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In this groundbreaking anthology, celebrated food writer Molly O'Neill gathers the very best from over 250 years of American culinary history. This literary feast includes classic accounts of iconic American foods: Henry David Thoreau on the delights of watermelon; Herman Melville, with a mouth-watering chapter on clam chowder; H. L. Mencken on the hot dog; M. F. K. Fisher In this groundbreaking anthology, celebrated food writer Molly O'Neill gathers the very best from over 250 years of American culinary history. This literary feast includes classic accounts of iconic American foods: Henry David Thoreau on the delights of watermelon; Herman Melville, with a mouth-watering chapter on clam chowder; H. L. Mencken on the hot dog; M. F. K. Fisher in praise of the oyster; Ralph Ellison on the irresistible appeal of baked yam; William Styron on Southern fried chicken. American writers abroad, like A. J. Liebling, Waverly Root, and Craig Claiborne, describe the revelations they found in foreign restaurants; travellers to America, including the legendary French gourmet J. A. Brillat-Savarin, discover such native delicacies as turkey, Virginia barbecue, and pumpkin pie. Great chefs and noted critics discuss their culinary philosophies and offer advice on the finer points of technique; home cooks recount disasters and triumphs. A host of eminent American writers, from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Walt Whitman to Thomas Wolfe, Willa Cather, and Langston Hughes, add their distinctive viewpoints to the mix. American Food Writing celebrates the astonishing variety of American foodways, with accounts from almost every corner of the country and a host of ethnic traditions: Dutch, Cuban, French, Italian, Jewish, Chinese, Irish, Indian, Scandinavian, Native American, African, English, Japanese, and Mexican. A surprising range of subjects and perspectives emerge, as writers address such topics as fast food, hunger, dieting, and the relationship between food and sex. James Villas offers a behind-the-scenes look at gourmet dining through a waiter's eyes; Anthony Bourdain recalls his days at the Culinary Institute of America; Julia Child remembers the humble beginnings of her much-loved television series; Nora Ephron chronicles internecine warfare among members of the "food establishment"; Michael Pollan explores what the label "organic" really means. Throughout the anthology are more than fifty classic recipes, selected after extensive research from cookbooks both vintage and modern, and certain to instruct, delight, and inspire home chefs.


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In this groundbreaking anthology, celebrated food writer Molly O'Neill gathers the very best from over 250 years of American culinary history. This literary feast includes classic accounts of iconic American foods: Henry David Thoreau on the delights of watermelon; Herman Melville, with a mouth-watering chapter on clam chowder; H. L. Mencken on the hot dog; M. F. K. Fisher In this groundbreaking anthology, celebrated food writer Molly O'Neill gathers the very best from over 250 years of American culinary history. This literary feast includes classic accounts of iconic American foods: Henry David Thoreau on the delights of watermelon; Herman Melville, with a mouth-watering chapter on clam chowder; H. L. Mencken on the hot dog; M. F. K. Fisher in praise of the oyster; Ralph Ellison on the irresistible appeal of baked yam; William Styron on Southern fried chicken. American writers abroad, like A. J. Liebling, Waverly Root, and Craig Claiborne, describe the revelations they found in foreign restaurants; travellers to America, including the legendary French gourmet J. A. Brillat-Savarin, discover such native delicacies as turkey, Virginia barbecue, and pumpkin pie. Great chefs and noted critics discuss their culinary philosophies and offer advice on the finer points of technique; home cooks recount disasters and triumphs. A host of eminent American writers, from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Walt Whitman to Thomas Wolfe, Willa Cather, and Langston Hughes, add their distinctive viewpoints to the mix. American Food Writing celebrates the astonishing variety of American foodways, with accounts from almost every corner of the country and a host of ethnic traditions: Dutch, Cuban, French, Italian, Jewish, Chinese, Irish, Indian, Scandinavian, Native American, African, English, Japanese, and Mexican. A surprising range of subjects and perspectives emerge, as writers address such topics as fast food, hunger, dieting, and the relationship between food and sex. James Villas offers a behind-the-scenes look at gourmet dining through a waiter's eyes; Anthony Bourdain recalls his days at the Culinary Institute of America; Julia Child remembers the humble beginnings of her much-loved television series; Nora Ephron chronicles internecine warfare among members of the "food establishment"; Michael Pollan explores what the label "organic" really means. Throughout the anthology are more than fifty classic recipes, selected after extensive research from cookbooks both vintage and modern, and certain to instruct, delight, and inspire home chefs.

