America Eats!: On the Road with the WPA - the Fish Fries, Box Supper Socials, and Chitlin Feasts That Define Real American Food

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9781596913622: America Eats!: On the Road with the WPA - the Fish Fries, Box Supper Socials, and Chitlin Feasts That Define Real American Food

What the Sterns did for road food, Pat Willard does for festive American group eating in this exploration of our national cuisine, with a never-before-published WPA manuscript as her guide.
In America Eats! Pat Willard takes readers on a journey into the regional nooks and crannies of American cuisine where WPA writers―including Eudora Welty, Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison, and Nelson Algren, among countless others―were dispatched in 1935 to document the roots of our diverse culinary cuisine. With the unpublished WPA manuscript as her guide, Willard visits the sites of American food's past glory to rediscover the vibrant foundation of America's traditional cuisine. She visits a booyah cook-off in Minnesota, a political feast in Mississippi, a watermelon festival in Oklahoma, and a sheepherders ball in Idaho, to name a few. Featuring recipes and never-before-seen photos, including those from the WPA by Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Marion Post Wolcott, America Eats! is a glowing celebration of American food, past and present.

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Review:

Amazon Best of the Month, July 2008: America Eats! originated as a 1935 WPA project that sent out-of-work writers (mostly unknowns, but also some soon-to-be famous names like Eudora Welty and Ralph Ellison) to chronicle America's regional cuisine, focusing on the group-dining dynamic of church suppers, harvest festivals, state fairs, political rallies, lodge suppers, and any gathering where food took center stage--"In a nation inhabited by strangers, sharing a meal lessened the loneliness of wandering across unfamiliar landscapes." While bits and pieces of their work saw the light of day over the years, the project was never completed or published and was filed away in the Library of Congress like a culinary Ark of the Covenant until Brooklyn-based food writer Pat Willard used this national artifact as a roadmap for her own coast-to-coast tour to see if these traditions still exist (many, sadly, are long gone) and offer a contemporary update on the WPA's original observations. Sprinkled throughout with heirloom recipes (Root Beer, Pickled Watermelon Rinds, Chess Pie, Son-of-Gun Stew) and never-before-published vintage photos, America Eats! is a celebration of our nation's table and a welcome addition to the popular food lit genre. "It's nice to report that, when a community need arises, we're still inspired as a nation to pull out a big pot and start throwing into it a lot of ingredients, with the understanding that sharing a large batch of something delicious with neighbors and strangers alike is a fine and proper way to accomplish some good." --Brad Thomas Parsons

About the Author:

Pat Willard is the author of Pie Every Day, A Soothing Broth, and Secrets of Saffron, which was nominated for an IACP award for the best literary cookbook. She's written for Bon Appetit, Ladies Home Journal, American Heritage, and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in Brooklyn.

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