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The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  3,680 ratings  ·  458 reviews
The wickedly entertaining, hunger-inducing, behind-the-scenes story of the revolution in American food that has made exotic ingredients, celebrity chefs, rarefied cooking tools, and destination restaurants familiar aspects of our everyday lives.

Amazingly enough, just twenty years ago eating sushi was a daring novelty and many Americans had never even heard of salsa. Today,
Paperback, 392 pages
Published July 17th 2007 by Crown Publishing Group (NY) (first published September 12th 2006)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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Start your review of The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution
Feb 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who want to read snarky insider gossip about famous chefs
Shelves: food
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 ...more
Nov 26, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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 ...more
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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 ...more
Nov 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
May 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015-rc-goal, fft-bc
A good reference on historical time line and the key players that emerged during the American Food Revolution.
Dec 20, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: learning, food
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 ...more
Feb 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Foodies
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
Jul 05, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pseudo-intellectual elitist celebrity-gawking so-called foodies
Shelves: biography, ebooks
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
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: foodie-reads
“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
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 ...more
Apr 08, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group
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 ...more
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
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jun 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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)
Mar 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Feb 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Chambers Stevens
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book about the history of foodies in the 20th Century.
Kathryn Haydon
Feb 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: food, non-fiction, history
I'm still chewing on this book, but I can't bring myself to give it a 4th star. 14+ years since its publication it can be forgiven for being dated, but even without hindsight it's pretty sickening to quote Mario Batali describing Giada De Laurentiis as "the beautiful girl with the nice rack" with nary a comment on the sexism of that statement. Kamp also tends to talk about someone new, immediately jump to a parallel track of a previously-introduced person's rise in the food world, then flip back ...more
Dec 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
The first 3/4 of the book were very good and interesting! I loved learning more about Julia Childs and the chefs authors who preceded her and were her peers. Tracing how California became the “it” place and big name chefs now have their origins there was super interesting. The book loses a lot of steam in the final few chapters though, the chapter on non-American food is still focused on white chefs who became authorities on Mexican food rather than Mexican chefs who the food world coul
Jul 24, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Mar 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short history of the gourmet food in the US, mostly starting from the 50s, following the various food stars and their roles in shaping the American food scene. The books starts off rather dry, narrating unappetizing dishes common in the US before the mid 20th century, ranging from boring to off-putting. Once he picks up the stories of individuals, the reading goes faster, and he builds up their personalities, while continuing to discuss the broader food trends they influenced. A good summer re ...more
Jun 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
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David Kamp is an author, journalist, lyricist, and humorist. Among his books are the national bestseller The United States of Arugula (Broadway Books, 2006), a chronicle of America’s foodways; the critically lauded Sunny Days (Simon & Schuster, May 2020), a history of the Sesame Street-Mister Rogers era of enlightened children’s television; and, as collaborator, Martin Short’s bestselling memoir, ...more

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