30 review for American Food Writing: An Anthology with Classic Recipes: A Library of America Special Publication

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    An anthology of American food prose and recipes from 1753 to the present. Some amazing pieces from the country's early years demonstrate that not only does the US definitely have a rich food culture, it's been around long enough that we've actually lost and forgotten some dishes that used to be hugely popular. Who knew how much beaver tail, canvasback duck, and turtle soup we used to eat? There are pieces here by everyone from Thomas Jefferson, to Alice B. Toklas, to Ray Kroc. That's an incredibl An anthology of American food prose and recipes from 1753 to the present. Some amazing pieces from the country's early years demonstrate that not only does the US definitely have a rich food culture, it's been around long enough that we've actually lost and forgotten some dishes that used to be hugely popular. Who knew how much beaver tail, canvasback duck, and turtle soup we used to eat? There are pieces here by everyone from Thomas Jefferson, to Alice B. Toklas, to Ray Kroc. That's an incredible diversity of viewpoints. Walt Whitman's description of bringing exotic and rare iced cream to wounded civil war veterans contrasts strangely, but tantalizingly, with Eric Schlosser's exploration of exactly how the chemical factories in northern New Jersey create the artificial and "natural" flavors that permeate all of our processed food. From dozens of almost completely unrelated pieces, a picture of American food pointillistically emerges. I went to this book's release party back in 2007 at the Redcat Theater in Los Angeles. (No conflict of interest in this review; the event was open to the public.) Some chefs from around the city had prepared a variety of foods from the recipes in the book, and they were all superb. Particularly fantastic were Helen Evans Brown's 1952 gazpacho (which I have since made at home to my wife's delight), and Union Square Cafe's 1994 yellowfin tuna burgers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

    The foodie and the avid reader in me did a little happy dance over this book. This book is an anthology with classic recipes sprinkled throughout. It's not a cookbook. Rather, it's an anthology featuring accounts of "iconic American foods" by some well-known writers: **Henry David Thoreau writes about the delights of bread and watermelon. **Herman Melville writes about the glories clam chowder. **H. L. Mencken immortalizes the hot dog. **M.F.K. Fisher writes in praise of the oyster. **Ralph Ellison wa The foodie and the avid reader in me did a little happy dance over this book. This book is an anthology with classic recipes sprinkled throughout. It's not a cookbook. Rather, it's an anthology featuring accounts of "iconic American foods" by some well-known writers: **Henry David Thoreau writes about the delights of bread and watermelon. **Herman Melville writes about the glories clam chowder. **H. L. Mencken immortalizes the hot dog. **M.F.K. Fisher writes in praise of the oyster. **Ralph Ellison waxes poetic over baked yams. **William Styron praises Southern fried chicken. **John Steinbeck presents an ode to breakfast. And the list goes on, with writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman, Thomas Wolfe, Willa Cather, and Langston Hughes. Plus, travelers to America, like the legendary French gourmet J.A. Brillat-Savarin write about their discovering American dishes such as Virginia barbeque, pumpkin pie, and turkey. Further, great chefs like Julia Child as well as food critics discuss their food philosophies and some of the finer points of different cooking techniques while also discussing both home cooking disasters and triumphs. The book explores the history of American food from coast to coast as well as explores the roots of many ethnic traditions, including Cuban, Italian, Jewish, Chinese, Japanese, and Scandinavian, to name just a few, that have been absorbed into American food culture. This is a book you can really sink your teeth into! Well, maybe it would be better to sink our teeth into some of the recipes included.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Aharon

    The tyranny of pie! Feasting on turtles! And on and on and on! Excellent! Then we get to about 1983, and suddenly we're deconstructing what it means to eat, so skip the last 200 pages. The tyranny of pie! Feasting on turtles! And on and on and on! Excellent! Then we get to about 1983, and suddenly we're deconstructing what it means to eat, so skip the last 200 pages.

