OP: The Taste of America
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John and Karen Hess, husband and wife, spent their professional lives swimming against the current. A brilliant and thorny couple, they established themselves as the arbiters of what was good and—more frequently—what was bad about American food in the twentieth century.
John (1917–2005) was an accomplished journalist with many years at The New York Times, although he served only a few tumultuous months as food critic of that paper. Karen (1918–2007) was a food writer and became, in time, one of the leading figures in the emerging field of culinary history.
Rigorous in their attention to detail in every sector of the food world, from the way crops are grown to the culture of restaurants, the Hesses advocated rigorous standards, repeatedly asserting that the country’s great culinary breakthroughs in the post WWII era degraded the way we eat rather than enhanced it. In a number of articles written in the 1970s, culminating in this book published in 1977, they deplored the loss of traditional American foodways and their replacement with new movements and overbearing trendiness.
This highly abrasive and controversial book was a sensation when it was published. Its disparagement of the new world of hyper-sophisticated and pretentious ingredients and preparation methods is accompanied by an assault on the “cult of recipes” and on those who spread the doctrine of gourmet food—even such icons as Craig Claiborne and Julia Child.
We had, the Hesses argued, abandoned the simple purity and the honest ingredients of the early centuries of our country. What we now make in our kitchens or consume in our restaurants, what they call junk food, is dressed up as a bright new cuisine intended to impress ourselves and to be celebrated by others.
There have been many changes since The Taste of America was published, but this iconoclastic and totally startling book continues to be read and appreciated as a classic of American food literature.We are happy to offer a Very Good Plus first printing in a Near Fine, unclipped jacket. There is a stain on the bottom edge and a few internal smudges suggesting a thorough read, as it well deserves.