Saturday, May 16, 2009

From "The Food of a Younger Land"

"Los Angeles! Where religion turns into thousands of obscure cults, where by street dress men and women merge into a common sex; and where the fine art of eating becomes a pseudo scientific search for a lost vitality hidden in the juice of a raw carrot." (From "Food a la Concentrate in Los Angeles" by Don Dolan, p. 330)

"In Webster is found, beside the Delmonico steak, Waldorf Salad, Delmonico Potatoes, Chicken a la King, and Lobster a la Newburg. Like such creations of hotels outside New York as Parkerhouse rolls and Saraoga chips, the New York dishes have become household words. But often they suffer changes which transform them radically from the original hotel creation." (From "Dishes New York City's Hotels Gave America" by Allan Ross MacDougall, p. 36)

"The insalata is a light, aromatic salad of lettuce, endive, tomatoes, green peppers, onion -- all tossed in chilled vinegar (usually a wine vinegar) and olive oil, and served from a bowl the sides of which have been rubbed to delicate fragrance with garlic. Contrary to common belief, the cook who prepares a true Italian feed uses that pungent bulb, garlic, with no lavish hand, but with light epicurean artistry...." (From "Italian Feed in Vermont" by Mari Tomasi, p. 54)
I'm really enjoying this book! What strikes me is that however much America's foodways have changed, we seem to have a deep and stable set of beloved tastes that have lasted generations. Kurlansky has made a choice of brief essays about American regional food from the WPA files. These source materials have been untouched in the Library of Congress since the end of 1941, when war stopped the ongoing project and derailed plans for its final edit and publication. In other words, he found a time capsule of fascinating food observations, and made it accessible.

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