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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 [NOOK Book]

Overview


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. America Eats!, as the project was entitled, was never published. With the unpublished WPA manuscript as her guide, Willard visits the sites of American foods past glory to explore whether American traditional cuisine is still as ...
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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

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Overview


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. America Eats!, as the project was entitled, was never published. With the unpublished WPA manuscript as her guide, Willard visits the sites of American foods past glory to explore whether American traditional cuisine is still as healthy and vibrant today as it was then.
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Editorial Reviews

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.
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

The Barnes & Noble Review
The very title -- exclamation point officially included -- conveys the exuberance of its original editors. Starting in the late '30s, as part of the Works Progress Administration, a passel of notable writers -- Eudora Welty, Saul Bellow, and Ralph Ellison among them -- were paid to document American cooking from coast to coast. Alas, the project was met with the same suspicion as many other WPA projects -- Frivolous spending! A haven for Communists! -- and was soon killed for good. Now food writer Pat Willard has retrieved the shelved manuscripts, placing selections from the originals side by side with an account of her own coast-to-coast road trip to track down modern havens of American eating. No mere recipe hound, she stays true to the original project, with an eye on "importance of social gatherings that glorify the non-professional cook and keep traditional cookery alive." The selections from WPA writers document thresher's dinners, chitlin struts, and squirrel hunts -- with dialect, social attitudes, and racial prejudice intact. Willard finds county fairs and venison farms, and explains the difference between Brunswick stew, booya, and burgoo. The occasional recipes come in proportions meant for sharing -- say, 30 pounds of oxtail, four hens, and a bushel of tomatoes. While plenty of food writers have documented American cookery, few do so with quite the same vintage charm, literary snap, and respect for the kind of recipes best made in neighborly batches to serve 50 or 500. --Amy Benfer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608196661
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 1/15/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 664,652
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.81 (d)
  • File size: 6 MB

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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Table of Contents

1 The American cauldron 1

2 The big-hearted feast - fund-raising dinners 17

3 The harvest queen - agricultural fairs 47

4 The wild shores - the Northwest 78

5 The groveling season - political gatherings 98

6 A gathering in the woods - national holidays 124

7 At the Lord's table - church suppers 148

8 The undertaker's meal - funeral ceremonies 180

9 Stomping at the post - social club celebrations 197

10 The frontier - Mexicans, Indians, and cowboys 222

11 City life - a walk between then and now 151

12 America eats! now - home from the road, mulling things over 278

Acknowledgments 291

Photo credits 293

List of recipes 295

Index 297

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 11, 2009

    Made me want to eat!

    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!

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  • Posted February 17, 2009

    very good

    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.<BR/>I love reading books that show people willing to help one another, not like in this dog eat dog world we live in now

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