United States of Arugula

In this whirlwind of a week, I got my days mixed-up and thus, tomorrow is shaping up to be a hugely exciting day in terms of blogging. I’ve put most of my time this week into preparing for the projects, but on my downtime I’m still food-minded. Today I wanted to mention this fantastic book I’ve just started reading!

The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp    This book is an excellent historical narrative for anyone interested in food of any kind. Can you remember when The Food Network didn’t exist? Can you try to comprehend a time when the average American never even heard of salsa?

Food Culture has paved many new trails in the past 50 years alone. A cook went from being considered a low-class, unimpressive job to, potentially, someone without formal training that produces television cooking shows while skyrocketing to celebrity status. Among this, interest in food trends, diets, and ingredients have spanned the gamut from the weird to the expensive to the rebirth of gardening as something young, hip people are taking on as a hobby.

Chapters cover the history of French cooking and it’s influence on most other cuisines since the 1800’s, modern supermarkets, free-range and organics, fast food, speciality and gourmet shops, and general feeling of excitement about where food culture contines to go. Kamp quotes the Beastie Boys in one chapter, and quotes food revolutionaries like Clementine Paddleford in the next. (The latter who wrote a food-adventurer column called Queer Fish, in which she encouraged people to visit ethnic markets and spent days driving around to stop at eat at any cafe or restaurant she could find on a back road. She said  “Be a kitchen rebel and glory in rebellion. Raise the eyebrows of your friends.” YES!)

“Food is a fundamental fact of our cultural life, a part of the conversation, something contemplated as well as eaten.”

The cover is an clever reinterpretation of The Last Supper, with James Beard in the prestigious Jesus position, surrounded  by culinary movers and shakers like Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck and Rachel Ray.


It’s Kamp’s almost juvenile optimism for the direction of our current food culture that feels inspiring. By eating, we are doing something so much more important than nourishing ourselves. We create identities, build communities and invent our own life stories – all of these happen when we shop, prepare, cook and consume food. Simply by being alive right now, we have more food opportunities than any other time in history. And it’s very, very exciting.

It is, in short, a great time to be an eater. And how often do we get to say something as unreservedly upbeat as that? …food is one area of American life where things just continue to improve. If we’re cooking at home, we have a greater breadth and higher quality of ingredients available to us. If we’re dining out, we have more options open to us. It’s okay for the traditions of peasant cookery to inform those of haute cuisine, and for haute flourishes to inform regular-guy food. (from preface)

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A great big THANK YOU for readers Sarah Schimeneck and Nathan Krisanda for sending me this excellent photo of themselves posing with their spring roll creations, inspired by the last cooking video!

I hope they were as yummy as they look! Good job!

One thought on “United States of Arugula

  1. this sounds like a great book! The title is super catchy, and I really love this topic! Have you read the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan? That book really changed the way I view food and food production.

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