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America Eats!: On the Road with the WPA - the Fish Fries, Box Supper Socials, and Chitlin Feasts That Define Real American Food
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America Eats!: On the Road with the WPA - the Fish Fries, Box Supper Socials, and Chitlin Feasts That Define Real American Food

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  33 reviews
What the Sterns did for road food, Pat Willard does for festive American group eating in this exploration of our national cuisine, with a never-before-published WPA manuscript as her guide.
In America Eats! Pat Willard takes readers on a journey into the regional nooks and crannies of American cuisine where WPA writers—including Eudora Welty, Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison,
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 15th 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published July 8th 2008)
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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 ·  158 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Start your review of America Eats!: On the Road with the WPA - the Fish Fries, Box Supper Socials, and Chitlin Feasts That Define Real American Food
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a project this must have been! Back in the 30s, there was a WPA program for writers. Many of them all over the country. The government wanted a comprehensive look at then-current trends in American eating. The writers had been assigned to cover local festivals and other group functions and describe the food and cultures.

That project was put on hold and the articles were filed away somewhere. Pat Willard happened to stumble across them doing research for a different book.

The book contains so
This is an enjoyable but uneven book. Willard tracked down WPA manuscripts from the original America Eats project of the 1930s and travelled back to the places described within.

Excerpts (sometimes edited or condensed) from the original manuscripts are the meat of the book. Commentary by Willard is scattered throughout. Perhaps it felt inconsistent to me because it was drawn from so many sources of varied writing style---some of the essays were SO olde-tyme syrurpy-quaint; others, written in dia
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting! Lots of history.

Good book for a foodie
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cooking-eating
Using the unpublished WPA American eating project by the same name, Pat Willard travels the country to seek out the places visited by WPA writers including Eudora Welty, Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow, and many more, dispatched in 1935 to document the roots of America's culinary history. A sort of period piece for America and its cuisine and eating places between its two great wars (not that either of them were really great). Includes recipes and never-before-seen photos by such WPA luminaries as Je ...more
Rachel Jacobs
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
The book started out quite interesting with the author tracking down some of the traditions she found written in the WPA papers. However the book tended to drag on a bit and I lost interest as it went on and on.
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, food
During the Great Depression, many programs were created by the Federal Government to provide jobs for those who had none. We are still benefitting today from the fruits of that labor which created many public buildings, roads, bridges and parks. One project, however, never saw the light of day.

The “America Eats!” project was about traditional American food. Out-of-work writers were assigned to write about the events in their communities and the food that was served at them. The final document w
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: food reading fans, Americana fans, history readers, WPA interest
America Eats! was one of the many WPA projects created to put people to work during the Great Depression era. In brief, the idea was to go out and document not just Americans' foods, but also the social gatherings, cultural mores, and events that defined American food. The project was broken down into regional segments, and writers were assigned to write up the various parts. Some of these writers went on to become famous; others just went back to their regular jobs when the project was shut dow ...more
I heard about this book in conjunction with Mark Kurlansky's The Food of a Younger Land, and was completely intrigued with the idea of the WPA papers on food from Depression-era America. I love all information on regional food, and this seemed like the epitome of food folklore books.

Pat Willard's book was intended to be more of a personal journey to find out if these food traditions are still in existence, with actual essays from the original project included in the narrative. I think, however,
Oct 15, 2010 rated it liked it
During the Depression, our government tasked WPA writers with a project to investigate regional food cultures and write essays documenting "American cuisine." This is probably my dream job. Sounds amazingly fun.

