The New Glorious American Food

The New Glorious American Food

by Christopher Idone

I don’t normally enjoy cookbooks.  Though some cooks approach them with fervor, like reading a novel, I typically find them too steeped in mediocrity to really capture me.  Instead, my food library is packed to the gills with tomes on food philosophy, the history of ingredients, cuisine’s contribution to the development of civilization, and the occasional memoir.

In a unique moment of delight, however, I discovered a book that seems to touch on all of these — and is yet considered to be a cookbook.

Twenty-five years ago, Christopher Idone released Glorious American Food to an eager audience.  Now he has released an updated version, The New Glorious American Food, so I sat down with what looked like an encyclopedia — and a fear of impending boredom — to begin my reading.

After a few pages, however, I found myself approaching the book’s pages with the mindset of an anthropologist.  Here was the history of America , presented via the plate.  This was no ordinary cookbook.

With the aid of Idone’s colorful writing, which is delivered in a tone that is at times nostalgic, wistful, and speaks of an America long-gone, I traversed the vast landscape of our country in a way I hadn’t done before.

Like ancient relics, here were clam chowders and johnnycakes from the Northeast, Dutch brisket and spiced peaches from the Mid-Atlantic, Creole oysters and pecan pie from the Deep South, sashimi and lemon meringue pie from the West Coast, and everything in between.

In describing each section of the country, Idone manages to capture the heart and soul of its land and its people, and how that has become translated into breakfast, lunch, and dinner in America.  Some stories illustrate how much has changed, such as the areas of Long Island that no longer have fish for catching, or the proliferation of microbreweries and California wines.  It is a look at the past with an eye on the present, and poignantly illustrates the diversity of our culture and its roots.

Having worked with chefs from around the globe, I have often been critical of America ’s gastronomy.  To me, it always seemed that our cuisine was comprised of a hodge-podge of cultural dishes without much rhyme or reason.  However, when viewed with a sharper eye, and examined regionally, it is obvious that my snobbery has prevented me from looking at the individual pieces of the puzzle.

Idone has now given me much food for thought, and I am certain I will return to this book many times when I am craving comfort foods or a moment of nostalgia.  Or perhaps even a refreshing cup of gazpacho.