A food writer’s cross-country search for what it means to be an American.
Yorkshire-raised food writer and Food Network personality Majumdar (Eating for Britain: A Journey Into the Heart (and Belly) of the Nation, 2011, etc.) recently relocated from his beloved Britain to Los Angeles to live with his girlfriend. However, after several years of American life, he was still bewildered by the prospect of becoming a “true” American. What, exactly, does that mean? Knowing from experience that food is the easiest way to a culture’s heart, the author embarked on a coast-to-coast tour seeking out culinary enclaves to find the secret to Americanness. One of Majumdar’s first lessons was that ethnicity and food culture often go hand in hand, and his experiences among the burgeoning yet still largely unrecognized Filipino community of Los Angeles prove that ethnic groups eat traditional food with a sense of pride for their homeland but also incorporate contemporary style and conventions. Not all of his experiences were as gratifying. His trip to Philadelphia’s annual Wing Bowl alongside competitive eater Jamie McDonald was truly an American experience: “I’d be hard pressed to think of any other nation on earth where a competition to watch twenty three men eat as many chicken wings as they could in thirty minutes would attract 23,000 spectators, including every stripper in the city, at 7am.” Other highlights include goat’s head in the Bronx, a Nebraska meatpacking plant, and rather expected trips to Wisconsin and Alaska for cheese making and salmon fishing. But these are only a few examples from Majumdar’s diverse, patchworklike collection of foodie experiences. Regardless of where his travels took him, the author learned that if there is any constant throughout American culture, it’s that we love to eat and are proud of our food.
Filled with loving portraits of quirky characters, Majumdar’s series of vignettes is a candid and endearing snapshot of not only American food culture, but America itself.