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"Ironically, the chaotic pile of imperfect manuscripts has left us with a better record than would the nameless, cleaned-up, smooth-reading final book," Kurlansky says. Citing the editor of the America Eats project "Emphasis should be divided between food and people" Kurlansky adds, "It is this perspective that gives this work the feeling of a time capsule, a preserved glimpse of American in the early 1940s." Critically important, Kurlansky chose "not always the best, but the most interesting pieces."
The Food of a Younger Land is a different kind of audiobook experience: less a forward flowing narrative and more of a cultural anthropological dig with its finest pieces selected by a master of the art, and put on display. The narrative challenges of an audiobook of such a subject are considerable. The book is a celebration, and narrator Stephen Hoye sets an optimistic, upbeat, and friendly narrative tone. There are a large number of sections in the book, with diverse styles and tones and many different WPA authors. Hoye orchestrates this array nicely with tonal variations of the book's major, celebratory key.
The direct reporting of food and recipes by the WPA writers are relatively straightforward. The narrative demands are greater in the depiction of social scenes easily the most interesting sections of The Food of a Younger Land. In the best of these sections, the narrative subjects seem to rise up from the ground, have their moment on the audio stage, and then fade out; returning to the stacks of carbon-copy print. This becomes mesmerizing, thanks to Stephen Hoye. David Chasey
The Food of a Younger Nation unearths this forgotten literary and historical treasure. Mark Kurlansky's brilliant compilation of these historic pieces, combined with authentic recipes, anecdotes, photos, and his own musings and analysis, evokes a bygone era when Americans had never heard of fast food and the grocery store was a thing of the future.
"Fun, illuminating, and provocative, this historic reclamation appears while we're in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the one Franklin D. Roosevelt fought [and] while we're grappling with a plague of unsafe food and environmental woes associated with industrial agriculture. But don't despair. Whip up Ethel's Depression Cake, and throw a bailout party." ( Booklist)
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sparkly on 09-11-09
Perhaps better in print.
I am excited by the topic, and I enjoy anything about the cultural history or anthropology of food. This book was my special download for a week at an East Coast beach, and it turned out to be a strange choice.
The first chapter (the history of the WPA in general, and the regional food essays in particular) was fascinating. But I found that once the audio veered into the recipes themselves, I kept falling asleep. I would awaken VERY HUNGRY, and having brown sugar, vinegar, ham hock, and a pinch of mustard on my mind.
Positives - The recipes and stories are quite interesting. My favorite parts were the history of the clambake, and maple sugaring.
Negatives - the audiobook is not suited to searching and using the recipes. It is very frustrating that the information is, for all intents, inaccessible to me as a cook. I use an iPod Touch - perhaps there is another format that is searchable, but it is in no way as useful as a paper text for experimentation in the kitchen. In addition, listening to lists of ingredients for ten hours was too much even for me, though by the end of my vacation I did finish it.
On another note, I found that the author's choice of dramatizing Southern Black voices sounded really awkward, and I would have recommended some other strategy. (The author has, otherwise, a Northern accent.) I realize that there are many ways to approach this kind of thing in an audiobook - I just didn't think it was successful.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
By Gene Bowker on 09-17-14
Great for history buffs and foodies
Would you listen to The Food of a Younger Land again? Why?
Yes, I'd listen to it again as I'm sure there are parts that would sink in better on a second listen.
What other book might you compare The Food of a Younger Land to and why?
Any of the WPA writers guides to the states.
What about Stephen Hoye’s performance did you like?
Easy to listen to. Good pronunciation
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
yes. I found the history of the project fascinating and a great way to learn about food history in the US. I'm surprised how many foods which were common in the late 1930s are unknown today and how much food in the US has become homogenized over the last 70 years.