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One day we woke up and realized that our "macaroni" had become "pasta," that our Wonder Bread had been replaced by organic whole wheat, that sushi was fast food, and that our tomatoes were heirlooms. How did all this happen, and who made it happen? The United States of Arugula is the rollicking, revealing chronicle of how gourmet eating in America went from obscure to perv One day we woke up and realized that our "macaroni" had become "pasta," that our Wonder Bread had been replaced by organic whole wheat, that sushi was fast food, and that our tomatoes were heirlooms. How did all this happen, and who made it happen? The United States of Arugula is the rollicking, revealing chronicle of how gourmet eating in America went from obscure to pervasive, thanks to the contributions of some outsized, opinionated iconoclasts who couldn't abide the status quo. Vanity Fair writer David Kamp chronicles this amazing transformation, from the overcooked vegetables and scary gelatin salads of yore to our current heyday of free-range chickens, extra-virgin olive oil, Iron Chef, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and that breed of human known as the "foodie." In deft fashion, Kamp conjures up vivid images of the "Big Three," the lodestars who led us out of this culinary wilderness: James Beard, the hulking, bald, flamboyant Oregonian who made the case for American cookery; Julia Child, the towering, warbling giantess who demystified French cuisine for Americans; and Craig Claiborne, the melancholy, sexually confused Mississippian who all but invented food journalism at the New York Times. The story continues onward with candid, provocative commentary from the food figures who prospered in the Big Three's wake: Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower of Berkeley's Chez Panisse, Wolfgang Puck and his L.A. acolytes, the visionary chefs we know by one name (Emeril, Daniel, Mario, Jean-Georges), the "Williams" in Williams-Sonoma, the "Niman" in Niman Ranch, both Dean and DeLuca, and many others. A rich, frequently uproarious stew of culinary innovation, flavor revelations, balsamic pretensions, taste-making luminaries, food politics, and kitchen confidences, The United States of Arugula is the remarkable history of the cultural success story of our era.


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One day we woke up and realized that our "macaroni" had become "pasta," that our Wonder Bread had been replaced by organic whole wheat, that sushi was fast food, and that our tomatoes were heirlooms. How did all this happen, and who made it happen? The United States of Arugula is the rollicking, revealing chronicle of how gourmet eating in America went from obscure to perv One day we woke up and realized that our "macaroni" had become "pasta," that our Wonder Bread had been replaced by organic whole wheat, that sushi was fast food, and that our tomatoes were heirlooms. How did all this happen, and who made it happen? The United States of Arugula is the rollicking, revealing chronicle of how gourmet eating in America went from obscure to pervasive, thanks to the contributions of some outsized, opinionated iconoclasts who couldn't abide the status quo. Vanity Fair writer David Kamp chronicles this amazing transformation, from the overcooked vegetables and scary gelatin salads of yore to our current heyday of free-range chickens, extra-virgin olive oil, Iron Chef, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and that breed of human known as the "foodie." In deft fashion, Kamp conjures up vivid images of the "Big Three," the lodestars who led us out of this culinary wilderness: James Beard, the hulking, bald, flamboyant Oregonian who made the case for American cookery; Julia Child, the towering, warbling giantess who demystified French cuisine for Americans; and Craig Claiborne, the melancholy, sexually confused Mississippian who all but invented food journalism at the New York Times. The story continues onward with candid, provocative commentary from the food figures who prospered in the Big Three's wake: Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower of Berkeley's Chez Panisse, Wolfgang Puck and his L.A. acolytes, the visionary chefs we know by one name (Emeril, Daniel, Mario, Jean-Georges), the "Williams" in Williams-Sonoma, the "Niman" in Niman Ranch, both Dean and DeLuca, and many others. A rich, frequently uproarious stew of culinary innovation, flavor revelations, balsamic pretensions, taste-making luminaries, food politics, and kitchen confidences, The United States of Arugula is the remarkable history of the cultural success story of our era.

