[1 December 2009]
PopMatters Editor & Publisher
In this era of factory produced food, mammoth corporate chain restaurants, and the overall reliance on poor quality fast and frozen food, a counter food movement focused on the local, organic and sustainable has been gaining more steam every day. That’s hardly surprising. Many of us seem to realize something vital is missing in our basic culinary lives and much of that boils down to simplicity, tradition and uniqueness. There was actually a time in the recent past when Americans enjoyed locally grown vegetables, filled their tables with meat from animals raised according to ethical traditions, and shopped each day for the fresh items needed for the day’s meals.
Mark Kurlansky , who previously wrote the fabulous food histories Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World and Salt: A World History, now offers up a portrait of the US “before the national highway system, before the chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation’s food was seasonal, and traditional.” You see, back during the Depression, FDR’s Works Progress Administration employed scores of writers and a number of those writers were sent out into the field to record American cooking and eating habits. The result is a documentary time capsule, capturing this moment of social history right before it was about to change forever in the period of post-war prosperity that saw the birth of mass food production and the TV dinner. Kurlansky brings together many of these writings to paint a portrait of a gloriously un-homogenized America.