  4. 5 out of 5

    S Vanorse

    Library book sale find, totally enjoyed the history this encompasses, from a baked bean recipe by John Gould, from the town I was born in, to the adultery Judith Moore honestly shares and the history and original chocolate chip cookie recipe shared by John Thorne, food writer from my home state. I will reference back to this on several occasions I am sure.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    I never did make it through all of the essays and excerpts before finally running out of renewals at the library. But I loved each and every one that I read. They were all the perfect length -- long enough to get me interested and engaged but not so long that I got bored. Reading this collection felt like a guilty indulgence for some reason, though I have a tendency to feel that way about any book that isn't somehow improving my farming knowledge. I had a hard time putting this book down and wou I never did make it through all of the essays and excerpts before finally running out of renewals at the library. But I loved each and every one that I read. They were all the perfect length -- long enough to get me interested and engaged but not so long that I got bored. Reading this collection felt like a guilty indulgence for some reason, though I have a tendency to feel that way about any book that isn't somehow improving my farming knowledge. I had a hard time putting this book down and would repeatedly stay up too late reading "just one more". I so enjoy reading about the different ways that people relate to food and the different role it plays in each author's life; how inextricable it is from their relationships -- romantic, familial or friendly. Yet it seems there exist many similarities as well, even across cultures and years. I love reading about the things that make us human and so interesting...food is definitely one of those things.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Madara Mason

    This is a really lovely collection of food writing. Molly O'Neill has picked out some great writers, and the short but interesting history of food in America is well represented from Thomas Jefferson to Anthony Bourdain. Well known writers like Ruth Reichl and M.F.K. Fisher get plenty of page time, but other lesser-known writers and cooks have their say too. If I ever get a chance to teach a class on Food Writing, this is most certainly one of the "textbooks" of food writing I will put on the re This is a really lovely collection of food writing. Molly O'Neill has picked out some great writers, and the short but interesting history of food in America is well represented from Thomas Jefferson to Anthony Bourdain. Well known writers like Ruth Reichl and M.F.K. Fisher get plenty of page time, but other lesser-known writers and cooks have their say too. If I ever get a chance to teach a class on Food Writing, this is most certainly one of the "textbooks" of food writing I will put on the reading list. What I like most about the book is that O'Neill has chosen writers who are not writing about simply the food itself, but the gamut of meaning that eating and cooking encompasses. The "Food" in Food Writing is less important than the "Writing," and O'Neill has chosen some damn good writing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    This was a fascinating history of food writing. It took me ages to get through this book because it was so dense with information and different writing styles starting from pre-Revolutionary times to modern day. The recipes were mostly too complicated or involved foods I no longer eat for health reasons. It didn't matter because it was interesting to see how recipe writing changed over the years. I learned a lot and have new respect for some of the current food writers like Michael Pollan. I als This was a fascinating history of food writing. It took me ages to get through this book because it was so dense with information and different writing styles starting from pre-Revolutionary times to modern day. The recipes were mostly too complicated or involved foods I no longer eat for health reasons. It didn't matter because it was interesting to see how recipe writing changed over the years. I learned a lot and have new respect for some of the current food writers like Michael Pollan. I also understand why some of the earlier writers still command respect. If you want to write about food, this is a great book to learn about how it's been done in the past. Plus it was genuinely educational.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Tomamichel

    An interesting read, spanning as it does a couple of centuries of American food writing, or at least writing that mentions food. Not one you can read at a sitting, but good for dipping in and out of as the fancy takes you. I found it a disjointed read, since all the sections are written with different levels of skill, focus and interest. There are some really good sections on things as diverse as turtle soup, adultery, restaurant visits, and some uninteresting ones. The recipes are sprinkled thro An interesting read, spanning as it does a couple of centuries of American food writing, or at least writing that mentions food. Not one you can read at a sitting, but good for dipping in and out of as the fancy takes you. I found it a disjointed read, since all the sections are written with different levels of skill, focus and interest. There are some really good sections on things as diverse as turtle soup, adultery, restaurant visits, and some uninteresting ones. The recipes are sprinkled throughout, I might try one or two. It's worth marking pages or recipes that interest you as you read, as I think it is unlikely that anyone would read it twice, it is more a reference tome.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Northrup