30 review for The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susanne

    My big issue with this book is that the title is misleading. Relatively little page space is dedicated to foods of the "sun dried, cold pressed, dark roasted, extra virgin" varieties. Mostly it is a gossipy history of the past 60 years of US celebrity chefs. The title should have been "The Story of the American Food Revolution: From James Beard, Julia Child and Craig Claiborne to Alice Waters, the Food Network and Top Chef" or something like that. That said, it did give me a better understanding My big issue with this book is that the title is misleading. Relatively little page space is dedicated to foods of the "sun dried, cold pressed, dark roasted, extra virgin" varieties. Mostly it is a gossipy history of the past 60 years of US celebrity chefs. The title should have been "The Story of the American Food Revolution: From James Beard, Julia Child and Craig Claiborne to Alice Waters, the Food Network and Top Chef" or something like that. That said, it did give me a better understanding of key players in the development of various restaurant trends in the US. It is a nice companion to more food-focused books, just nothing like I expected from the title.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Aneesa

    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 int 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    carrietracy

    I really wanted to read this book, I wanted to finish this book, but it felt like work. It is relentless in its insistence on mentioning the name of anyone ever connected to the culinary scene in America. I'm relatively familiar with most of the people mentioned, but I can't say I was made to care. There were gems of information in the book that made it worth the slogging, I was fascinated by Jacques Pepin's association with Howard Johnson's, and the shipping of mushrooms from Oregon to Germany I really wanted to read this book, I wanted to finish this book, but it felt like work. It is relentless in its insistence on mentioning the name of anyone ever connected to the culinary scene in America. I'm relatively familiar with most of the people mentioned, but I can't say I was made to care. There were gems of information in the book that made it worth the slogging, I was fascinated by Jacques Pepin's association with Howard Johnson's, and the shipping of mushrooms from Oregon to Germany for canning and then being returned to the US where they couldn't get fresh mushrooms, but it just wasn't worth it. I shouldn't dread sitting down to read, it shouldn't be homework, and it felt like it was. I recommend it only for the most dedicated foodies or people with a strong knowledge of the American culinary scene who want to follow all the name-dropping.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeannen

    I was mildly entertained by this book, which traces the change in the American food landscape over the past 50 years. James Beard, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, Alice Waters, Mollie Katzen – all of those are people I’ve heard of, whereas a lot of the names he talks about – French chefs, people who started “buzz” restaurants in New York and California – are entirely unfamiliar to me. The book spends a LOT of time on Alice Waters's restaurants, but spent just a little time on Dean & Deluca, which I was mildly entertained by this book, which traces the change in the American food landscape over the past 50 years. James Beard, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, Alice Waters, Mollie Katzen – all of those are people I’ve heard of, whereas a lot of the names he talks about – French chefs, people who started “buzz” restaurants in New York and California – are entirely unfamiliar to me. The book spends a LOT of time on Alice Waters's restaurants, but spent just a little time on Dean & Deluca, which had a massive impact on the way I ate when I lived in NYC, before I had ever heard of Alice Waters. And he skimmed right past the advent of Whole Foods… I hoped the book would take a break from dishing on the personal foibles of various food celebrities, and get back to addressing how the interest in fresh ingredients and good cooking got to the point that the Food Channel could actually sustain itself, but it didn't really. . We’ll see. One thing I can say is that the book has made me want to be eating good but not-fussy food. Hasn’t made me actually want to spend the time to make that kind of food, though.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eddie

    This book started off incredibly slowly and dryly--talking about Julia Child and James Beard should be entertaining, and rollicking and crazy, but it wasn't. It picked up a LOT when the next generation started to come into the picture--maybe because the folks at Chez Panisse *were* in fact completely crazy in the first days. Regardless, it really was fascinating--how *fast* we went from Julia Child hoping to sell a few books to McDonalds selling mesclun salads is almost incomprehensible. It's st This book started off incredibly slowly and dryly--talking about Julia Child and James Beard should be entertaining, and rollicking and crazy, but it wasn't. It picked up a LOT when the next generation started to come into the picture--maybe because the folks at Chez Panisse *were* in fact completely crazy in the first days. Regardless, it really was fascinating--how *fast* we went from Julia Child hoping to sell a few books to McDonalds selling mesclun salads is almost incomprehensible. It's still not clear what caused things to tip in that direction, nor is it clear if it's A) sustainable B) happening outside of the coasts. But the fact remains that you now can buy a bagel in Peoria, IL, and you couldn't 20 years ago.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cathie

    A good reference on historical time line and the key players that emerged during the American Food Revolution.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Liss Carmody

