A Taste of America

$18.00

by John L. Hess and Karen Hess, Viking/Grossman Publishers, first edition, 1977. A pristine copy of this curmudgeonly classic by an award-winning New York Times investigative journalist (and briefly, the Times’s food editor) and his wife, a prize-winning culinary historian. Both felt strongly that good food in this country – in supermarkets, in restaurants -- was in a precipitous decline. In short, this book lifted the veil on the ‘50s – ‘60s –‘70s “food establishment.”

Few were spared the barbed tongues of the Hesses, always backed up by facts and quotes from the accused. John Hess wrote: "Since the function of (gourmet societies] is chiefly to establish that they eat better — that is, fancier—than other Americans, the disaster that has hit our common tables only enhances their sense of superiority. It is status, not food, that they love."

In fact, in many respects, the old gang had become complacent, collusive, a closed clique that had lost touch what real fresh food could taste like. Restaurant reviewers, cookbook authors, magazine food writers – the co-authors spared no one, even taking swipes at all the big food writers of the day – James Beard, Craig Claiborne, even Julia Child. They especially beat up on the ever-jovial Beard, and then in his mid-‘70s, for being a hack and a processed food corporate shill “who toiled for such clients as Planter’s Peanut Oil, Green Giant, Nestlé, Restaurant Associates and Pillsbury.”

Needless to say, this stink bomb of a book caused the Hesses to be vilified and ostracized by the gang. But they’d done their job, and what’s more, they became early champions of many aspects of the so-called “New American Food” – calling to revive the craft of making heritage breads, using fresh, in season vegetables in recipes to being in the front line of the farm-to-table movement -- working with local farmers, and meat, poultry and seafood purveyors.

Hardback with DJ, 384 pages. No remainder mark. DJ now covered by a removable mylar protector. Condition: As New.


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