The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America's Food

Liveright: Norton. Nov. 2015. 448p. illus. ISBN 9781631490736. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781631490743. COOKING
Buckle up foodies, it's going to be a bumpy ride! Frank (Preparing the Ghost) has collected 50 recipes from the 50 states, but the food is just the jumping-off point for essays that sometimes read like poetry and sometimes like prose. This is not your average culinary tour. Yes, some of the expected dishes (cheesesteaks, key lime pie, deep-dish pizza) are here with their colorful histories, but Frank consistently explores the theme of violence, as expressed not only in food and hunger but also in familial relationships, the meaning of work, and the subjugation involved in nation building. Mashed in with historical facts about each state and its representative dish is information about various animals, towns, and bygone industries. Together they read as an elegy for the American Dream, if it ever actually existed. You may never enjoy your regional favorite in the same way again. The recipes are culled from original sources and vary considerably in style, yield and ease, but that just adds to the wild mix.
VERDICT For those who like their food writing literary and personal, rather than authoritative. Best to be read in small doses, this is a unique, fascinating offering.
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