    Essentially a history of the pop culture of cuisine, specifically gourmet cuisine, over the past hundred years, tracing quickly through the various movements and rising and falling stars within this world: the chefs, the restaurants, the celebrities, the cookbooks, and the food trends themselves. I found the stories of the advent of particular gourmet, now taken for granted, foodstuffs (like balsamic vinegar and sushi) to be more fascinating than the careers of even the most storied chefs, inter Essentially a history of the pop culture of cuisine, specifically gourmet cuisine, over the past hundred years, tracing quickly through the various movements and rising and falling stars within this world: the chefs, the restaurants, the celebrities, the cookbooks, and the food trends themselves. I found the stories of the advent of particular gourmet, now taken for granted, foodstuffs (like balsamic vinegar and sushi) to be more fascinating than the careers of even the most storied chefs, interesting though they were. The perspective here is refreshingly different - he talks about the so-called evils of the modern American diet only in passing, and mostly in reference to how particular activists or chefs were responding to it. Mostly, this book made me want to a.) eat in a lot of expensive restaurants, particularly famous expensive restaurants that have now mostly closed, and b.) watch Top Chef again now that I might have some idea who some of the chef guest judges actually are. Overall, it was an interesting read, but one that was a bit of a chore.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ken-ichi

    The book begins with some interesting assertions about food in American culture, how it is less an integral part of the culture than it is in the Old World and more of a consciously practiced passtime or object of fandom like sports or movies. That piqued my interest, but it soon becomes obvious that the book is more of a chronicle of the different personalities that have shaped American culinary consciousness in the past century, more documentary than analytical. The personal details are fun, o The book begins with some interesting assertions about food in American culture, how it is less an integral part of the culture than it is in the Old World and more of a consciously practiced passtime or object of fandom like sports or movies. That piqued my interest, but it soon becomes obvious that the book is more of a chronicle of the different personalities that have shaped American culinary consciousness in the past century, more documentary than analytical. The personal details are fun, of course, plenty of tawdry tristes and tiffs and addictions, but otherwise the book doesn't have a whole lot more substance than a tabloid, or a timeline (see how I avoided gastropunning on "substance"?).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alisha Bennett (Sheppherd)

    "The Dried-Out, Cold, Dark, Oversexed story of American Foodie Name-Dropping" would have been a much more apt title for this disappointing book. Although there were glimpses of enjoyable writing (Julia Child, the start of the Goat Cheese craze) overall turning page after page of Kamp's elitist gushing drivel was agony. As a foodie, gardener, willing-to-try any food once, reader - this book should have been delightful. Instead it was so full of itself that it had no room for anything else. The ti "The Dried-Out, Cold, Dark, Oversexed story of American Foodie Name-Dropping" would have been a much more apt title for this disappointing book. Although there were glimpses of enjoyable writing (Julia Child, the start of the Goat Cheese craze) overall turning page after page of Kamp's elitist gushing drivel was agony. As a foodie, gardener, willing-to-try any food once, reader - this book should have been delightful. Instead it was so full of itself that it had no room for anything else. The title in and of itself is misleading. So much of the history of food and the creation of an American cuisine or other ethnic influences is overlooked or casually tossed in like a last minute garnish. There for looks only with no substance. Instead we are forced to bounce back and forth between New York and California's food scenes beginning with the French invasion and ending with the nouvelle cuisine with short stops at hippie franchising in between. Some of the passages regarding the French influence were in fact almost unreadable as they mainly consisted of names, places, dishes (many in French......oh the author was so very proud to be able to finally put his two semesters of French to work.....!) with a few transitional words thrown in. It is never a good sign to see so many capitalized words on one page. The effect was as if I had picked up the longest, most tedious, navel-gazing Wikipedia article in history. And the sex.....interspersing sensational personal details of many of the chef's carnal appetites added absolutely nothing to the storyline except a lurid, cheap, tawdry aspect; more appropriate to a trashy magazine. Strangely, it is Kamp's lack of interest in food that is the most dissatisfying of all. All of the "famous dish" name-dropping in the world cannot disguise the fact that at no point do you sense that he loves food, eating or is even remotely interested in the preparation of anything besides a famous chef's next cookbook. No bon appetit!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tripp

