America the Edible: A Hungry History, From Sea to Dining Sea
By: Adam Richman
Publisher: Rodale Books
Publication Date: November 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 14, 2010
Part memoir, part travelogue, and part study of culinary anthropology, America the Edible is an enjoyable look at nine cities spread across the country through their history, culture, and yes, their food.
Richman begins by giving a brief overview of his life, how he became so enraptured with food, and how/why he kept a diary of food/restaurants that form the basis of this book.
The nine cities featured in America the Edible are: Los Angeles, Honolulu, Brooklyn, St. Louis, Cleveland, Austin, San Francisco, Portland (Maine), and Savannah. Los Angeles apparently holds a special place for Richman as the city is featured twice - in the first and last chapters.
If you're looking for a recipe book, this isn't it. While there are a few recipes spread throughout (guacamole, anybody?) this is a memoir of Richman's travels and the restaurants he discovered. A quote that says a lot about his philosophy is shared in the introduction, "...it has always been the context, the companionship, all the wonderful ancillary bips and bops that have shaped the excellence of the meal. Food on its own can do only so much to be transportive; it's when you add the seasoning provided by a loved (or loathed) one...that a meal becomes truly memorable (for better or worse)." (pg. ix) And that's exactly what this book is - a recollection of friends, acquaintances, and events that surrounded each meal. The stories are fairly "fluffy" and lighthearted, but if you're not a fan of Adam Richman, you may find much of the retelling dull. It should be noted that there is frequent use of obscenities sprinkled throughout the text.
While the book is a bit disjointed, the author settles down and is at his best when he describes his meals. I could smell the succulent sauces, fresh from the oven breads, and marinated meats that are then slow roasted whiffing up from the pages. Yum. "The crusty tear of fresh, hot French bread gave way to the rich juiciness of the beef and the nuttiness of the pungent blue cheese, and the onion compote was a jamlike sweet counterpoint to the intense, savory burger." (pg. 242)
Quill says: Fans of Man v. Food as well as those who enjoy food-themed travelogues, should enjoy this culinary tale.