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The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution Paperback – July 17, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“With the sweep of an epic novel, David Kamp takes us behind the scenes and into the sweaty, wacky, weird trenches of the Great American Food Revolution. His reporting is solid, his storytelling magnificent, and his good humor is seemingly inexhaustible . . . . a terrific book.” —Molly O’Neill

“Culturally aware and cleverly written, this anatomy of the French-fried versus sun-dried tension at the heart of American gastronomy is refreshingly non-snooty.”
Atlantic Monthly

"A page-turner filled with fascinating footnotes, a delicious dish about bold-faced names, and an in-depth look at the ways in which a series of food pioneers touched off a revolution." —USA Today

“Juicy, irreverent, and full of bite.” —Gael Greene

About the Author

david kamp has been a writer and editor for Vanity Fair and GQ for more than a decade. He lives in New York.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (July 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767915801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767915809
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #628,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on July 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
On the positive side: Kamp provides a focused account of fine dining and cooking in America - World War II to present. He keeps the "story-line" moving by concentrating on interesting and influential characters rather than trying to cover the whole scene. One follows the Euro-centric cooking (Europe consisting of France and later Italy) through it's transformation to Ameri-centric cooking - local, natural, organic ingredients. This history is traced primarily through New York City and California chefs and restaraunts.

In the negative, this simplification of culinary history ignores the culinary practices in the hinterlands - growing up in rural Eastern Washington in the 1950's I was familiar with roasting your own coffee beans, salmon sold from the back of cars 3-4 hours from the river, raising my own basil from seeds from the local hardware store, ... Sushi entered my vocabulary in 1970. While Kamp correctly attributes much of the Americanazion of ingredients to James Beard, he fails to recognize that Beard's culinary education at Portland's Farmers' Market was repeated on a small scale in all the roadside fruit and vegetable stands throughout the region. History as described by David Kamp may be accurate regarding the urban fine-dining scene but is not representative of the "total American scene."

The ugly - while it is useful for Kamp to provide insight into the personalities and ideological tensions among the various key players in the evolution of American taste, knowing who slept with whom and who engaged in crude and/or psychotic behavior doesn't particularly interest me nor does it add essential information for following the historical changes.

However, with the exception of the attempt to summarize the future in the final chapter, the book is a fascinating read. It provides a useful overview in which to see one's personal culinary experiences. Recommended with reservations.
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By K.A. Scott on November 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
Wow! I'm surprised that other reviewers found this book to be so gossipy. I enjoyed the little bits of personal info included throughout...helped bring it all to life for me. 'Arugula' is really well written...so dense with information yet doesn't get pedantic. One reason for this is Kamp's use of footnotes at the bottom of many pages with interesting asides. I work in the culinary arena and am somewhat familiar with our food heritage but this book took my knowledge to a more comprehensive level and entertained me in the process. (I'm still wondering how he researched this bad boy...no easy task!) Anyway, loved the book and highly recommend it...a very tasty read.
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Format: Paperback
I came to this book from an angle that many potential readers possibly share--I'm interested in food but am not a hard core "foodie"; I enjoy revelatory profiles of people but am not a gossip maven; I know some but by no means all of the characters, events, restaurants and so on addressed in this book. "Arugula", for me, is a compelling, spirited, and illuminating story, which Kamp tells with an eye ever on the parallel unfolding of the American character throughout the 20th century. Specific decades and regions are brought to life in ways not accessible to the survey of music or politics. What should be a dizzying amount of detail is delivered with a clarity and judiciousness that propel the tale forward. I came away from this book surprised and grateful that it had never been written before.
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Format: Paperback
A great title and sub-title for that matter, but after that the book begins to go downhill. I am a registered foodie--I just got back from the farmers market this morning with some beautiful heirloom tomatoes, wild arugula and tree-ripened peaches--and was immediately drawn to this book's premise: an explanation of how the US became a "gourmet" nation. That book is still waiting to be written. David Kamp's book instead consists of series of gossipy vignettes on the chef/personalities of the US largely focused on the second half of the 20th century. I learned more than I cared to about the sexual proclivities of James Beard and Craig Claiborne. If you are looking for "dish" of that sort, this is the book for you. If you are looking however for an understanding of why we have become a nation of foodies, I am afraid you will be disappointed to find that chapter after chapter you simply get more and more gossip.
I give Kamp's book two stars, because (a) he's got a great ideal--he just didn't execute on it and (b) despite the gossip tone, it appears to be well-researched.
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Format: Paperback
I don't cook a thing, but I enjoyed reading this entertaining book about cooking. The United States of Arugula is an interesting title for a book, so I decided to give this book a chance and read it. I was pleasantly surprised about how well researched this book is. There were some names I was not famillar with. I enjoyed reading about Marion Cunningham. She updated the Fannie Farmer Cookbook in 1979 with recipes like cippino which is a tomato based fish stew. Little Joes is a dish with ground beef, eggs and spinach. I learned that Craig Claiborne was influential food journalist who reviewed restaurants and published recipes for the New York Times in the 1960s I did not know that Spago started out as a pizza restaurant. I learned that Wolfgang Puck was innovative in making pizza topped with shrimp and other seafood like scallops. I learned that he also opened an Chinese restaurant a few years ago. Kamp gives a lot of biographical information about legendary people like Julia Child and James Beard. I enjoyed reading about how they made a name for themselves in the cooking industry. I also enjoyed reading about Laura Chenel and Alice Waters. These women made a name for themselves by following their passion for cheese and French food respectively. I enjoyed reading about how television have transformed cooks like Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay into celebrities. This book is a fun read.
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