    David Kamp's The United States of Arugula is the cheery, optimistic companion to the reflective, worried Omnivore's Dilemma. Michael Pollan's book focuses on the American food supply today, while Kamp explores how the US went from a country that made Dr Pepper-based olive jello molds, to one with dozens of pastas and cheeses in a non-specialty store. Kamp identifies the beginnings of taste in American cuisine with the rise of the Big Three, James Beard, Julia Child and Craig Claiborne. Claiborne David Kamp's The United States of Arugula is the cheery, optimistic companion to the reflective, worried Omnivore's Dilemma. Michael Pollan's book focuses on the American food supply today, while Kamp explores how the US went from a country that made Dr Pepper-based olive jello molds, to one with dozens of pastas and cheeses in a non-specialty store. Kamp identifies the beginnings of taste in American cuisine with the rise of the Big Three, James Beard, Julia Child and Craig Claiborne. Claiborne created the serious food section and restaurant reviews at the New York Times, and may be less known that the others. These people built the world of food writing, which hadn't existed before in the United States. The next sections deal with the rise of specifically American high end restaurants. Much of this section is devoted to the story of Chez Pannise, which emerged as a post-hippie idea that local ingredients were best. While the writers and the high end restaurants certainly motivated the elites, the related rise of the celebrity chef spread the foodie culture to a broader slice of society. This is an upbeat book that views American cuisine and food culture at a high point and climbing. He points to the introduction of more options at fast food restaurants as a sign that tastes are changing at all levels of society. While Kamp may be a bit too optimistic, this is a fun read with amusing gossip and great stories about the world of food.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Redsteve

