Reading Notes /
Mark Kurlansky’s Salt is a wonderful book. If I reread it I’ll quote some. Just dipping into his The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food : Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation’s Food Was Seasonal, Regional, and Traditional : From the Lost WPA Files, 2009
The writers were constantly under suspicion of boondoggling. When the
New York City Writers’ Project produced a translation of the biblical
Song of Songs from the original Hebrew into Yiddish, one perennial
critic of the program looked at the translation and noticed that
Yiddish, a High German language, is written with Hebrew letters. He
charged, as though he had at last found a smoking gun, that they were
both the same language.
It’s funny glancing at the Kurlansky in the context of reading all
my current anti-state stuff:
But the real goal was to attempt to show a Communist underpinning to
Roosevelt’s New Deal, ironic since many historians today credit the
New Deal with stopping the growth of Communism in the United States.
Reminds me of the history of heroin: heroin was concocted as a cure for cocaine addiction!
I’m skipping around, sampling here and there: regional foods, New England, clams, Mississippi blacks … Kurlansky has his rich samples of knowledge, skill, ignorance, prejudice, cultural belligerance … I’ll tell my own story: my army buddy, Phil, was drafted out of New Jersey, but had New England ties. I never saw him patriotic for Jersey, but was he ever for New England: sang the praises of this and that method for clam chowder. Now I like many a clam chowder, Manhattan and New England, but Phil dismissed all Manhattan chowders as “vegetable soup with clams added.” When someone’s face is set hard in belligerance, don’t try to introduce actual reason to them, don’t offer experience: experience hasn’t a chance against bellicose prejudice. But: I made a clam chowder once following the recipe in Larousse Gastronomique: a Parisian version of Manhattan clam chowder: complex process, took hours and hours. I’ve had bowl after bowl of great chowder in Sloppy Louis’s, down by Fulton Street, and I’ve had many a great chowder in Maine, in Boston, but I challenge the world, there’s never been a better chowder than that one I made, in Long Beach, Long Island, for Hilary and me.
The time went into preparing the clams: in ways I’ve never heard mentioned by any New Englander. So: all those soups that win all those prizes: fast food, never mind it.