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The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 12, 2006


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; First Edition edition (September 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767915798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767915793
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kamp, a writer and editor for Vanity Fair and GQ, details the development of fine dining in the U.S. and proves healthy, even exotic food movements are having an effect on our diet. He highlights the great divide between a population that relies on McDonald's and those who savor gourmet cooking. Historically, the rich always had high-end restaurants; the rest contented themselves with recipes in the ladies' sections of newspapers and magazines. But thanks to "the Big Three"—James Beard, Julia Child and Craig Claiborne—America had an eating revolution. Kamp supplies an engaging account of their careers; Claiborne has a particularly spicy life story. While The Joy of Cooking focused on helping housewives keep "one eye on the family purse and the other on the bathroom scale," says Kamp, quoting Irma Rombauer, Beard saw cooking as a passion. During the 1960s, restaurant reviews became respectable journalism and dining out a status symbol. As rebellion turned to affluence, "eating, cooking and food-shopping were symbols for those who considered themselves upwardly mobile." This cultural history makes for an engrossing read, documenting the dramas and rivalries of the food industry. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It seemed in the late 1950s that Americans were hopelessly wed to time-saving, nutritionally suspect food whose chief virtue was its ability to provide instant gratification of the most untutored senses. Then along came, in close succession, an imperious French chef, a couple of gay men, and a remarkably tall, surprisingly telegenic woman. They formed a vanguard for battalions of cookbook writers, restaurant owners, chefs, food critics, grocers, and television producers and personalities who brought the principles of fine food to increasingly sophisticated masses with plenty of discretionary income to indulge themselves. With pronounced and definite opinion, Kamp retells the culinary saga of these revolutionary times. His accounts of these pioneers of taste explain the contributions of each, and he regales the reader with gossipy anecdotes that belie the public faces with which these "authorities" sometimes masked their appetites for sex, drugs, celebrity, and money. Kamp's recounting of the rise of California cuisine--epitomized by Alice Waters and her Berkeley circle--aptly summarizes the era's glories and excesses. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Over the last 20 years, David Kamp has carved out a dual career in "proper" journalism and humor writing: like Calvin Trillin's, only far less respected and lucrative. He is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine and the author of national bestseller "The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution" (selected as one of the New York Times's Notable Books of 2006), as well as the "Snob's Dictionary" series of humorous lexicons: "The Rock Snob's Dictionary," "The Film Snob's Dictionary," "The Food Snob's Dictionary," and "The Wine Snob's Dictionary."

Kamp got his start at Spy magazine, the seminal satirical New York monthly, while still in college in 1987. He was later an editor and writer for GQ magazine, and, since 1996, has been writing full-time, with his work appearing in Vanity Fair, GQ, and the New York Times, among other publications. His interests include food (the subject of "The United States of Arugula"), pro football (he has profiled Tom Brady, Troy Polamalu, and Tony Romo for GQ, but, alas, none of his beloved New York Giants), and, especially, music (he profiled the reclusive Sly Stone for Vanity Fair and also wrote of Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash's moving late-in-life friendship for that magazine). Above all, Kamp is uncomfortable writing self-aggrandizing words about himself in the third person.

Kamp, who is currently at work on another sweeping work of nonfiction, lives in Greenwich Village and rural Connecticut with his wife, two children, and dog. His author site, which is occasionally actually updated with fun stuff, is at davidkamp.com

Customer Reviews

This book is very well written.
Angie2
David Kamp chronicles the story of how we became a nation of foodies and in the process chronicles our cultural history as well.
Avid Reader
Once I picked it up, the other books I was reading at the time sat idle until this one was finished.
K. Fay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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.

I can't think of anyone Kamp has left out of his book. Even Jane and Michael Stern, who specialize in finding the "best" greasy spoons, and The Frugal Gourmet (remember him?) are mentioned, if only in chatty and rather informative footnotes. But back to the gossip. Here you'll find out what food critic made Emeril Lagasse cry, what Alice Waters said to Rick Bayless when he appeared in Burger King commercials, and about the feud between Mexican food experts Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Joan Phillips on September 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
David Kamp has written a terrifically entertaining account of how America went from being a nation of iceberg eaters to a culture of baby field greens connoisseurs. In this story of America's gourmet revolution (and revolution it indeed was), the author focuses on the the real-life characters behind the Big Names: Julia, Craig, James, Alice, et al come fully to life, thanks to lots of interviews and newly reported facts. Kamp brings the chefs and their passions vividly to life and shows the role each played, however unintentionally, in getting chipotle-blueberry-Ceasar dressing onto the nation's menu.

The book isn't just for foodies, although anyone who is already interested in the subject will find a lot of new details and fresh ideas here. Like all really good non-fiction books, The United States of Arugula satisfies an appetite you didn't necessarily know you had.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is certainly a fun read for any foodie, and author David Kamp, a writer who contributes to Vanity Fair and GQ, does a terrifically entertaining job of providing both a historical perspective and a current look at the burgeoning culinary industry. He starts with the triumvirate of influencers who shaped much of what we know of cooking today from unique perspectives - Julia Child, James Beard and Craig Claiborne. Each paved the way for those who followed - Child as the early TV pioneer who made French-style cooking accessible to housewives across the country; Beard as the author of several best-selling cookbooks, some still considered definitive; and Claiborne as the first food critic for the New York Times and also a prodigious cookbook author - all redefining our views of gastronomy over the years.

In fact, Kamp's entire book is driven by the personalities that dominate the culinary world, and as such, makes an interesting companion piece to Michael Ruhlman's "The Reach of a Chef: Beyond the Kitchen". For instance, the author spends several pages on Alice Waters, the natural successor to Child, as her focus on fresh and seasonal cuisine caused a palpable shift from technique to ingredients. The revolution she started with her menus at the legendary Chez Panisse restaurant also induced a perceptual geographic shift from the East to the West Coast, where organic produce and free-range chickens entered our collective food vocabulary. From my perspective, Kamp is at his best when he makes the parallels between culinary trends and the consumerism that has evolved since WWII. He shows how the prevailing French influence was not accidental, as it came about with the influx of kitchen workers from France after the war and continues today to what kitchenware we purchase.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mhristie on July 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Rather than listing the subtitle as "How We Became a Gourmet Nation," Kamp should have explained that his book is really "A Collection of Gossip about Chefs in California and New York." While entertaining, the disjointed anecdotes read more like a Page Six column than an actual book. If you're looking for juicy details about James Beard's sex life, look no further, but if you're looking for an exploration of the American people's development of a culinary identity, don't be misled. There's little substance here, and I was bored by having to repeatedly relive the "denoument" of various "hunky" culinary geniuses.
Equally disappointing was the denial that a nation exists between the coasts; I know that New Yorkers believe that outside of their enlightened realm Americans eat Cheesy Mac and McD's, but for a journalist to fail to address the traditions and development of the palate of the majority of the nation is silly and shortsighted.
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