    Not generally my area of interest food-wise (I'm more into pre-20th C cooking and non-US foods), but this is an interesting book. Covering food and cooking in the US from the early 20th Century to the present (published 2006), this book discusses overall trends, fads, and individuals responsible for changes in how Americans eat and their view of cooking and dining. Much of these topics are viewed through the sense of specific people (chefs, food writers, restaurant critics, farmers, and entrepre Not generally my area of interest food-wise (I'm more into pre-20th C cooking and non-US foods), but this is an interesting book. Covering food and cooking in the US from the early 20th Century to the present (published 2006), this book discusses overall trends, fads, and individuals responsible for changes in how Americans eat and their view of cooking and dining. Much of these topics are viewed through the sense of specific people (chefs, food writers, restaurant critics, farmers, and entrepreneurs) and restaurants with brief biographies. In some ways, the author seems to subscribe to the "great man" theory of (food) history, where most to these food movements/trends have been driven by one or more key figures, but, on the other hand, there are points where Kamp shows that an individual was "too far ahead" of his/her time, pushing a technique/cuisine that the public rejected at the time, but was to prove popular later. This book also describes the (often small) origins of many major food companies: Starbucks, Chipotle, Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca, etc. While certain aspects of "big agriculture" and mass-produced foods are discussed (frozen and canned foods, factory farming, fast food, etc.), it is done more as asides - essentially what the food movements here are reacting against - than as the main topic. Kamp is readable and occasionally funny. 3 stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I finally finished this book. I took to calling this book "the evil food book" and vowed that were it not on my Kindle, it would have been thrown across the room multiple times over the 10 days it took to slog through the irksome volume. I picked this book out for a reading challenge, thinking I would enjoy it. I knew from the preface that I was going to hate it, and in the end, I was not wrong. I find the idea of the book interesting; the title piqued my interest. The text itself only served to I finally finished this book. I took to calling this book "the evil food book" and vowed that were it not on my Kindle, it would have been thrown across the room multiple times over the 10 days it took to slog through the irksome volume. I picked this book out for a reading challenge, thinking I would enjoy it. I knew from the preface that I was going to hate it, and in the end, I was not wrong. I find the idea of the book interesting; the title piqued my interest. The text itself only served to anger me. I am not a chef; I do not consider myself a foodie; I am not a snobbish diner or shopper; I do not demand locally-grown produce; I despise the use of the word "organic" in connection with any foodstuff - if food were not organic, that is, a carbon based chemical/life form, it would be rocks; food, with the sole exception of table salt, is organic by its very nature. But my rage against the overuse and misunderstanding of the meaning of the word organic is neither here nor there for this book. I did not like the author's tone that food is only good if it is derived from France though the creations of famous California or New York chefs. I do not like the idea that the only good food to come from my hometown came at the hands of Paul Prudhomme and/or Emeril Lagasse. I did not like the idea that if food is fancy and expensive, it is automatically better than simply prepared reasonably priced meals. In short, I did not like this book. I cannot recommend this book to anyone. It only reinforces stereotypes that exist in far too many pseudo-foodies today -- the ones who think anything done by celebrity chefs at much-publicized restaurants is far better than anything done by a no-name cook at a small unknown hole-in-the-wall neighborhood eatery. It reinforces the idea that New York, California, and Las Vegas innovations are automatically wonderful, while anything coming from anywhere else is not worthy of being served to stray dogs. It feeds the likes of Master Chef, Top Chef and Next Food Network Star Chef-testants who don't know enough to know that fresh pineapple will prevent gelatin from setting or that it is near impossible to whip cream in the ubiquitous food processor. It feeds the notion that "gourmet" is a substitute for "good taste" and that celebrity "expensive" is better than honest "good." I cannot even say I am glad to have read this book. One the whole I would have been a much happier person ignorant of this author's annoying opinions on what constitutes a good, gourmet meal in America today. Is there any way I can, having suffered through this book, now "un-read" it?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I can’t help feeling that the title of this book misled me. It basically follows the pattern I got used to reading in academic journals (Pun-tastic Title: Wordy Thesis/Overview), so I assumed two things: (1) it would be mostly scholarly, and (2) David Kamp would explain how general Americans became more discerning at their dinner tables. The book is a chronicle of famous chefs, food journalists, and suppliers in twentieth century America. And while it’s clear that the people featured in the book a I can’t help feeling that the title of this book misled me. It basically follows the pattern I got used to reading in academic journals (Pun-tastic Title: Wordy Thesis/Overview), so I assumed two things: (1) it would be mostly scholarly, and (2) David Kamp would explain how general Americans became more discerning at their dinner tables. The book is a chronicle of famous chefs, food journalists, and suppliers in twentieth century America. And while it’s clear that the people featured in the book are movers and shakers in Americans’ understanding of their relationship with food, I think there are plenty of other factors that have gone into America’s culinary transformation. 1. Middle class Americans traveling abroad—there is nothing like actually visiting a country to kickstart someone’s palate. 2. Health consciousness—vilifying fat, white sugar, white flour, eggs and salt has changed American attitudes towards many foods. As families deal with health conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes and gluten intolerance, their patterns of eating change and become more experimental. 3. TV—competitive cooking programs bring elegantly plated meals into households, and inspire imagination more than the straight-forward instructional shows In Kamp’s discussion of American food, however, the only factor involved in eating is a celebrity chef, who most likely has sexual quirks and substance abuse problems. Kamp’s attitude towards the influential people of the food world seems almost condescending, as though whatever they achieved in the way of changing America’s tastes was mitigated by their personal lives. In a book that starts by promising a story of food, the time spent on the widespread drug use at restaurants would only be valuable if it were to lead to a conclusion that Americans have been tricked by the desensitized taste buds of the perpetually high. This conclusion is never made, but there is a lingering sense of confusion about the point that Kamp is trying to make. It’s easy for me to blame the publishers for setting me up for a different book with the title, but I suspect they, like me, didn’t really understand the direction Kamp was taking when reading the manuscript. The book feels long and directionless, rather like an undergraduate paper that reached its page requirement by including every note card taken on the first half of the outline. All this is a pity because a book about gourmet food should be worth savoring.