Preserving American food traditions: the food of a younger land
by intern Catherine King
I am constantly curious about what other people are eating. After friends return from traveling, I want to hear about their favorite meal of the trip. If I call my mom at dinnertime, I want to know what shes cooking. When I ran into a good friend shortly after she crossed the finish-line of the New York Marathon, I couldnt resist asking for details on her pre-race meal, even as she stood doubled-over nursing a cramp. My friends and co-workers know that any mention of an interesting meal could illicit a number of follow-up questions from my end. I just cant help myself
When it comes to food, I have a curious mind.
So when I came across Mark Kurlanskys The Food of a Younger Land, based on the food traditions of the America my grandmothers grew up in, I felt I was the perfect audience. The collection of essays aims to be a portrait of American eating before our highways, chain restaurants and industrial farming made many of our dining habits homogeneous. And while I would disagree with Kurlanskys perspective that our food traditions have all but disappeared, I wont dispute the point that regional food is now something to be sought out; often buried under generic strip malls filled with Panera Bread, Chilis and Chipotle. The many traditions that make up American eating have unquestionably evolved, and The Food of a Younger Land is an interesting reflection on where weve been.
Following his earlier food explorations, Salt and Cod, Kurlanskys newest came together by chance. While doing research on another book, he stumbled across hundreds of unpublished essays by the Federal Writers Project (FWP), a depression-era employment agency created by the Works Progress Administration. The essays were meant to be published as a collective guide to regional American food, America Eats. But just as writers were sending in finished (or unfinished) pieces in December 1941, bombs rained on Pearl Harbor and the country went to war. Funding for the FWP dried up and the project dissolved before the America Eats essays could be edited or published.
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