Found: The Lost WPA Files….Book review

I am in the midst of reading a really interesting book, by Mark Kurlansky, titled,

The Food of a Younger Land

During the Great Depression, unemployment, and despair, were at all-time highs in our nation. Through the New Deal, programs sprang up to get people back to work. Opinions abound on the New Deal, but without it, I wouldn’t be reading this book (though I’m reading the book published in 2009, for the first time, is part of the interesting and quirky nature of this story). So, its got that goin’ for it.

Author Mark Kurlansky found a huge box of old files from the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Writer’s Project. This project produced, first, guidebooks to all regions of the United States,which were quite successful in their day, and are still admired to this day.Their longevity can be accounted for due to the fact that they weren’t just maps with facts, but aimed to get more to the cultural heart of the country.

The second major project was a book called, America Eats.  America Eats, again, aiming for that cultural heart, would surely feature recipes, but also how, why, and with whom Americans are eating. It would include diversity of culture in its selections, and each region’s entry would have a chance to show its unique “flavor”, with local ingredients and regionally obtained foods. This gets to the long secondary title: A portrait of America before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen foods. Unfortunately, the original book “America Eats” was never completed. Pearl Harbor was bombed, and that pretty much ended the Federal Writer’s Project, as the nation dealt with a second War to End all Wars….

Now, Kurlansky’s book: I’m appreciating the biographical information about the contributors in each region’s section – there were writer’s of all kinds involved in the project – experienced authors with books to their credit, and some people that really had no history of writing, but needed a job and were allowed to give it a try — and the recipes are fun to read. Some take the form of essays interspersed with cooking directions, some tell a recipes story in more of a narrative form, like the one I read just the other night, about the maple sugaring process in Vermont (kind of like a Lake Wobegone description).

I do like recipe books that read like novels, and novels that contain recipes. Do you have any interesting ones you’d like to pass on? Please leave a comment, and I’ll update my library queue.

Guest Post: Review of Kitchen Chinese by Ann Mah

Hop on over to Cold Read, a where sister-brother team Suzanne Dobbins and Craig Maas review all their recent reads! Suzanne is a serious(ly fast!) reader – and is a great reviewer. Enjoy her post on the book Kitchen Chinese, by Ann Mah.

After your read the review, answer the question in the comments section:

What is your favorite way to cook outside your own culture,or, what would you like to learn more about? Cooking non-American foods usually means you’re eating more fruits and veggies, healthy fats, and getting a balanced meal.

We like to have tacos and some Tex-Mex specialities around here, but we’ve also been trying to make a few Bohemian items. Yes, my ancestry is from a country that doesn’t really exist anymore on the map, but with a rich dietary heritage! More to come on that. But for now, please share: I’d love to hear what you’re cooking up!

Thanks, Suzanne, for hosting this posting!