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    “Food is anything that nourishes the body.” –Fannie Farmer Certainly at one time in American history, this quote was correct. Food was sustenance and little more. Time had to be taken to eat, but when early colonists, settlers and pioneers supped, it was not usually an enjoyable repast. Most likely, it was “vittles” for nourishment only. Wow, we have come a long way baby. Can you imagine a world where chevre, shallots, pasta (not macaroni), balsamic vinegar, sun dried tomatoes and even EVOO were no “Food is anything that nourishes the body.” –Fannie Farmer Certainly at one time in American history, this quote was correct. Food was sustenance and little more. Time had to be taken to eat, but when early colonists, settlers and pioneers supped, it was not usually an enjoyable repast. Most likely, it was “vittles” for nourishment only. Wow, we have come a long way baby. Can you imagine a world where chevre, shallots, pasta (not macaroni), balsamic vinegar, sun dried tomatoes and even EVOO were not known to us? What about the process and technique of cooking with wine? What if that was unheard of as well? We would still be in the dark foodie ages eating for nourishment alone. Let’s welcome the Enlightenment and all those who brought us out of the Dark Ages. The Unites States of Arugula chronicles the foodie heavy hitters that helped bring about the Golden Age of Cuisine in the U.S. (And more importantly, those that brought us goat cheese!) Although Kamp begins the discussion with the “humorless home-ec lady,” Fannie Farmer, he hits every prominent foodie from our recent history: James Beard Craig Claiborne Julia Child Alice Waters Jeremiah Towers Wolfgang Puck And many more! Kamp also focuses on many different movements and trends throughout our history—from our Francophile days, through the aforementioned Enlightenment, to the current trend in farm-to-table. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but seriously, I can’t get pass the idea that I could have gone through life without goat cheese and dried tomatoes (and balsamic and EVOO)!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    I'm surprised this book doesn't have more reviews here on GR: it’s a seriously fascinating, very (pardon the pun) dishy examination of America's culinary habits and how they have radically changed - mostly for the better - over the last 70 years or so. This is all due in no small part to the efforts of culinary masters (and the major stars of the book) James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, and the doyenne of the famed Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, Alice Waters. These four, among many o I'm surprised this book doesn't have more reviews here on GR: it’s a seriously fascinating, very (pardon the pun) dishy examination of America's culinary habits and how they have radically changed - mostly for the better - over the last 70 years or so. This is all due in no small part to the efforts of culinary masters (and the major stars of the book) James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, and the doyenne of the famed Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, Alice Waters. These four, among many others, all championed the cause of changing how Americans thought about preparing, eating, and serving food, and several spent considerable energy driving home the common sense of building more sustainable food resources and advocating for free range, grass-fed farming, etc. For these gourmet cooks, writers, and restaurateurs, this was their life’s passion, their raison d'etre, and they contributed to many positive changes in a relatively short time. As the book closes there is some discussion of mending some of the problems of the nation’s atrocious school lunch program, but (on a lighter note) no coverage of my favorite television show, Top Chef, which hadn’t begun airing yet. I learned a lot from this highly entertaining, assuredly written, witty gem of a book and recommend it without reservations (sorry, I couldn't resist). 4 out of 5 stars, and let’s go eat!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I finished this book. Yes I did. I say that so proudly because I attended book group NOT having finished it, and then pretty roundly trashed it and declared I would not finish it, there being, as always, so many other books to move on to. But then I came home and started channeling my inner Democrat (not hard to do, since I'm an outer Democrat too), and I started feeling guilty about possibly not fully considering the other side of the argument. Plus, Joanna really liked it, so there had to be s I finished this book. Yes I did. I say that so proudly because I attended book group NOT having finished it, and then pretty roundly trashed it and declared I would not finish it, there being, as always, so many other books to move on to. But then I came home and started channeling my inner Democrat (not hard to do, since I'm an outer Democrat too), and I started feeling guilty about possibly not fully considering the other side of the argument. Plus, Joanna really liked it, so there had to be something to it. So I finished it -- that same weekend! -- and while I still think it was overly detailed in an unusual, unsatisfying and occasionally confusing way, I do appreciate how thoroughly researched it was. I still maintain my opposition to the inclusion of some of the more salacious details. A recounting of the sexcapades at Chez Panisse was probably important in establishing a sense of its "vibe," but reading about the odd father/son sexual encounters of another profiled personality came off as cheap and sad. Did it truly have an effect on America's food evolution? So I didn't love this book, but I did appreciate it, and at the very least it made me pull one of Alice Waters' cookbooks off my shelf and make three FABULOUS recipes in the past two weeks. So there.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    American history, food, celebrity chefs -- all are things I love, and all are things found in The United States of Arugula. David Kamp traces the development of 20th and 21st century American culinary palates, trends, problems, and potential solutions in this easy-to-read history of how We The People have evolved in our approaches to food over the last century. From daily market trips to tv dinners in the freezer; from bland, heavy meals to the infusion of regional and international flavors; from American history, food, celebrity chefs -- all are things I love, and all are things found in The United States of Arugula. David Kamp traces the development of 20th and 21st century American culinary palates, trends, problems, and potential solutions in this easy-to-read history of how We The People have evolved in our approaches to food over the last century. From daily market trips to tv dinners in the freezer; from bland, heavy meals to the infusion of regional and international flavors; from factory farming to the rise of the organic/sustainable/Whole Foods world, Kamp does a good job of linking food movements from coast to coast while simultaneously demonstrating how trends and chefs impacted the American dinner table across recent generations. Whether you're a fan of James Beard and Julia Child, Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower, or Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck, something in this book will appeal to the foodie in you. And the bibliography is a great resource for those looking to build their cookbook collections!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    Reads like a gossipy insider history of celebrity chefs and their cookbooks, presenting them chronologically as American tastes and enthusiasms for food trends developed. I took great delight in recognizing many of the cookbooks that I shelved in my days as a bookseller. I enjoyed learning more about them and how they were inspired. I also enjoyed the snippets of restaurant life and chef training and inspirations. Having read more focused works about many of these people before, the breezy style Reads like a gossipy insider history of celebrity chefs and their cookbooks, presenting them chronologically as American tastes and enthusiasms for food trends developed. I took great delight in recognizing many of the cookbooks that I shelved in my days as a bookseller. I enjoyed learning more about them and how they were inspired. I also enjoyed the snippets of restaurant life and chef training and inspirations. Having read more focused works about many of these people before, the breezy style of this made me feel like I was waving merrily to old friends and then zipping by five or ten I had never met before. This worked well for me, but I can see how the constant name dropping might feel overwhelming to some. There is also a strong reliance on footnotes used to flesh out the narrative. I am not a big fan of footnotes, but I found these to be interesting/entertaining and I don't really think there was a better way to handle them. Overall, this was a fun read for me and I learned quite a bit. Also, it made me want to eat. A lot.

