discussed so thoroughly and invitingly as it is in American Food Writing. I highly recommend it.

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