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The Tummy Trilogy Paperback – September 30, 1994

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Editorial Reviews Review

Throughout the 1970s, as he wrote the "American Journal" feature for the New Yorker, Calvin Trillin crossed and recrossed the continent. Braver than most transients, he dined in every manner of restaurant, sampling all kinds of native cuisine. He tirelessly sniffed out plain but great joints where the local people loved to eat. "[Don't take me to the] place you took your parents on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, [but] the place you went the night you came home after fourteen months in Korea." As a result of such hard-nosed pursuit of good food, this "Walt Whitman of American eats" produced three delightful books chronicling his gastronomic journey, and they have now been collected into The Tummy Trilogy. Trillin is a marvelous writer, affable and witty under any circumstances. He's also an extremely enthusiastic eater, so the books are filled with gourmet brio. Here's a sample from the first book, American Fried:

ME: Anybody who served a milkshake like this in Kansas City would be put in jail.

ALICE: You promised not to indulge in any of that hometown nostalgia while I'm eating. You know it gives me indigestion.

ME: What nostalgia? Facts are facts. The kind of milkshake that I personally consumed six hundred gallons of at the Country Club Daily is an historical fact in three flavors. Your indigestion is not from listening to my fair-minded remarks on the food of a particular American city. It's from drinking that gray skim milk this bandit is trying to pass off as a milkshake.

This book is almost as fun as tucking into a big, delicious meal (but no substitute, of course). Trillin's family, long-suffering in the face of a father's obsessions, is as winning as always. If you're a dedicated fan--or just dipping into the writing of this good-natured maestro--The Tummy Trilogy is a wonderful book. --Michael Gerber

From Publishers Weekly

New Yorker writer Trillin, known for his slow-burn, deadpan humor, reads a selection of 17 pieces from his previously published essay collections American Fried, Third Helpings and Alice, Let's Eat. Helpful introductory comments include, "I'm here to tell you that compared to a monkfish, the average catfish looks like Robert Redford." More broadly, the message for restaurateurs is to avoid the pretensions of establishments referred to collectively as La-Maison-de-la-Casa-House and to embrace the authentic merits of the Buffalo chicken wing, the Chinatown noodle and the New York City bagel. The message for the rest of us is to eat without shame or remorse, to approach every meal (even the dreadful scrambled eggs Trillin mentions he was once in the habit of making for his daughters) with the same welcoming smile that this deft writer and performer leaves on everyone who listens to him. Based on the FSG hardcover.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Paperback edition (September 30, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374524173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374524173
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Eric Krupin on October 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
What qualifies the author to write this book is concisely summarized in a quote from his daughter: "Daddy likes to pig out." In the grand history of American gluttony (dating back to the first Thanksgiving dinner, I suppose), no one has ever pigged out with more demonstrable relish and native lack of hauteur than Calvin Trillin. His ode to the glories of Arthur Bryant's Barbecue - The Single Best Restaurant In The World - is a dithyramb worthy of Whitman. He is, in short, a true patriot - albeit one whose vision of multiculturalism is expressed in Italian fried-pepper sandwiches and Polish pierogies. There are lots of laughs in this volume but I value it more for its whole-hearted embrace of our authentic appetites. In a time of spiralling culinary pretention (whose standard bearer is Charlie Trotter and his dishes with paragraph-long names), "The Tummy Trilogy" is a palate-cleansing dish of sanity.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
The books in Calvin Trillin's Tummy Trilogy instilled in me forever a love of reading books aloud and an insatiable penchant for "American cuisine." I grew up reading them to my mother, a caterer, as she was busy in the kitchen. Aside from being absolutely hilarious, his descriptions of different dishes - from the humble french fry to more exotic regional dishes - would make our mouths water. Those descriptions and stories have never left me, and I've made a point of trying to visit some of the places he described in his books, including what I'd have to call a pilgrimage to the legendary Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City. Books to be savoured over and over again, preferably with an Italian sausage sandwich in hand.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Trillin talks about food cleverly and with great humor, but not snobbily. I learned all about barbecue in Kansas City, oyster po'boys, Chinese food in NYC, and a ton of other delicious things. Three of the best food books of all time! But also excellent reading for someone who just enjoys well-written and funny stories.
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Format: Paperback
As far as I know, Calvin Trillin and I disagree on almost everything in government, economics, and legislation. However, he writes so well, that I prefer to forget the other and just remember how much he delights me with the music and fun of his words. This book is actually three books in one and all of them are about food. Trillin writes about food in a wonderfully charming way by using his family, friends, as well as the patrons, and restaurateurs he meets during his journeys in search of good eats.

"American Fried" is from 1974, "Alice, Let's Eat" from 1978, and "Third Helping" from 1983. The compilation has a new introduction that is, like the book, from 1994. America eating in the 1990s was much different than the way American's ate in 1974. Through the author's eyes (and tummy), we can recapture what it was like in those inglorious years for America's non-cuisine. Oh, there is plenty of bad food even in 2006, but it is much easier to find great food if you care to eat it.

Trillin is a wonderful storyteller. He has an eye for the telling and humorous detail and a great way with dialogue. These books are packed full of delightful anecdotes that illustrate local delights from all over the country (as well as horrors from all over the country). He has a special kindness that is never mean even while pointing out the ridiculous.

These remain fun books that I can recommend enthusiastically even though eating out on the American scene has changed a great deal since the years in which these books (this book) were written.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 24, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Becuase it is a collection of columns, there is a certain amount of redundancy; but, overall, it's a rollicking jaunt through the off-beat dineries of a vanishing America. Any easy, breezy read, one gets the feeling a dinnier with Trillin would be overshadowed by the company. Delicious!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Valjean on August 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
I seriously doubt when Calvin Trillin was knocking out this purple prose back in the early `70s that he ever considered himself a "food writer." I expect no one at the time save the M.F.K. Fishers and Elizabeth Davids of the world even considered that label for themselves. Besides, Mr. Trillin was--indeed, still is--funnier than hell about his gastronomical habits and so was likely slotted under "Humor" in disco-era bookshops--a fate, I'm sure, worse than literary death. I mention all this as a eulogy to how far we've come, category-wise; Mr. Trillin is indeed a food writer and a great one to boot. And even though he's been at this over thirty years his essential approach--*bon vivant* foodie, not frustrated chef or that hideous modern invention, "food critic"-- remains unique.

So how is it that someone scribbling about *eating* (not, mind you, *cooking*) can have me laughing out loud? And wouldn't a self-confessed "big eater" feel at least some desire to whip up what he puts away? Part of the answer lies in that essential dichotomy: Trillin seems vaguely aware that writing about consumption is ridiculous, but he lets us in on the game and, like any good comedian, takes his craft *very* seriously. Most of the stories in these three hilarious volumes have long been published elsewhere but taken together (they can easily be consumed in any order) they betray a level of culinary detail that I doubt any European 3-star Michelin grader could approach.

From the first pages a wonderful informality reigns; Trillin seems to write like I'd imagine he speaks, which in this context is near-perfect.
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