Brian's Reviews > The Food of a Younger Land: The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-World War II America

The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky
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Apr 23, 10


This book wasn't at all what I expected it to be. See, I own Michael Pollans' Omnivore's Dilemma, I've read Barbara Kingsolvers' Animal Vegetable Miracle and I tried to read Carlo Petrinis' Slow Food Nation but found it too dry and manifesto-ish. So when I saw this title come across my desk, I didn't look that hard at it before checking it out, and thought I'd find a somewhat preachy land-lovers account of how modern society, food technology, and agribusiness have destroyed America's food culture and how to resist that. Instead, I got a history lesson and a sampling of recipes and essays regarding food in the United States written just prior to WWII. Pretty cool! Unfortunately, it' doesn't really lent itself to a review.
Kurlansky gained access to unpublished WPA files and luckily for me, he defined what the WPA was at the beginning of the book. The project was to profile how people ate in the U.S.A. To this end, writers collected recipes, conducted interviews, reported on events, and wrote stories about food. Local traditions such as clam bakes and barbeques were captured. Disputes like how to correctly make a mint julep were aired. Even some oddities, for example possum pie, made their way into the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but might recommend it more as reference than as actual reading material.
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