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The United States of Arugula: How We Became…
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The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation (2006)

by David Kamp

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
This was a very well written book and very concise in its coverage of the way our country has moved towards gourmet food, fine dining and fresh ingredients. Kamp tells the story through the lives of James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Julia Child and Alice Waters and he does a good job of it. But the focus on the chefs is why I didn't find the book as enjoyable as I would have if it had been written from the perspective of the nation as a whole. I didn't really find the details of their lives very interesting. I often skipped over pages that went in-depth into their personal lives and would go straight to the commentary on the American diet and various food movements.

If you're looking for a book that doesn't really read like a text book, this is the one for you. ( )
  adin18 | Jun 8, 2017 |
In the last 40 years, the predominant food culture in America has become "gourmet". Salsa and sushi have gone from unknown to ubiquitous, and local ingredients, specialty cooking tools and celebrity chefs have become routine. The United States of Arugula attempts to tell the story of how this happened.

This book is a fairly fun read, although it meanders quite a bit. We start with the Big Three that popularised inventive cooking and dining - James Beard, Julia Child and Craig Claiborne, and go all the way to Emeril Lagasse's restaurant empire. Kamp has certainly done his research, and the text is packed with all kinds of little asides and tidbits that make the events in the book come to life.

Any revolution always begins with a few people, and it is always interesting to read about those people's motivations and understand the movement itself in context. Kamp takes this a little too far, though and the book comes off as overly gossipy. Beard and Claiborne's (among others) sexual preferences are exhumed in detail, and there's a lot of focus on who did and didn't get along. For instance, Graham Kerr, a contemporary of Julia Child who also had a popular cooking show, is introduced as "Everyone in the food world agreed on one person they could hate", even though their hate of him had no bearing on any significant events. I wish that Kamp had instead devoted that space to the events he mentions omitting in his introduction.

Another problem with this book is that it was really hard to follow. I usually read epic fantasy and have no trouble keeping hundreds of characters straight in my head, but Kamp introduces so many names that it detracts from the flow of the book. Many of the people mentioned by name are only mentioned once, which adds to the confusion (is this a person I'm supposed to know?) Adding to this is Kamp's love of tangents, he does not stick to one person or one chronological period or even one story. Chapter 2 starts off with an introduction of Pierre Franey entering the US, but jumps quickly to Jacques Pépin's childhood, and then to French cooks' propensity for local foods, to an explanation of "classic French cooking", to a biography of Antonin Carême and so on... and when the book got back to Franey's story after he gets off the boat, I had a hard time remembering who he was.

Aside from those two issues, the book was a great primer on recent food history in the United States. ( )
  kgodey | Apr 11, 2017 |
For me, this was a real eye-opener. I was born into a family of "buon gustai" and hadn't really noticed that everybody else had caught up with my family in both amplitude and quality. ( )
  Cacuzza | Nov 21, 2013 |
What an informative book and my goodness, it covers so much of our food revolution! What more could you ask for regarding selection of chefs and foodie personalities? To go over all the remarkable men and women in the industry and their significant contributions would be a pale rehash of what David Kamp created with this book. A compendium of stories I could flip open and go back to time and again. This isn’t a book that will be making it’s way to the used book store for trade.

Mr. Kamp is a wonderful storyteller and I certainly had vivid images of some scenes he painted. Particularly of Claiborne

With so many of my favorites such as Bourdain, Child, Beard, etc it was an open field to select one and make an inspired dish. As I haven’t visited my Francophile side in a bit, I decided on Julia Child. I made Chicken Marsala from our American chef Julia.

Details may be found at Novel Meals:
http://novelmeals.wordpress.com ( )
  SquirrelHead | Nov 4, 2013 |
A very gossipy history of the growing interest in food and cooking that has transformed American foodways since the 1970s. I would have liked more substance and less gossip. ( )
  auntieknickers | Apr 3, 2013 |
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Most of us have at least one rapturous food memory from childhood...
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After reading the Omnivores Dilemma I started on a gastro-trail of reading. This might be the 4 star place of the lot. Great history of those individuals involved in bringing taste to the American plate and rescuing us from bland food (like my mother-in-laws.) Have begun to notice names and places that Kamp mentions.

Great read.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0767915801, Paperback)

The wickedly entertaining, hunger-inducing, behind-the-scenes story of the revolution in American food that has made exotic ingredients, celebrity chefs, rarefied cooking tools, and destination restaurants familiar aspects of our everyday lives.

Amazingly enough, just twenty years ago eating sushi was a daring novelty and many Americans had never even heard of salsa. Today, we don't bat an eye at a construction worker dipping a croissant into robust specialty coffee, city dwellers buying just-picked farmstand produce, or suburbanites stocking up on artisanal cheeses and extra virgin oils at supermarkets. The United States of Arugula is a rollicking, revealing stew of culinary innovation, food politics, and kitchen confidences chronicling how gourmet eating in America went from obscure to pervasive—and became the cultural success story of our era.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:23 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A compilation of essays goes inside the American food revolution to explore the growing interest in gourmet eating, chronicling the evolution of the movement and profiling those responsible for the transformation.

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