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Amazon Best of the Month, July 2008: America Eats! originated as a 1935 WPA project that sent out-of-work writers (mostly unknowns, but also some soon-to-be famous names like Eudora Welty and Ralph Ellison) to chronicle America's regional cuisine, focusing on the group-dining dynamic of church suppers, harvest festivals, state fairs, political rallies, lodge suppers, and any gathering where food took center stage--"In a nation inhabited by strangers, sharing a meal lessened the loneliness of wandering across unfamiliar landscapes." While bits and pieces of their work saw the light of day over the years, the project was never completed or published and was filed away in the Library of Congress like a culinary Ark of the Covenant until Brooklyn-based food writer Pat Willard used this national artifact as a roadmap for her own coast-to-coast tour to see if these traditions still exist (many, sadly, are long gone) and offer a contemporary update on the WPA's original observations. Sprinkled throughout with heirloom recipes (Root Beer, Pickled Watermelon Rinds, Chess Pie, Son-of-Gun Stew) and never-before-published vintage photos, America Eats! is a celebration of our nation's table and a welcome addition to the popular food lit genre. "It's nice to report that, when a community need arises, we're still inspired as a nation to pull out a big pot and start throwing into it a lot of ingredients, with the understanding that sharing a large batch of something delicious with neighbors and strangers alike is a fine and proper way to accomplish some good." --Brad Thomas Parsons
The original America Eats! was written for the WPA by out-of-work writers during the Depression of the 1930s as an account of group eating as an important American social institution, the development of local, traditional cookery by churches and communities, fairs, festivals, rodeos, fund-raisers, rent parties and the like. It was never completed or published, but when food writer Willard (Secrets of Saffron) found the manuscript in the Library of Congress, she decided to follow the footsteps of the original writers to find what remained of these feasts, or a modern equivalent. The result is an interesting anthology of original WPA writing (most by unknowns, but often lively) and contemporary experience. Willard found Brunswick Stew (historically made with squirrel meat) in North Carolina and Virginia as well as versions of it in Minnesota (booya) and Kentucky (burgoo). Recipes (not always with squirrel) are given. There are still Melon Days in Colorado and Oklahoma, and an Apple Week in Washington State. Fewer homes have kitchen gardens now, and some fair food is distinctly modern (fried Twinkies), but Willard did find a wild-game dinner in Oregon and, of course, barbecue everywhere. Where there were once tobacco farms in traditionally dry Southern counties, Willard, in this engaging book, finds vineyards. (July)
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A nice book which revolves around Pat's journey across America in search of the communities, the people, and their ways which gave inspiration to the WPA cookbook writers of the... Read morePublished 7 months ago by FTD
I was looking for a little more history and less detail. The book is OK It is interesting how much our life style has changed from eating this kind of foot to the fast food junk... Read morePublished 13 months ago by coconutcreamcare
If you're interested in food history of this time period, this is a great book to read. Her pie book was sublime and book A Healing Broth is also part of my collection. Read morePublished 17 months ago by tom
Completely disappointed in this book. I was hoping to locate some historical description of the function and possible menus of food for the box-Social American event, as that is... Read morePublished on January 23, 2011 by dagdon
"America Eats! On the Road with the WPA" is a great book for those interested in WPA, food, and changes in American Cuisine. Read morePublished on December 22, 2009 by Carolina Magnolia
The Works Progress Administration was one of the glories of the New Deal. Although it employed millions of people, it is probably best known for the work it provided to artists and... Read morePublished on September 11, 2009 by mojosmom