Tuesday, September 11, 2007

U.S. of Arugula

I started reading The United States of Arugula by David Kamp last year as research for my book, but didn't get much past the chapters on Julia Child, James Beard, et. al.

You'll be all over this if you're into narrative food journalism (and really, who isn't?) Some Amazon reviewers knock it for being too gossipy, but they haven't worked in the food writing business. As an industry, it's fueled by gossip, so this neither surprises me nor feels that it takes anything away from Kamp's well-researched history of the shifting American palate. He goes back to the development of the supermarket, to the rise and fall of food writing stars such as the New York Times' Craig Claiborne, to the impact of the Food Network. He has a knack for getting dynamic quotes. (I believe it's Mario Batali who comments Giada's "great rack.") His chapter on Chez Panisse paints a less then holy portrait of founder Alice Waters, likening the endeavour to kids putting on a show. It's an impressive piece of research, even it does trail off a bit at the end. I recommend it.

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