A big, amiable smorgasbord of gustatory reading, loosely split up into twelve divisions such as ""Epicurean Seductions,"" ""Gastronomic Extravaganzas,"" or (more simply) ""Garlic."" Here you may encounter Ben Jonson inviting that nameless ""grave sir"" to share his humble seven- or eight-course supper; Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, in Cross Creek, ready to ""sit alone and weep for the misery of the world that does not have blue crabs and a Jersey cow""; or Nero Wolfe extolling the glories of blueberry-fed chickens. William Styron discourses learnedly on the true Southern fried chicken (""at least one and a half hours of sober, selfless, undeviating effort must be spent in order to produce a satisfactory result""). Mrs. Trollope observes that American eaters ""mix things together with the strangest incongruity imaginable""--a remark that's still as apt as Ogden Nash's complaint about salads which resemble ""a month of sundaes."" There are snippets from cookbooks, celebrations of beloved restaurants, descriptions of notable trenchermen from Mark Twain (Jones' own account, from The American Heritage Cookbook) to Diamond Jim Brady. There are also resurrections of some recent gastronomic causes câ€šlâ‰¤bres: John McPhee's New Yorker profile of ""a chef named Otto"" and Craig Claiborne's $4000 dinner for two (followed by Russell Baker's inspired restaging of the event with Diet Pepsi and peanut butter). Perhaps the most delightful entry is Shana Alexander's tribute to the late Dinty Moore, a family friend during her childhood. Certainly the most unexpected is the Chekhov story about a famished waif fed oysters, which sits among the surrounding kickshaws like Banquo's ghost. Food for various kinds of thought; about the only annoyance is the extreme abridgment of many of the selections. In the nearly total absence of context, they all bounce around together a bit too emptily. Still, happy munching.