The Food of a Younger Land: A portrait of American food--before the national highway system, beforechain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation's food was seasonalregional, and traditional--from the lost WPA files

Overview

A remarkable portrait of American food before World War II, presented by the New York Times-bestselling author of Cod and Salt.

Award-winning New York Times-bestselling author Mark Kurlansky takes us back to the food and eating habits of a younger America: Before the national highway system brought the country closer together; before chain restaurants imposed uniformity and low quality; and before the Frigidaire meant frozen food in mass quantities, the nation's food was ...

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The Food of a Younger Land: The South Eats Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, The Carolinas,Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas

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Overview

A remarkable portrait of American food before World War II, presented by the New York Times-bestselling author of Cod and Salt.

Award-winning New York Times-bestselling author Mark Kurlansky takes us back to the food and eating habits of a younger America: Before the national highway system brought the country closer together; before chain restaurants imposed uniformity and low quality; and before the Frigidaire meant frozen food in mass quantities, the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional. It helped form the distinct character, attitudes, and customs of those who ate it.

In the 1930s, with the country gripped by the Great Depression and millions of Americans struggling to get by, FDR created the Federal Writers' Project under the New Deal as a make-work program for artists and authors. A number of writers, including Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, and Nelson Algren, were dispatched all across America to chronicle the eating habits, traditions, and struggles of local people. The project, called "America Eats," was abandoned in the early 1940s because of the World War and never completed.

The Food of a Younger Land unearths this forgotten literary and historical treasure and brings it to exuberant life. Mark Kurlansky's brilliant book captures these remarkable stories, and combined with authentic recipes, anecdotes, photos, and his own musings and analysis, evokes a bygone era when Americans had never heard of fast food and the grocery superstore was a thing of the future. Kurlansky serves as a guide to this hearty and poignant look at the country's roots.

From New York automats to Georgia Coca-Cola parties, from Arkansas possum-eating clubs to Puget Sound salmon feasts, from Choctaw funerals to South Carolina barbecues, the WPA writers found Americans in their regional niches and eating an enormous diversity of meals. From Mississippi chittlins to Indiana persimmon puddings, Maine lobsters, and Montana beavertails, they recorded the curiosities, commonalities, and communities of American food.

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Editorial Reviews

Nora Krug
…not all the recipes are appetizing. But the stories that accompany them give voice to a prewar America as quaint as a Georgia Coca-Cola party…And while [Kurlansky's] analysis is thoughtful, the book gets its spunk from the contributions of such little-known writers as Claire Warner Churchill of Oregon, who rants against the trend toward whipped potatoes.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

A genuine culinary and historical keepsake: in the late 1930s the WPA farmed out a writing project with the ambition of other New Deal programs: an encyclopedia of American food and food traditions from coast-to-coast similar to the federal travel guides. After Pearl Harbor, the war effort halted the project for good; the book was never published, and the files were archived in the Library of Congress. Food historian Kurlansky (Cod; The Big Oyster) brought the unassembled materials to light and created this version of the guide that never was. In his abridged yet remarkable version, he presents what some of the thousands of writers (among them Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston and Nelson Algren) found: America, its food, its people and its culture, at the precise moment when modernism and progress were kicking into gear. Adhering to the administrators' original organization, the book divides regionally; within each section are entries as specific as "A California Grunion Fry," and as general and historical as the one on "Sioux and Chippewa Food." Though we've become a fast-food nation, this extraordinary collection-at once history, anthropology, cookbook, almanac and family album-provides a vivid and revitalizing sense of the rural and regional characteristics and distinctions that we've lost and can find again here. (May 14)

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

"Vivid and playful dispatches from pre-interstate, pre-fast-food America, when food was local and cuisine regional.... Fun, illuminating, and provocative." ---Booklist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594488658
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/14/2009
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Kurlansky

Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling author of many books, including The Food of a Younger Land, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; Salt: A World History; 1968: The Year That Rocked the World; and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. He lives in New York City.

Biography

Blessed with extraordinary narrative skills, journalist and bestselling author Mark Kurlansky is one of a burgeoning breed of writers who has turned a variety of eclectic, offbeat topics into engaging nonfiction blockbusters.

Kurlansky worked throughout the 1970s and '80s as a foreign correspondent in Europe and Mexico. He spent seven years covering the Caribbean for the Chicago Tribune and transformed the experience into his first book. Published in 1992, A Continent of Islands was described by Kirkus Reviews as "[a] penetrating analysis of the social, political, sexual, and cultural worlds that exist behind the four-color Caribbean travel posters."

Since then, Kurlansky has produced a steady stream of bestselling nonfiction, much of it inspired by his longstanding interest in food and food history. (He has worked as a chef and a pastry maker and has written award-winning articles for several culinary magazines.) Among his most popular food-centric titles are the James Beard Award winner Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World (1997), Salt: A World History (2002), and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell (2006). All three were adapted into illustrated children's books.

In 2004, Kurlansky cast his net wider with 1968: The Year that Rocked the World, an ambitious, colorful narrative history that sought to link political and cultural revolutions around the world to a single watershed year. While the book itself received mixed reviews, Kurlanski's storytelling skill was universally praised. In 2006, he published the scholarly, provocative critique Nonviolence: Twenty-five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea. It received the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

Despite occasional forays into fiction (the 2000 short story collection The White Man in the Tree and the 2005 novel Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue), Kurlansky's bailiwick remains the sorts of freewheeling colorful, and compulsively readable micro-histories that 21st-century readers cannot get enough of.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, NY
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 7, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Hartford, CT
    1. Education:
      Butler University, B.A. in Theater, 1970

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2009

    We eat foods because they were there...

    I bought this book for my husband who loves to cook and eat. Most of his reading is technical - related to cars, motorcycles and gardening. He has been so involved in this book, he even stayed away from his computer. Historical information has prompted him to read parts out loud for me. We both were surprised to learn about the connection between feeding early American families and finding works of African-American authors which we now absolutely cherish. It will probably be necessary for me to read the book myself in order to fully appreciate American history through food. Much more interesting than bare facts!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Disappointed

    I expected something more like "grandma's cookbook" and was disappointed to find the recipies were for cooking wild animals I never would consider eating. Maybe I just didn't read far enough into it, but I was happy to return the book for my money back.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Zerp






    M

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