12 March 2016

Weekend Cooking: The Mad Feast by Matthew Gavin Frank

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

What do you really know about American cooking? Once you get past barbecue, crab cakes, and maple syrup what else can you name? In The Mad Feast, Matthew Gavin Frank takes us on a region-by-region tour of the country to investigate the signature dish of each state.

The essays included in The Mad Feast are mostly light and fun, although Frank's free-ranging thoughts sometimes veer off into lists and random observations about people, the past, horticulture, and even linguistics. He talks about food and history and how these have mixed to produce our regional culinary quirks.

 For example, in the chapter on Ohio, we learn that heirloom tomatoes got their start there in the late 1800s, when people still thought the fruit was poisonous. So perhaps that botanical event has twisted and rambled through the state and through time to Cincinnati and was instrumental in the birth of that city's famous style of chili. In the chapter on Hawaii, we learn how shave ice has links to Asian immigrants who worked the cane and pineapple fields a hundred years ago.

You won't want to read The Mad Feast from front to back all in one go. This is the kind of book to pick up and read piecemeal. I looked first at the five states I've lived in. Then I checked out states I'm pretty familiar with. I'll get to the rest, bit by bit.

Although each chapter contains at least one recipe, The Mad Feast isn't quite a cookbook. Many of the recipes are historic and some quite frankly are not that appealing (an apple gelatin/fudge from the 1940s?). Others, however, like Arizona's green chile pinto beans, look pretty tasty. The book is also not a travel guide, but it'd be fun to check out a state's portrait if you're planing a trip. Note too that Matthew Gavin Frank's observations are a bit irreverent, sometimes off the wall, but always entertaining.

To be honest, I'm not sure if The Mad Feast is shelf-worthy, but I'd definitely encourage you to check it out of the library. It'd also make a great gift for anyone interested in regional American foods and for trivia fans.

Liveright Publishing, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781631490736
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 3/12/16, 6:14 AM  

This sounds totally like a book I would love! Thanks for featuring it! (good thing I can check off the anti spam box so you know this trite comment is not spam LOL)

Mae Travels 3/12/16, 6:54 AM  

American cooking has been the subject of a great many books -- your subject's organization by state sounds interesting, though as you say, not one to read all at once. I'm suspicious of any book that talks about the old myth that tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous -- there's some folklore to be explored in this idea.

I couldn't decide which of my cooking posts to link to this weekend. I compromised and put both of them. If this is a no-no please tell me and I'll never do it again!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Beth F 3/12/16, 7:03 AM  

NOTE to everyone: you can leave multiple links. There are pretty much no rules here ...

Tina 3/12/16, 7:03 AM  

The historical accounts or terroir of foods is appealing to me. Sounds like a cool book to read here and there.

Kailana 3/12/16, 7:22 AM  

Maybe something to try one day. Maybe there is a Canadian version!

Unknown 3/12/16, 7:40 AM  

Sounds like an interesting concept for a book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

jama 3/12/16, 7:51 AM  

I'll definitely look for this one at the library. I like learning interesting facts about the various states. I'll probably read about shave ice first. :) Thanks for the review.

Jackie McGuinness 3/12/16, 8:40 AM  

Agree sounds like a library pick worth at least skimming through.

bermudaonion 3/12/16, 8:53 AM  

This sounds fascinating - I'm very curious about what it says about South Carolina.

Deb in Hawaii 3/12/16, 11:09 AM  

This sounds like a book that would appeal to the food geek in me. ;-) I love reading the stories behind regional dishes and food traditions.

Deb in Hawaii 3/12/16, 11:31 AM  

I got an error message when I linked the first time and so I tried again and it appears to have linked me twice. Can you remove one? Sorry about that. :-(

Claudia 3/12/16, 11:38 AM  

This sounds like a fun book, will have to see if our library carries it.

Margot 3/12/16, 12:07 PM  

This book reminds me of the Jane and Michael Stern books, although this book is focused more on the historical. I like the Stern books because, when traveling, I like knowing about the food in an area. I'm going to check the library for this one. Thanks for featuring it.

Create With Joy 3/12/16, 12:45 PM  

Mad Feast sounds interesting - thanks for sharing your review and hosting Beth!

Vicki 3/12/16, 3:26 PM  

This sounds like a book all foodies would enjoy!

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