    This took me two years to finish! Mostly because I kept it at my boyfriend's apartment to read when he was doing things like (appropriately) cooking dinner. Anthologies work very well for that. I think spacing out the reading actually kept the pieces more interesting because there wasn't the risk of them all mushing together after a while. I'd seen some of the pieces before, but that's inevitable for a collection of this sort. And I found quite a few new authors to look into further. Oddly, the This took me two years to finish! Mostly because I kept it at my boyfriend's apartment to read when he was doing things like (appropriately) cooking dinner. Anthologies work very well for that. I think spacing out the reading actually kept the pieces more interesting because there wasn't the risk of them all mushing together after a while. I'd seen some of the pieces before, but that's inevitable for a collection of this sort. And I found quite a few new authors to look into further. Oddly, the (only) two really unpleasant pieces were back to back.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    Fascinating survey of writing about American food, with characteristic recipes. I learned that for many decades the most famous American foods were canvasback duck and terrapin. A surprising subtheme that emerged clearly was that the "gourmet" movement did as much to kill American home cooking as the much-reviled "processed foods" movement. Two quibbles: first off, for a city girl the editor has almost nothing to say about immigrant foods (except Chinese); and many of these pieces are very clearl Fascinating survey of writing about American food, with characteristic recipes. I learned that for many decades the most famous American foods were canvasback duck and terrapin. A surprising subtheme that emerged clearly was that the "gourmet" movement did as much to kill American home cooking as the much-reviled "processed foods" movement. Two quibbles: first off, for a city girl the editor has almost nothing to say about immigrant foods (except Chinese); and many of these pieces are very clearly exerpts from longer things, not really standalone essays or even chapters.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kyla

    This was a perfect companion book if you like to juggle books like I do - I wouldn't sit down and read it from cover to cover in one sitting, but I kept it at hand when I needed a break from my other books to dip into, to snack on if you will. With concise, well-chosen selections from powerhouses like MFK Fisher, Laurie Colwin et al. I dog-eared a number of selections for further investigation too. A giant book of food writing - could it get much better? This was a perfect companion book if you like to juggle books like I do - I wouldn't sit down and read it from cover to cover in one sitting, but I kept it at hand when I needed a break from my other books to dip into, to snack on if you will. With concise, well-chosen selections from powerhouses like MFK Fisher, Laurie Colwin et al. I dog-eared a number of selections for further investigation too. A giant book of food writing - could it get much better?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I enjoy this genre of book (ie - Heat, Garlic and Sapphires, etc.) This is a nice anthology and is particularly interesting because it includes food writing dating back to the earliest days of our country. With the local/seasonal food movement in so popular, it was interesting to read not only how people ate what was available to them, but also how early on people tried to "import" exotic and non-local foods and spices. I enjoy this genre of book (ie - Heat, Garlic and Sapphires, etc.) This is a nice anthology and is particularly interesting because it includes food writing dating back to the earliest days of our country. With the local/seasonal food movement in so popular, it was interesting to read not only how people ate what was available to them, but also how early on people tried to "import" exotic and non-local foods and spices.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    A decent cross section of food writing for someone like me who is fairly new to the genre. For my taste, I found it more than a little uneven, but that may just be me. I had a strong preference for the 19th and early 20th century stuff, really began to drift away past WWII, but then came back to a fairly strong liking for the book by the time I got to some of the more contemporary magazine pieces. Overall, I'd recommend it. A decent cross section of food writing for someone like me who is fairly new to the genre. For my taste, I found it more than a little uneven, but that may just be me. I had a strong preference for the 19th and early 20th century stuff, really began to drift away past WWII, but then came back to a fairly strong liking for the book by the time I got to some of the more contemporary magazine pieces. Overall, I'd recommend it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Russell

    O'Neill has selected a good cross-section of American writing about food across the past few centuries. You'll find articles about growing and producing food, how to cook, what food means in our society, and, for the late-20th century selections, how our culture has changed food in some not-so-helpful ways. The recipes, while not the focus of the book, definitely help ground the selections in their historical periods, and I'd consider trying to cook several of them. O'Neill has selected a good cross-section of American writing about food across the past few centuries. You'll find articles about growing and producing food, how to cook, what food means in our society, and, for the late-20th century selections, how our culture has changed food in some not-so-helpful ways. The recipes, while not the focus of the book, definitely help ground the selections in their historical periods, and I'd consider trying to cook several of them.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    I really enjoyed this book. It's an anthology of American food writing (as if you couldn't tell from the title) from the 1700s to the present day - perfect to pick up and read a selection or two whenever you are in the mood. It also introduced me to some new food writers that I am looking forward to reading more of. I really enjoyed this book. It's an anthology of American food writing (as if you couldn't tell from the title) from the 1700s to the present day - perfect to pick up and read a selection or two whenever you are in the mood. It also introduced me to some new food writers that I am looking forward to reading more of.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Derek Stiles

