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The Food of a Younger Land

I was given a reader’s copy of this book by the publisher before its actual release date, fyi. That said, I loved this book and I’m not even a foodie. Kurlansky is someone who I know via his history books about the Basques and European Jewry. Apparently he’s also been a food writer for quite some time. He also makes decent woodcuts which this book is illustrated with. This book is a collection of food writing that was created for an ambitious WPA project called America Eats that was assembled, mostly, and never published. Kurlansky’s book both talks a lot about the project and also reproduces the essays, poems, stories and recipes from the files that have been languishing in the Library of Congress archives. Just the dscussion of poring through these files at LoC was enough to make my heart race. There is meta-discussion about the America Eats project and the WPA writers projects in general as well as some discussion about the individual regional food writing projects.

The fascinating part about reading these pieces is how much the world if food and eating has changed in the sixty-plus years since most of it was written. Regional differences in food and eating habits and food celebrations have been vanishing, supplanted by predictability and standardization. There is good news and bad news to what has changed, of course, but this book highlights the richness of regional food cultures in an almost poignant way. The fact that the book opened up with Vermont cuisine -- some of which is still around today like sugar-on-snow celebrations -- was probably the clincher for assuring I would read this book avidly from start to finish.