Absolutely delightful slices of Americana from Hubbell (Broadsides from the Other Orders, 1993, etc.). Known as a crackerjack natural historian, Hubbell here dons a journalist's garb to file these wry reports (the title comes from the New Yorker department, ""Our Far-Flung Correspondents,"" where most of these pieces first appeared). She puts in a lot of miles behind the wheel to discover the best pies to be found along the nation's highways. She researches the folk history of Hopping John, that tasty dish of black-eyed peas and rice often served as a New Year's ritual. She attends an annual get-together of magicians in Colon, Mich., where ""quick hands and sly diversions"" can be found on every street corner, at any hour. There are fleeting sketches on delivering honey in New York City (Hubbell tends an apiary in the Ozarks), the National Bowling Hall of Fame, the vexing street layout of Boston. Two of the longer articles are among the best in the collection. The first is a brightly amusing look at the tabloid Weekly World News, newspapering at its ""absurdist, post-postmodern limits,"" where the writers collect big paychecks, as the editor confesses, ""because we are, in effect, asking them to end their careers . . . We are the French Foreign Legion of Journalism."" The other is a report from an earthquake watch: It had been predicted that New Madrid, Mo., would be hammered by a mighty trembler on December 3, 1990. Hubbell burrows into the suspect terrain of earthquake forecasting, mining it for humor, giving a tweak to self-important scientists (December 3 passed uneventfully in New Madrid). All the stories are smooth as cream, droll, strange subjects turned fascinating, with the clarity and simplicity of Robert Frost. Hubbell at her clever, entertaining best.