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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A view from the United Kingdom of Great Beer and Northern Ingredients, 29 Oct. 2006
I. G. Liddell (Europe) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation (Hardcover)
Overall, a very worthwhile book, and overall, a very good read. There will be those who, like me, find the author's frequent trips to the chefs' bedrooms less interesting than talk of their kitchens: the relevant personalia could have been rounded up in three or four succinct paragraphs. Persevere, though: there are fine words and good ideas lurking between the scabrous bits of attention-seeking (so what's making the narrative voice so breathless, then?).

By taking us along the lifepaths of James Beard, Craig Claiborne and Julia Child to form the main route through the book, Kamp charts the move from food as a necessity to food as lifestyle, as choice, as ego-statement across the United States. The other great luminaries - Waters, Lagasse, Keller and all in between, fit their stories neatly into the narrative. Logic is maintained throughout, and the footnotes afre few enough to be manageable. The various social evolutions and revolutions of the past sixty years sail by, and each one is illuminated by its effect on American eating. But if this makes you think of a dry scholarly text, think again. It's easy to read, and the topics flow as naturally as gastric juices.

From exotic to commodity - whether it's a cuisine (such as Mexican) or an ingredient (the inevitable kiwi-fruit): this recurring theme becomes as much a comfort to the reader as macaroni cheese or tuna noodle casserole would be to the customers of all this history. I had the advantage of reading the book as I travelled across New England, eating in diners, swish lakeside pan-ethnic restaurants, and a grown-right-here-on-the-organic-farm "Chez Panisse of the Finger Lakes", but it will resonate with anyone who has seen food fads and fancies come and go, or come and stay.

The editing is of a high standard, and the index was sufficient for me to retrieve a telling phrase in seconds. It's just a pity the editors didn't use a slotted spoon to skim off the slightly scummy gossip.
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The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation
The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation by David Kamp (Hardcover - 12 Sept. 2006)
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