The project was never completed, though most of the manuscripts still exist in various archives. Pat Willard's book collects many of the original essays and then splices in her contemporary investigation into the ongoing regional food festivals, particular food habits, and traditional dis
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
I enjoyed this book because it combines three of my favorite topics: history, travel, and food. In the 1930's, the writers of the WPA went out across America to compile a culinary history of the country. They went to fairs, church suppers, community events, and other events to learn about and document American cooking and eating. The final work, which was to be titled "America Eats," was never published, and the manuscripts remained in various archives in Washington DC and across the country. Pa ...more
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: us-history
Many Americans do not realize what the Federal Government did during the depression. Government did create jobs. In addition to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) there was the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA funded artists, writers, musicians and academics to provide artwork and 'papers' on various aspects of America. This book is about one of those projects. The WPA funded the writing of articles on 'American' cuisine at the time. The author uses those articles as a starting po ...more
Jul 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've been reading this book over the course of the last couple months, getting in a few pages or even just a few paragraphs over lunch breaks at work. It's a fascinating look at our food traditions, past and present. The book contains excerpts from a WPA project that collected regional tales of foodways along with a contemporary writer's view of what has become of those traditions. For me, the best part was the excerpts--they were usually written by an author from the area so there was something ...more
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Warning: Do not read while you are hungry! Except even when you are full, it would be hard not to want to taste so much of the wonderful food talked about in this book. Even more, to associate with such interesting people. Alas, a lot of that is gone from the days when these feasts and get togethers happened, but I still think there is much to be said about social eating customs and recipes, and I love getting together over food no matter what! This was such a great idea, and I'm glad the author ...more
Mar 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author found a manuscript from a Works Projects Administration project from the 1930s and 1940s that was meant to document American foodways from the period. She followed up by trying to go to many of the places and kinds of events that the book describes. Willard is charmingly and appallingly omnivorous. I think the parts I liked best were her visits with the Mississippi Choctaw family to learn more about mourning practices, and her experience with the cowboy re-enactors. The book was engag ...more
Mar 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
"Make-work" federal programs in the 1930's included surveys of
eating habits in various parts of the U.S. Many of the reports from
those surveys survive. Pat Willard covers much of the same ground
to see who's eating what, especially in communal settings, these days.
She presents excerpts from the old reports next to lively accounts of
her own culinary adventures, and the result offers painless lessons in local
history and geography, along with the news about local food choices and
related customs. P
Jul 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-read
I looked forward to reading this book, which I received as a first-read. Unfortunately, I am unable to finish it due to the writing style.

While I quite enjoyed the original WPA selections included in the collection, I did not find the author's own writing to be as inviting. At the fairs and festivals the author attends, the participants and other people in attendance are often portrayed as oafish or country or otherwise not as intelligent as the author. This writing style becomes annoying quickl
This book delves into some of my favorite topics; food, American history and road trips. In the late 30s the WPA commissioned writers to cover regional cuisine and eating habits; things like county fairs, barbecues, etc. The work was never published. In this book, the author revisits these regions to determine if these habits and cuisines still exist, and if not, how things have changed. I confess that I skimmed a few sections, but overall it is an interesting read. The glossary of diner slang i ...more
Jul 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Some great essays capturing a moment in time (loved the Iowa thresher's dinner story), some too long, and too much focus of the author's travels around the country (which I didn't even realize would be included when I added this to my list). There are whole books devoted to regional food festivals, and while I get that Willard was trying to "recreate" the trail of some of the WPA writers, I just didn't care to read about her experiences so I ended up skimming some. ...more
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
While the subject held my interest, the organization of the book left something to be desired. The essays seemed to be jumbled together with a few recipes and a modest bit of commentary. I didn't know what to expect when turning the page. Making the content of the chapters more consistent and orderly would have created a stronger book. ...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
Sep 06, 2008 added it
Recommended to Tattered Cover by: Matt
With a delightful and loving style, Pat Willard brings to life a nearly forgotten WPA project started in the midst of the Great Depression that documents the food of America. Contributors to the project include Eudora Welty, Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison, Dorothea Lange and Ben Shanhn. Don't miss this wonderful chronicle of who we are and what we eat.

May 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: foodie-books
This was the first book in our foodie book club, and I really enjoyed it! Willard lovingly took us back to the early days of eating in America. From squirrel stew to a hoof-to-tail eating, I now have a better appreciation for where American cuisine stemmed--from all over the world! Like Americans, our food is decidedly a hodgepodge of different cultures and traditions.
Niki Ganong
Aug 27, 2012 rated it liked it
This should really be titled America Ate.

The author, using an old WPA writing project as a guide, goes in search of the cuisine of yesteryear. More informative and comprehensive books have been written. This collection of recipes, essays and photographs is fine to flip through, but it's not valuable as a resource.
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nf-culture
This was really interesting! I'd never known about the America Eats WPA project, so it was great to read some of those writings that otherwise might not have seen the light of day. The author's following in their footsteps made for an interesting contrast, too, of how things have changed and how things have stayed the same. ...more
Excellent read loved the Fish Fry stories
Jan 06, 2009 marked it as to-read
Kristina Kopnisky
Aug 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
Gave it away. I could not get through it.
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book was great to read right after I read The Food of a Younger Land - and it had the wrap up at the end of the book that was missing from 'Younger Land'. ...more
Jan 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Fascinating if you're into this sort of thing. I would have liked a few more recipes, and maybe photos of the specific occasions that were described, but overall, a neat look into a different world. ...more
Jul 11, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for a book of essays when I started reading this one. I read the first few and then gave up…for now. ...more
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