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

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

4.5 2
by Pat Willard
     
 

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,

Overview

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 With the unpublished WPA manuscript as her guide, Willard visits the sites of American food's past glory to rediscover the vibrant foundation of America's traditional cuisine.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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Who but Pat Willard (A Pie Everyday, Secrets of Saffron) could find a tasty morsel in the Library of Congress? The morsel in question is a WPA project in which a number of authors, famous and unknown alike, were sent on the road to cover the communal culinary orgies to be found at the fairs, feasts and festivals so frequently held across the country, whether in the name of God, politics or pie. What Willard cooks up is an even tastier literary stew that includes (aside from squirrel as an ingredient) not only a lively anthology of the WPA work, but and even livelier narrative of revisits, re-samples, re-assessments, and recipes, all intriguingly spiced with cultural history, quirky local dialogue, and wonderful photographs by WPA greats like Dorthea Lange. One of a kind.” —Betsy Burton, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah

“[Willard's] lovingly researched book, a tribute to regional cooking, is startling, funny and lip-smackingly good.” —More magazine

“It's about time somebody wrote this…Willard blows the dust off, reprinting the original pieces along with her own revisits to the places and events from long ago. The result is new attention to an old project that gives a lively glimpse into how we eat together.” —Charlotte Observer

“Engaging… Willard's enthusiasm is contagious, her project enviable.” —Arizona Republic

“Wonderful descriptions and vignettes of American group eating - the food and its preparation, and the social life and customs surrounding it - written by members of the Federal Writers' Project in the late 1930s and early '40s. To this, the author has added her own thoughtful accounts as she travels across the land to discover present incarnations of those earlier feasts.” —Boston Globe

“The spirit of camaraderie, and the determination to not let penury rob everyday existence of the companionable joys of food, are moving and instructive 70 years on.” —Atlantic Monthly

“America Eats offers an unfettered view of the lives of ordinary folk, not unlike going out with good friends or long-lost relatives for a taste of country life.” —Christian Science Monitor

Publishers Weekly

The original America Eats! was written for the WPA by out-of-work writers during the Depression of the 1930s as "an account of group eating as an important American social institution," the development of local, traditional cookery by churches and communities, fairs, festivals, rodeos, fund-raisers, rent parties and the like. It was never completed or published, but when food writer Willard (Secrets of Saffron) found the manuscript in the Library of Congress, she decided to follow the footsteps of the original writers to find what remained of these feasts, or a modern equivalent. The result is an interesting anthology of original WPA writing (most by unknowns, but often lively) and contemporary experience. Willard found Brunswick Stew (historically made with squirrel meat) in North Carolina and Virginia as well as versions of it in Minnesota (booya) and Kentucky (burgoo). Recipes (not always with squirrel) are given. There are still Melon Days in Colorado and Oklahoma, and an Apple Week in Washington State. Fewer homes have kitchen gardens now, and some fair food is distinctly modern (fried Twinkies), but Willard did find a wild-game dinner in Oregon and, of course, barbecue everywhere. Where there were once tobacco farms in traditionally dry Southern counties, Willard, in this engaging book, finds vineyards. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596913622
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
07/08/2008
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.05(d)

Meet 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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America Eats!: On the Road with the WPA - the Fish Fries, Box Supper Socials, and Chittlin' Feasts That Define Real American Food 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
JoanP60615 More than 1 year ago
The Works Progress Administration was one of the glories of the New Deal. Although it employed millions of people, it is probably best known for the work it provided to artists and writers through the Federal Writers' Project and the Federal Artists' Project. One of the projects it embarked on was to document "how America eats", more specifically, to document local social gatherings at which food was served and thus describe "American" cookery and its importance to community. Despite the many writers and photographers who contributed to the project, the planned book (to be called "America Eats!") never came to fruition, but the papers were boxed up, and, though many were lost, many were preserved. Decades later, Pat Willard had the brilliant idea of going back to the towns and gatherings visited by the FWP writers to find out if those traditions and foods were still around. Her book alternates excerpts from the original manuscripts with her own descriptions of what she found, grouped by themes such as "Agricultural Fairs", "Fund-raising Dinners", "Political Gatherings" and the like. (She also includes a few recipes, as lagniappe.) Willard found that many of the events memorialized by the FWP writers no longer existed or had been transformed (some weren't even remembered!), but others were still going strong. As we travel the roads of the United States, eating dishes ranging from Brunswick Stew in North Carolina to barbecued salmon in Oregon, we learn, through the food and the reasons for the socializing, the history and culture of these places. Lucky Pat Willard, to taste so many good things. And I greatly appreciate her bringing the stories written for the FWP out of the boxes in which they'd been stores and into the light of day. If I have any quibble with the book, it is with Willard's defensiveness about American cuisine. The food can speak for itself!
lmh65 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I liked reading about the communties and their get togethers. It's nice to read something that when times are tough, people still manage to get by and always have enough for strangers or others that are in need.
I love reading books that show people willing to help one another, not like in this dog eat dog world we live in now