  19. 4 out of 5

    A

    Plus a half-a-star. The first half of the book, the Le Pavillion-James Beard-Julia Child-Alice Waters half, is excellent. Well-researched, interestingly in-depth, with just the right dash of gossip thrown into the mix to keep things juicing right along. Unfortunately, things kinda fall apart around the mid-70s, when when the perils of writing close-range history become apparent and the wheels come a bit loose from Kamp's thesis. Name-dropping, both of famous chefs and their celebrated restaurant Plus a half-a-star. The first half of the book, the Le Pavillion-James Beard-Julia Child-Alice Waters half, is excellent. Well-researched, interestingly in-depth, with just the right dash of gossip thrown into the mix to keep things juicing right along. Unfortunately, things kinda fall apart around the mid-70s, when when the perils of writing close-range history become apparent and the wheels come a bit loose from Kamp's thesis. Name-dropping, both of famous chefs and their celebrated restaurants, runs fast and thick while the incisive cultural history of the first half falls by the wayside. Ultimately, though, the momentum from the good half will carry you through the meh-ness, particularly if you're as food-obsessed as I am. Also I really appreciated the fact that Kamp, in describing the Food Network juggernaut, doesn't deign to mention Rachel Ray, save from quoting a cast-off comment from Mario Batali. How's that for yummers, Ms. EVOO?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenny.p

    This book sure is terrific! I have been talking about it non-stop since I started reading it... Kamp offers a smart, lively account of how some of my most favorite things (balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, mussels...) became a part of the everyday food vernacular of American cuisine at a time when TV dinners, mass produced processed foods, and Jello and mini-marshmallow desserts were threatening to take over the dinner table. He traces each stage of the "food revolution" in the US (mostly post WWII) This book sure is terrific! I have been talking about it non-stop since I started reading it... Kamp offers a smart, lively account of how some of my most favorite things (balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, mussels...) became a part of the everyday food vernacular of American cuisine at a time when TV dinners, mass produced processed foods, and Jello and mini-marshmallow desserts were threatening to take over the dinner table. He traces each stage of the "food revolution" in the US (mostly post WWII) and the personalities that made it all happen. A balanced social history, political piece and gossip column (sex, drugs and rock and roll at Chez Panisse). I was completely and gleefully engrossed.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I feel that this book is not what it claims to be. It's really a history of gourmet chefs and NY Times food reviewers, with almost no social context. It's as if someone just said, "Hey, why don't I make cheese out of goat's milk?!" I wanted it to be more about trends in ordinary people's eating habits, to explain how my own finickiness (like only buying bakery bread and not long sleeves of square loaves) fits into a social (and economic?) pattern. I wondered if I'd misinterpreted the blurb, but I feel that this book is not what it claims to be. It's really a history of gourmet chefs and NY Times food reviewers, with almost no social context. It's as if someone just said, "Hey, why don't I make cheese out of goat's milk?!" I wanted it to be more about trends in ordinary people's eating habits, to explain how my own finickiness (like only buying bakery bread and not long sleeves of square loaves) fits into a social (and economic?) pattern. I wondered if I'd misinterpreted the blurb, but if I did it was only a matter of degree.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Comprehensively and entertainingly covers American (and some international) food history, with greatest detail focused on the last four decades. Please don't be put off by the title. David Kamp not only expertly tells a really good story, he packs in so many well-indexed details that I anticipate this book serving as a handy reference.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I found this to be an engaging and entertaining look at the history of food culture, and the people who have made it, in the US. I came away knowing a little bit (and sometimes a lot) more about the people, places, and movements (or trends, if you'd prefer) that have brought us to where we are today.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chambers Stevens

