31 May 2009

The Food of a Younger Land

An interesting new book for your summer reading -- especially if your are planning some summer road trips-- has just come to my attention: The Food of a Younger Land : A portrait of American food - before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional - from the lost WPA files, by Mark Kurlansky. Reviewed in the Sunday Book Review of The New York Times, an excerpt:

"Like many archaeological finds, “The Food of a Younger Land” comes with a rich back story. In 1939, Katherine Kellock, the Federal Writers’ Project editor responsible for the travel guidebooks that succored many unemployed writers through the Great Depression (Saul Bellow, John Cheever and Richard Wright among them), hatched a new idea: a book, to be entitled “America Eats,” about “American cookery and the part it has played in the national life.” Writers fanned out across the republic to document — via field reports, essays, stories, poems, recipes and interviews — what academics have taken to calling “foodways.” Among the topics covered were New York soda-luncheonette slang, Georgia possum cookery, Minnesota lutefisk, geoduck clams in Washington State, Montana’s fried beaver tail, Colorado food superstitions (“You will receive mail from the direction in which your pie is pointing, when it is set down at your place at the table”), a Choctaw “funeral cry” feast and “a Los Angeles sandwich called a taco.” Throughout 1940 and 1941, raw copy flowed into Washington, D.C., where it was farmed out to rewriters — including Nelson Algren — for shaping into book form. Then came Pearl Harbor. The Federal Writers’ Project — “one of the noblest and most absurd undertakings ever attempted by any state,” as W. H. Auden described it — morphed into the Writers Unit of the War Services, and “America Eats” went down as a war casualty. All that remained of it was a stack of onionskin carbon copies “almost two feet high,” according to Kurlansky, that Kellock deposited in the Library of Congress."

The entire essay is worth reading in the Sunday Book Review.


The Food of a Younger Land : A portrait of American food - before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional - from the lost WPA files
by Mark Kurlansky
Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pub. Date: May 2009
ISBN-13: 9781594488658
416pp

Available online at Barnes and Noble.

20 May 2009

Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan

And the winner for The 2009 Best Cookbook of the Year, is: Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes, by Jennifer McLagan, recently announced at the The 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards Winners.

A synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

"An appealing exploration of fat in cooking — a component of food that’s newly fashionable — with recipes and culinary history.

Duck fat. Caul fat. Leaf lard. Bacon. Ghee. Suet. Schmaltz. Cracklings. Jennifer McLagan knows and loves culinary fat and you’ll remember that you do too once you get a taste of her lusty, food-positive writing and sophisticated comfort-food recipes. Dive into more than 100 sweet and savory recipes using butter, pork fat, poultry fat, and beef and lamb fats, including Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel and Rosemary, Risotto Milanese, Duck Rillettes, Bone Marrow Crostini, and Choux Paste Beignets. Scores of sidebars on the cultural, historical, and scientific facets of culinary fats as well as thirty-six styled food photos make for a plump, juicy, satisfying package for food lovers.

The New York Times - Craig Seligman:

Eat fat! That's a message I can get behind. In fact, Jennifer McLagan's substantial and by no means unserious Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes makes the same argument Michael Pollan created a stir with earlier this year in his much talked-about In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto: that the craze for animal-fat substitutes has damaged our health. Fat, it turns out, is a lot like TV—nourishing as long as it's not your whole diet…None of which would matter if her recipes weren't brilliant. Most of them aren't for neophytes, but they reward the effort."

Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes
by Jennifer McLagan, Leigh Beisch (Photographer)
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Pub. Date: September 2008
ISBN-13: 9781580089357

Available online at Barnes and Noble.

13 May 2009

The 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards Winners





The 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards Winners were recently announced (always look forward to them).

From the Press Release:

Highlights from this year’s list of winners include:

Outstanding Restaurant: Jean Georges (Chef/Owner: Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Owner: Phil Suarez, New York, NY)

Outstanding Chef: Dan Barber (Blue Hill, New York, NY)

Rising Star Chef: Nate Appleman (A16, San Francisco, CA)

Best New Restaurant: Momofuku Ko (Chef/Owners: David Chang and Peter Serpico, New York, NY)

Cookbook of the Year: Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes (Author: Jennifer McLagan, Publisher: Ten Speed Press, Editor: Clancy Drake)

To view the entire list, visit The James Beard Foundation.

More on some of the winners later...