Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Oxford Companion to American Food

and Drink

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

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company