    A great book about the history of foodies in the 20th Century.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary Nguyen (fox & wit)

    I had to DNF this book. If you're like me and enjoy reading food based books to actually learn stuff or want to further your scholarship, this book is not it. This was a thoroughly researched gossip rag of big names in the food industry. As a scholar and writer myself, the biggest aspect of writing I must always keep in mind is "how much of this work are actually my own ideas and analysis?" Yes. Research is important but I simply couldn't tell where the author situated himself in the conversatio I had to DNF this book. If you're like me and enjoy reading food based books to actually learn stuff or want to further your scholarship, this book is not it. This was a thoroughly researched gossip rag of big names in the food industry. As a scholar and writer myself, the biggest aspect of writing I must always keep in mind is "how much of this work are actually my own ideas and analysis?" Yes. Research is important but I simply couldn't tell where the author situated himself in the conversation. It just felt like "here's what this supposedly famous food critic, author, chef, etc had to say." My eyeballs were glazing over at all the names and quotes he was dropping. I learned nothing of value other than mixed commentary about American's diet.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Grossi

    You would have to be a real "foodie" to enjoy this book. To me, the average reader, it was a snooze fest. The third star in my rating is in appreciation for the massive amount of research which must have gone into to writing. It was filled with so many names that the narrative got lost. Also, there were many extensive footnotes that were often times more interesting than the main text, but slowed the flow. I finally just flipped through the last thirty pages, because I had already spent three wee You would have to be a real "foodie" to enjoy this book. To me, the average reader, it was a snooze fest. The third star in my rating is in appreciation for the massive amount of research which must have gone into to writing. It was filled with so many names that the narrative got lost. Also, there were many extensive footnotes that were often times more interesting than the main text, but slowed the flow. I finally just flipped through the last thirty pages, because I had already spent three weeks trying to slog through it. There were many interesting tidbits, but to get to those was not worth the read. Sorry, Cara.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maisie

    I have some mixed feeling about this book. I think Kamp tries to follow too many different threads and while this allows for a lot of interconnection and tracing peoples influences on each other, it leads to a discursive narrative that is more convoluted than need be. As hopeful as the ending may seem, this book only follows the elitist food scene—that of movie stars favorite fine dining options. He barely brushes the surface of race and inequality (there are more than 4 types of cuisine in the I have some mixed feeling about this book. I think Kamp tries to follow too many different threads and while this allows for a lot of interconnection and tracing peoples influences on each other, it leads to a discursive narrative that is more convoluted than need be. As hopeful as the ending may seem, this book only follows the elitist food scene—that of movie stars favorite fine dining options. He barely brushes the surface of race and inequality (there are more than 4 types of cuisine in the US, believe it or not) and this does a great disservice to the ideas he writes about and is primarily a white narrative of the US food scene.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

    After seeing family and friends, the best thing about returning to America is walking into a grocery store. It's almost a religious experience for me. I'm old enough to remember American food before bagged greens, blueberries, imported cheese, olives, and endive. This is the story of the transformation of American cooking from James Beard to Julia Child to the food network to our current obsession with food.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Miller

    A very entertaining history (sometimes with the tongue firmly in cheek) of food ways in the United States since the late 1940s. Told in rough chronological order, Kamp discusses the major movers and shakers who really did change the eating habits of at least some Americans: Dione Lucas, James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, Alice Waters and many others. Anyone with an interest in culinary history or American culture will want to read this.

  30. 5 out of 5

    patricia

    one should not struggle to want to read a book and not want to yell 'get on with it man... next you are going to tell us what color shirt they wore... the point, stay focused, MOVE FORWARD' instead it is castaway to make room for better books.

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