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The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America's Food Hardcover – November 9, 2015
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“It is the off-the-wall blend of memoir, travel, history and fiction that makes the book unique. This is the cookbook David Foster Wallace might have written…. If you enjoyed J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest and appreciate the style of writers like Geoff Dyer, Maggie Nelson and Will Self, this should be your next food-themed read.”
- Rebecca Foster, BookTrib.com
“Never has a country-spanning food romp felt this subversive. Frank’s essays―which dissect signature dishes from all 50 states―are nothing short of brilliant…. [A]n exploration of humanity, life, and tastes, the book is delicious. A-”
- Entertainment Weekly
“This is potent stuff, a demi-glace, if you will, that has been reduced down, unnecessary words struck from the page to offer prose akin to poetry, dense and evocative…. A bravado performance…. [The Mad Feast] is a very good book, and one that provides the sense of literary adventure that struck me when I first read the opening lines of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer…. Mr. Frank is not ‘mad’ as the title might imply, nor is he perversely calculating. He feels his way along his travels and connects one notion to another until he develops a literary skein that vibrates with passion. That, I suppose, is a pretty good definition of writing, the good kind.”
- Mr. Kimball, Wall Street Journal
“[A] raucous gastro-crawl through regional American cuisine.”
- Jeffery Gleaves, The Paris Review Daily
“[Frank]’s produced a surprising, entertaining look at what Americans eat and why.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“The Mad Feast is the ideal gift for your closest traveling companion, a self-guided tour crafted with a native’s intuition and panache…. Using quirky historical anecdotes that echo a nation’s motley coming-of-age, Frank has found a way to serve each state’s beating heart on a platter. At turns spunky, wise, and melancholic, The Mad Feast is essential reading material for your next cross-country road trip.”
“This crazy culinary cruise through America is as messy and wonderful as Iowa's Loosemeat Sandwich. …This is no cookbook with practical recipes or a patronizing tour of backwoods eateries, but a meditation on our nation's strange history that stares up at us from the plate, as tart as a Key lime and dense as Mississippi Mud Pie.”
- Andrew Lawler, author of Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?
“Matthew Gavin Frank’s The Mad Feast is like a baby who wants to learn the world by putting everything in its mouth. If eating means bringing everything we’re not into our bodies, then this book―rich, exuberant, unexpected―explores how we’re contained within everything we bring into ourselves. It’s messy and playful; it pushes association to the brink of absurdity and then sits at that border, munching on a slice of cake or spooning some chowder. Every chapter reads less like reportage and more like incantation, assembling from local materials the particular ingredients necessary to cast a singular spell.”
- Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
“In The Mad Feast, Matthew Gavin Frank is our Merry Prankster of literary food writing, taking his readers on a mind-bending trip through the pork-belly of America. Lush, exuberant, and manically associative, this book is so much more than a collection of recipes (but it is that, too); it’s an ecstatic and essayistic exploration of culture, community, history, and philosophy. I could not put it down, and I keep going back for more.”
- Steven Church, author of Ultrasonic: Essays, founding editor of The Normal School
About the Author
Matthew Gavin Frank has previously written about everything from wine-making in a tent in Italy to the social hierarchies of a pot farm in California. He teaches creative writing and lives in Marquette, Michigan.
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I toyed with ending this brief review with some literary extravaganza of words, but I'll leave it at this. Read this because you enjoy flowery, somewhat unconventional writing rather than because you want to learn about iconic state foods.
If you're looking for a cookbook, a serious book on food, or an accurate history of food in American culture, "The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America's Food" is one Cook's Tour short of a Happy Meal. Over-written, under-researched, and poorly presented for the discriminating reader's plate. I thought the author's section on my own native state (North Carolina) was both inaccurate and offensive. A subsequent read through a half-dozen other states and the author's food selections confirmed the book's three primary ingredients -- an over-used premise, annoying verbosity, and feeble attempt to amuse or offend.
Savor "The Mad Feast" with a healthy glass of bicarbonate of soda.