Texas (Cook)Book Festival

Reviewing the Central Market Cooking School

Texas (Cook)Book Festival

The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation

by David Kamp

Broadway Books, 416 pp., $26

With equal measures of historical inquiry and dishy gossip, David Kamp traces the rise of America's preoccupation with gourmet gastronomy. Kamp is clearly a foodie: He dismisses out-of-season, chemically treated produce as "Franken-fruit." And he is likewise an amused confidante full of juicy, personal anecdotes about the giants of the American food revolution. Here's the lumbering homosexual James Beard stumbling into a career in food when success on the stage fails to materialize! Here's the free-spirited lefty Alice Waters serving up politics with mache as Jeremiah Tower plays "John Lennon to Waters' Paul McCartney"! Here's the high-flying celebrity chefs of the Eighties, living rockstar lives complete with nights fueled with prodigious amounts of cocaine!

For a culture so imbued – nay, obsessed – with food as much of the U.S. is, it's unfathomable to consider a time when pizza had to be phonetically spelled for pronunciation's sake and was considered the height of exotica. But many of us recall a time when romaine was considered a delicacy and sushi dining required a significant strain of courage. Who'd a-thunk a whole television station would be devoted to food? Certainly not the hulking Julia Child when she ventured amateurishly in front of cameras in the early days of The French Chef. Kamp delights in the food revolution and the flavorful players who made it happen. In his giddy pen, the drama unfolds with the zest of a Serrano-studded salsa.

David Kamp will be in the Texas Book Festival Cooking Tent on Sunday, Oct. 28, at 12:30pm.

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