BookClubSandwich is Reading ‘The United States of Arugula’

by Kim on January 27, 2011 · 8 comments

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I’m excited to tell you that BookClubSandwich, the online bookclub for foodies and wannabes, has picked our third book — The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp.

For a little background, BookClubSandwich is an online book club I host with the lovely Andi at Estella’s Revenge. We’ve been around since last June, and so far have read Coop by Michael Perry and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. The discussions all happen online, and it’s open to anyone who is interested in reading some great (we hope) books about food.

I’ve been looking forward to reading The United States of Arugula since since last June when I put together a Narrative Nonfiction 5 list about people going back to the farm. The book popped up during my research and didn’t fit the list, but made it to the TBR pile anyway. If you’re curious, this description of the book from Kamp’s website sums it up much better than I can:

The United States of Arugula is a book about one of the happiest developments of our time: the quantum leap forward in food choice, food quality, and culinary sophistication in America in the last sixty years or so. I was born in 1966, when American adults were in thrall to convenience foods and NASA chic (you know, Tang orange-drink powder and those Pillsbury food sticks that looked like Slim Jims and tasted like Tootsie Rolls), and I’ve been fortunate to witness, over the course of my lifetime, a radical refurbishment of my family’s larder and just about everyone else’s. We have a greater variety of ingredients and products available to us, representing a wider-than-ever range of ethnic influences (it’s shocking how literally white-bread American cookery was in the midcentury), and if we care to, we can eat better, healthier, and more flavorful food than our ancestors could have dreamed.

The book examines not only the social forces that effected this transformation, but the visionaries who changed American food for the better: among them James Beard, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and Alice Waters. Too often, these individuals have been portrayed as jolly or silly creatures on the margins of American culture, mere “food people.” I think they don’t get their due. In my view, their contributions to American life are on a par with those of Americans who innovated in other fields: Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony, Charles Ives, Orson Welles, Walt Disney, Charlie Parker, Elvis. (Well, maybe not Elvis.) What’s more, food people are interesting people, as passionate, brilliant, charismatic, contrary, and kooky as leaders in other creative fields. Their stories are rich, and they are told in The United States of Arugula.

The discussion will take place the week of March 14, 2011, here and over at Andi’s place, details to come. I hope you’ll join us!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam January 27, 2011 at 11:42 am

That book sounds awesome. :) What a fun idea for a book club!

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Kim January 27, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Pam: Thanks! I hope you will be able to participate.

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Valerie January 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I read this book pre-blogging and found it good reading! I think that one has to be a real “foodie”, though, to completely enjoy it.

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Kim January 29, 2011 at 8:51 am

Valerie: Interesting! I wouldn’t really consider myself a real “foodie,” so I’m not sure what I will think of it. I do have some very foodie friends, so I may tap them for opinions.

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Andi January 28, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Really looking forward to this one, Kim! Great choice!

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Kim January 29, 2011 at 8:51 am

Thanks Andi, I am too!

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