    Just the foreword was worth checking out this book. It's a series of short essays on food from the colonies forward, with a few recipes of the time thrown in. I'm only at 1842, but it's so cool. I think there are a lot of lost truly American recipes (especially those that incorporate squirrel and raccoon). Just the foreword was worth checking out this book. It's a series of short essays on food from the colonies forward, with a few recipes of the time thrown in. I'm only at 1842, but it's so cool. I think there are a lot of lost truly American recipes (especially those that incorporate squirrel and raccoon).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    It seems a bit silly to review an anthology and I can't say this one was particularly special. It did introduce me to some new food writers (I got Clementine in the Kitchen after reading an excerpt) but how many clever essays about fried chicken do you really want to read? It seems a bit silly to review an anthology and I can't say this one was particularly special. It did introduce me to some new food writers (I got Clementine in the Kitchen after reading an excerpt) but how many clever essays about fried chicken do you really want to read?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    A compendium of random food writing from notable and rare heroes and nobodies. This book gives me a sense of American history and has taken me to the kitchen a few times already with its recipies. Would be easier to read if it were a more continuous book, but then it would be a different book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lyra

    "People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don't you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do? The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry." -MFK Fisher "People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don't you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do? The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry." -MFK Fisher

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    A cookbook author, memoirist, and longtime New York Times food columnist, Molly O'Neill has been a hardcore foodie for more years than most of us have been using utensils. In American Food Writing, O'Neill pleases just about everyone A cookbook author, memoirist, and longtime New York Times food columnist, Molly O'Neill has been a hardcore foodie for more years than most of us have been using utensils. In American Food Writing, O'Neill pleases just about everyone

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Loved this anthology. The essays were well chosen and interesting. The best part was the assemblage. Not only was it chronological, but it read like a novel. Each essay transitioned perfectly into the next, with a true beginning, middle and end to the story. I'll read this again. Loved this anthology. The essays were well chosen and interesting. The best part was the assemblage. Not only was it chronological, but it read like a novel. Each essay transitioned perfectly into the next, with a true beginning, middle and end to the story. I'll read this again.

  22. 4 out of 5

    mindy Marranca

    saw her speak at Chautauqua a few years ago - and was interested in both how she put the book together and the historical perspective on food writing. I didn't read entire thing - more skimming - but interesting - and with recipes. worth a perusal! saw her speak at Chautauqua a few years ago - and was interested in both how she put the book together and the historical perspective on food writing. I didn't read entire thing - more skimming - but interesting - and with recipes. worth a perusal!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Virginia Scharff

    Some absolutely fantastic selections (so far, my favorite is Edna Lewis on hog-slaughtering time). And some not so interesting stuff (Evan Hunter on pancakes, from the era when hard-boiled prose meant you could repeat yourself a lot). On balance, a super resource to sample selectively.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    A wonderful and broad selection of pieces ranging from Thomas Jefferson to Michael Pollen. Hear a few samples at Forgotten Classics. A wonderful and broad selection of pieces ranging from Thomas Jefferson to Michael Pollen. Hear a few samples at Forgotten Classics.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eve

    This so an excellent anthology but was a hard read - I just never found a groove with it in terms of reading straight through or browsing. Lots of teases in some ways and excellent writing about food that spans US history - lots of interesting and delicious reflections.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    had to return the book- great to dip into for food related essays from unusual sources. Tales of a Lillian Hellman's cocktail party, etc. had to return the book- great to dip into for food related essays from unusual sources. Tales of a Lillian Hellman's cocktail party, etc.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Rucker

    This is on my syllabus. It's really good so far. MFK Fisher is awesome!!! This is on my syllabus. It's really good so far. MFK Fisher is awesome!!!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    Didn't read cover to cover but skipped around. Lot's of cooking essays from which to choose! Didn't read cover to cover but skipped around. Lot's of cooking essays from which to choose!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Larry

    Some interesting and delicious accounts

  30. 5 out of 5

    MaryBeth

    This is a great book to skip around and find a chapter that interests you. Some great recipes! Anyone interested in food writing should enjoy this.

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