Sunday, July 1, 2007
The Oxford Companion to American Food
Edited by Andrew F. Smith
Oxford Univ. 692 pp. $49.95
James Beard, the father of American gastronomy, once said "Food is our common ground, a universal experience." Culinary historian and food writer Andrew F. Smith (author of, among others, Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National Condiment, Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn in America, and The Turkey: An American Story) proves it in this appetizing and fulfilling compendium. He and a stable
of experts have written encyclopedic entries, organized alphabetically, on everything from A & W root beer stands to the zombie. (Beard gets nearly a page to himself.) Larded (in every positive sense of that word) with illustrations, this collection eclectically combines history, biography, analysis and interpretation in presenting American food as medicine, weapon, stress-reliever and pleasure-giver. Focusing on "food and beverages consumed in the United States," the whole and its individual portions -- in words and pictures -- will make your mouth water. Grub's up. Dinner's on. Dive in anywhere in this smorgasbord and come up with a tasty morsel.
-- Evelyn Small