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Friday, January 26

Friday Book Club

I'm going to get my inner Oprah going and sort of recommend a BOOK this Friday. You see, there are these things called books that are not televisions, yet they still give us information. Some of them even describe the same things we watch on the Food Network!

The funny thing is, I haven't even read this book! FNA reader Jenn sent me a message about it, and based on the reviews at Amazon it looks really good. It's called The United States of Arugulaand it's written by David Kamp, a good friend of Food Network personality Mario Batali.

I would imagine it's Ina Approved, since she does enjoy her arugula. Giada, too.

Here's what some reviewers said:

The United States of Arugula is ostensibly about how America changed from a burgers and fries, Swanson TV dinner, baloney sandwich and Fritos kind of country to a sushi and edamame, Whole Foods, imported bottled water nation. What it really is though, is a collection of some of the best gossip I've read in a long time. This is quality stuff. The stars of the story are food pioneers Craig Claiborne, James Beard, and Julia Child. Along with accounts of their careers, we learn of their various trysts and relationships. Even Julia Child, of whom there are no revelations of extra marital affairs here, comes across as rather bawdier than we are used to seeing her. Alice Waters gets the full treatment as well. What a busy bee she's been - that kitchen at Chez Panisse sure gets hot. Author David Kamp has really done his homework. We learn how Whole Foods, Zabar's, Dean & DeLuca, and Williams Sonoma got started. We get the lowdown on how the French cooking craze that Julia Child started morphed into Nouvelle Cuisine in New York and into California Cuisine in Berkeley. Chefs Jeremiah Tower, Thomas Keller, and Wolfgang Puck make cameo appearances. Find out how Peet's Coffee in the Bay Area begat Starbuck's.

This badly titled book in fact is a thoroughly research profile of the great U.S. chefs and great food promoters in last 40 years -- starting with James Beard, Julia Childs and moving through to Alice Waters, Jeremy Towers, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Pierre Franey and the Batali/Bobby Flay crowd. David Kamp logged many hours to get everyone on the record and drew from published sources, to give a very detailed picture of how the American household shed their Joy of Cooking roots and started to experiment with taste and ethnic foods. He has tons of quotes and anecdotes--showing also how Ruth Reichl, Craig Claiborne and other food writers also shaped opinions and began developing the reputations of our celebrity chefs.

I was first introduced to an excerpt of this book by reading a short article in VANITY FAIR just a few months ago. After reading that VANITY FAIR article, I was hooked and I HAD to have this book. Glad I bought it too! This book is very well written. The author writes smoothly and each chapter is filled with such fascinating facts and stories about the world of cooking and eating. I'm glad I bought this book.

So, like Oprah, let's all get together in a few months with the author and chat, okay?

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At 1/29/2007 3:34 PM , Blogger TomN said...

I read the book, and it's typical of something where the introductory chapter probably made a great New Yorker article, and someone (unwisely) convinced the author to try and flesh it out to book length. (All of David Brooks' books fall into that category).

Honestly, there's just not enough in there to make a book. And you don't even get the pretty photos that you get in a cookbook without enough recipes (like Giada's first, for example).

Unless you are really interested in what appears to make certain people tick (like Alice Waters), don't bother with this. And certainly don't waste your money on the hardcover!

At 11/09/2007 10:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read this book and it's a great story of post WWII food history. If you like to read about the hows and whys of American recipes and chefs, this is the book for you.


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