Saturday, June 19, 2010
Book Review: The United States of Arugula
The National Bestseller written by David Kamp (a writer and editor who has had pieces in Vanity Fair and GQ), is all about the history of food, specifically chefs, restaurants and cookbooks, in America. Kamp begins his story back in the 1700's with the first known cookbooks in America and a vivid description of American eating habits. Turns out, the history of our restuarant culture and the rise of 'celebrity chefs' is quite interesting! The book is filled with fascinating tidbits of insider knowledge and background on chefs and restaurants. I never realized that fine dining in this country originated with French restaurants in New York, and really got its start during the Worlds Fair! And did you know the first Sushi restaurant in the US, Kawafuka, opened in 1960 in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles?
The book covers so many topics and people that at times it is a bit difficult to keep it all straight, but the stories are still quite intriguing and informational. I do think it's a good book for anyone interested in this area of the food industry. It did educate me on a lot of the chefs we know today and where our dining habits (outside of the home, mostly) originated. There is quite a bit of time spent on local and organic foods, but Kamp doesn't ignore the other view of food sourcing for restaurants either. I think my interpretation, or ideas, of some of these stories is most likely quite different than those of a chef or someone in the restaurant industry. Looking in from the outside, some of it seems a bit ridiculous, but it is serious business and art at the same time, so I do suppose even the wackiest situations make sense in a way.